I was having an offline conversation with Kate recently about why I think it’s imperative that all Christians be involved in racial justice and racial reconciliation.
First, it is important that we keep our own house clean. We cannot claim to follow Jesus and His teaching and still conform to the sinful prejudices and practices of society-at-large (see Romans 12:2). The colloquial saying is, “God don’t like ugly.” The Biblical version is Matthew 7:3-5:
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
So first off, we don’t want to embarrass ourselves or our witness with hypocrisy. But, more than that, I think is that we are called to be one in Christ:
…in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28)
Now when I say “one” and when the Bible says “one” it doesn’t mean “melting pot” oneness. It means our identities in God transcend any arbitrary, social or cultural divisions among us. It means we find a way to be together and to love one another despite the social and political constraints that attempt to sever our relationships with one another.
It also means we’re family. “Sons of God” means we’re brothers and sisters. That’s not a family in-name-only, that’s a fact and a call to intimacy. The way I see it, that relationship means that, as Christians, we have to go farther than the rest of society’s work on racial justice. We can’t just work for equality. We work for kinship.
How can we possibly have that kind of relationship when there is so much distance between us? How can we serve one another when our larger society mandates that our relationships are inherently uneven, distorted, and can only be formed within the context of disparate power dynamics and suspicion of one another?
I don’t begin to know the answer to any of that, but I know things will never be different if we just coast along on the incremental successes of a secular civil rights movement heavily dependent on a shift in the politics as usual and the goodwill of a society whose security is the status quo. Martin Luther King, Jr. said during the last days of the Montgomery bus boycott:
We have before us the opportunity to inject a new dimension of love into the veins of our civilization. There is still a voice crying out in terms that echo across the generations, saying, ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you, that you may be the children of your Father in Heaven.
“To what end?” you ask. He answers:
The end is reconciliation, the end is redemption, the end is the creation of the beloved community.
It’s time we start turning over some temple tables here. We can’t allow the family of God to be broken up; our individual families situated in monochromatic congregations, re-segregated schools and homogeneous communities; estranged by fear, disdain and misunderstanding. We have to be better than that.
Last week, Tim Wise posted this as his status on Facebook:
Tim Wise thinks that if you believe the system is broken, you clearly don’t understand the system. After a while, certain outcomes stop being evidence of failure, and become, instead, evidence of a most disturbing and twisted form of success.
This is where we live, family. It’s not a conspiracy “theory,” there is a force that seeks to divide and conquer. If we stand still, it will succeed. I’m not sure how we all get to that “beloved community,” but I’ve got my bus ticket, and I’m making a move. I hope my brothers and sisters will join me.