Last week's shooting at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., exposed the nation's virulent strain of racism and racial hatred that continues decades after the civil rights movement. What role should religion play in the ongoing effort to stamp out racism? And how, if at all, have churches failed in that effort so far?
It is interesting that this week's issue opens the door to the Blame Game; for example, virulent racism is back, so is the church somehow at fault?
Paul's letter to the Romans mentions that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Chapter 3, Verse 23), so if we must blame somebody, let's blame us all, believer and non-believer alike.
The trouble with most of the “isms” (racism, sexism, anti Semitism, nativism, etc.) is that they are not rational. Some white-supremacy groups, for example, claim to be “Christian” — and yet the man from Nazareth whom Christians call the Christ was (a.) Jewish, and (b.) inclusive of others who were “different.”
The Good Samaritan story in Luke's gospel (Chapter 10, Verses 25-37) has always been one of my favorite stories because Jesus turns his listeners' preconceptions upside down.
“Good Samaritan” would have been for his listeners an oxymoron: How could “good” and “Samaritan” possibly go together? Racial prejudice — in fact, any kind of prejudice — is antithetical to any person of faith.
The first letter of John says it pretty well (1 John 4:20): “Those who say, 'I love God' and hate their brothers are liars; for those who do not love a brother whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.”
The racist madman who killed the security guard in the Holocaust Museum was an irrational liar.
No amount of reason could have changed his mind.
?Pastor Clifford L. “Skip” Lindeman is pastor of La Cañada Congregational Church. Reach him at (818) 790-1185 ?
Students of the Bible know that racial hatred predates the civil rights movement by thousands of years. And despite our progress, I believe racism will continue continue to plague us. To quote one of my favorite black preachers, racism is on a long list of “isms” that need to become “was-ims.”
I come from the same American Baptist denomination as Dr. King. We have his portrait hanging in our church entryway. I'm glad to say that my church tradition has a zero tolerance for racial bigotry. This is a source of joy for me. We genuinely enjoy our diversity. In fact, I've learned to greet various parishioners in Spanish, Farsi, Arabic, Korean, Mandarin, Armenian, German and even English!
In truth, we're not that conscious of our congregation's racial makeup. In my experience, this is the norm for contemporary Christians who take God and his words seriously. Contrary to how the mainstream media portrays us, Christians are usually repulsed by racism. That's because the Bible says: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Christianity is really the wrong religion for racists. So, I'm the wrong person to ask about “how churches have failed” to stamp out racism. The love of Christ reaches beyond racial boundaries all the time.
I've read the comments of murderer James von Brunn. He once served prison time for trying to kidnap members of the Federal Reserve board. His irrational opinions demonstrate that racism was only one of his many problems. Anti-Semitism defined his life. How tragic. I pray for the end of anti-Semitism. I pray that one day it may be eradicated in any mosque or other places of worship where it rears its ugly head. I pray that racism may never find a home in me. In my view, a faith that happily exists side by side with racism is not true faith. Authentic Christianity is global Christianity. That's why Jesus once confided to a friendly rabbi: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son.”
?JON T. KARN is pastor of Light on the Corner Church in Montrose. Reach him at (818) 249-4806.
My 7-year old daughter asked me recently if everyone was our relative. I told her “yes.” Biblically speaking, every human being came from two initial progenitors named “Adam” and “Eve.” I believe that. Even the genealogy of Jesus Christ in the New Testament is charted back to them (albeit with many generational skips) and the purpose for his coming was to save humanity from the everlasting consequences of our universally inherited sin nature begun by those great-grandparents of us all.
But because man has diversified and become distinct people groups, there will forever now be racism. Everyone prefers their own kind and culture, and that is why races and cultures continue. It's when preference for our own turns to disdain for the others that problems begin, and our spiritual disposition ensures this will always be an issue. I think the problem compounds when people disregard God's explanation of origins for Darwin's, and assume that those of other races are simply less evolved or even lesser-humans, possessing no inherent, equally “created, “ value as images of God.
Churches could reinforce more what Scripture teaches, but they too are comprised of sinners and fall short as any other institution. Nonetheless, their glory is their mission toward holiness; discipling people to follow Christ and suppress their sin natures in favor of God's revelation.
With or without the church, society will always have unstable and unreasonable people given completely over to hatred. Americans can limit racism at home by emphasizing common culture and cultivating patriotism, but the most powerful tool for breaking down racial barriers is knowledge of God's perspective regarding nationalities, and that is found in the Bible: “From one man he made every nation of men … God did this so that men would seek him.” (Acts 17:26-27 NIV)
?Rev. Bryan Griem is pastor of Montrose Community Church. Reach him at (818) 249-0483.
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