By Tank Tankersley, (Reprint, June 9, 2003)
The newspapers recently carried a story about a well known religious denomination’s apology for its past racial discrimination. The denomination happens to be the one that I grew up in before discarding all modifiers, qualifiers, and the like and simply embracing “Christian,” unadorned, unalloyed, and undiminished.
I knew a lot of wonderful people growing up in that denomination and am convinced that many of them had not a racist bone in their bodies, even though they had grown up in a time and place when and where racism flourished. But I am equally convinced that many of their contemporaries, and perhaps some sitting in church pews next to them, were guilty of this sin, so I do not doubt that an apology is called for. This is not to pick on this particular denomination, for it may well be that its history is not better of worse than that of many others.
Racism is no recent arrival. It’s long been part of the human condition. God’s word provides numerous examples. I’ve never been able to comprehend how anyone, and least of all a Christian, can imagine for a moment that one’s worth can in any way be diminished by the color of his skin. A person is of the race he is because God made him so. Can God’s creation be anything but good? Did God get it wrong?
Racism would have never been a problem for Christians if we had simply taken God at his word. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28). Christians go astray when we attempt to accommodate God’s word to prevailing social, political, and economic practices. That word is what it is, and was, and will be. We must resist the temptation to dilute its imperatives by appending such twaddle as “in this day and age.” It was written for all them.
Once in a while society comes to its senses and attempts to right wrongs of long standing. The regrettable reality is that sometimes Christians have to be dragged along, kicking and screaming, just like everyone else. Wouldn’t it honor God if society were to come to recognize that Christians had it right all along. The race problem is a perfect example. Society continues to get it wrong. Wouldn’t we be that light of the world that God intends for us to be if we, in plain view of everyone, were to get it right?
Not all change is for the best, of course. Consider society’s cavalier acceptance of the slaughter of thousands of innocents in the womb each year. Consider the rejection of the concept of objective truth, and the embracing of the notion that here are no moral absolutes, merely different ways of looking at things. Here the Christian cannot go along. Here it is his duty to do what God will enable him to do to rouse society from its moral lethargy.
It’s all so confusing. So much changes. Some wrongs are righted, but new ones seem constantly to emerge. The fifties brought us Brown vs. Board, but the seventies Roe vs. Wade. Eternal verities are shattered and trendy lunacies embraced. Where in all of this is guidance? God has provided. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35).
Do we believe this? We’d better, for there’s nothing else. If we don’t hold fast tot this, we wander aimlessly in a world gone mad and all meaning flees.