I Was Wrong About the Racism Conversation…

In June of this year I posted an article that reached tens of thousands of people. I gave some practical advice about how concerned Christians could engage the racism conversation in a way that doesn’t compromise our Christian morals. I regret nothing that was written in that article, “My Voice in All of the Chaos” is an article that I wrote in complete sincerity, and still stand behind the statements I made several months later. 

I was wrong though. Not in what I said, but in that I fed the dogs exactly what they wanted. I fed the actors in the racism conversation that do more damage than good. They think in theory, and lack the practical love of Christ that changes lives. They truly exemplify what it means to have faith without works. This fed people on both the liberal and conservative sides of the equation. That was truly a mistake, I should have said some of  the following instead… 

The Kingdom is the Answer

If we desire to see the oppressed be liberated, it will only come through active ownership of the call we have received as believers in God’s Kingdom. Here is the problem though, many people have perverted the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be something that it is not. They shout about what they oppose, instead of claiming and preaching what they know to be the truth. This may be because they are unaware of the wholeness of the Truth, but that is a separate issue. What complicates this is they throw the very accusation they are guilty of. They accuse Christians who act as agents of peace of pandering and giving in to liberal agendas. To them, it’s about running away, not creating peace. And they truly believe that this is the Gospel, they preach it as a doctrinal fact… (sigh)

As I watched both the conservatives and liberals in my peer group and audience wrestle with which side was right, I held great regret that I did not make myself more clear and explicit. Jesus and His Way is what is right, and any institution that moves in opposition to that, or progresses without being lockstep with that Way will fall short. There are valuable facets from both sides of the racism conversation, but neither side is coming with the solutions that will result in redemptive purpose. As image-bearers, many people have profitable things to add to the conversation, but nothing is as good as the one who  can solely provide the redemption needed to bring healing to everyone. 

I received dozens of scathing emails from conservatives that called me a social justice warrior and liberal liar. I had articles and videos written about me both in support and condemnation to my message. I received commendations from social activists that told me to stick it to the Christian church and get out while I still had my dignity. I was baffled. Some accused me of being a supporter of rioters and looters. “How did we even get here?” I asked myself. I watched as well-intentioned Christians said things that caused me to cringe. I was disgusted at an apparent fascination with defending things that were clearly evil. I was so confused at how the church of Christ could be so easily distracted. I watched as people defined terms to fit their arguments, I even claimed the SJW title for a season  because in its basic definition it sounded okay, and it’s criticizers used it like a weapon, being largely disconnected and calloused Christians that shake their fist at the hurt and fallen. I wanted to associate with the poor and broken, not stand in opposition to them.  

But none of that really mattered, it was all noise in a  basin of shouting voices. Echoes of vitriol and immaturity had captivated the minds and hearts of both the Conservative Christian church and the social justice movement alike. Where do we go with all of this noise? 

It’s time to be clear, simplistic, and explicit. We go directly to Jesus! The Author and Finisher of our faith. 

Redemption Vs. Reaction 

I watched as people in the church selfishly cried foul on institutions they believed to be “evil, marxist, threatening, and detestable.” It was selfish not that they were discerning evil for what it is, but that they were content to call out such things, but refuse to operate in the very Kingdom that is the answer to the very problems they were calling out. As they sat in their rich homes and boasted of their well kept lives, they said “tsk tsk tsk” to all people of color and empathizers to said people  that dare make them feel accused or  call them to see the other side of the equation. And, again, for the sake of nuance, I saw this being reciprocated from the opposition as well. We saw people attempt to be the prophetic voice to solve all of the issues, but their message lacked the name of Jesus for who He truly is. This is why I believe the more explicit and clear we are from here on, the better.

I was able to bring definition to what was causing all of this a while ago. This is what causes me to say I was wrong about how I approached the race conversation. Not in what I said, I based my beliefs and assessment of the situation in America from the life of Jesus and His teachings. But I was wrong for addressing the noise. I was wrong for allowing the hecklers to derail the cause of Christ. 

When I would post a call to love and be gracious to a criminal, I didn’t need to justify myself to angry Mennonites that commented things like “play stupid games, win stupid prizes.” I didn’t need to listen to disconnected men and women who said “stay away from those evil organizations that seek to break down the nuclear family and are agents of the devil.” Jesus justified me. He called me to love those around me. He called me to live fearlessly and to operate in love regardless of the intentions and failures of those I was interacting with. I knew who I was and didn’t need to contribute to the noise. I just needed to keep articulating and living the truth that Jesus was revealing to me. 

Jesus didn’t tell us to point our fingers at the poor, he told us to have them in our homes(Luke 14) Something we as Mennonites by and large have refused to do. The focus doesn’t need to be on the wickedness of the world, it needs to be on the wickedness of God’s people. We need to desire redemption for the world around us, but we can’t ask for that redemption and command it of others if we lack it ourselves. 

I have been  teaching my discipleship group the last few months from the book of James. James directly calls out the wickedness of favoritism. We are told in chapter 2 that God chose the poor to inherit the Kingdom. It calls us to “Love our neighbors as ourselves.” Know what the alternative is? That we may be sinful, and become lawbreakers. What condemnation waits for the members of the church that justify favoritism! And yet, it’s become a political desire to do that very thing. Let’s keep going in the book of James though….

Think of James 4. All of the men and women of our church that have claimed that if people want success in America, they will find it. Success? Why? Do we really believe that God has us here to bring others to the same financial ruin and poison that has corrupted the hearts of many.?We are at grave risk of detesting  the poor because they resemble more closely the God we love and worship than our own people and culture. Jesus identified Himself as the very people that fit this description. We will be judged by how we treated these ‘detestable’ people. The implications are massive. If we spend our time detesting more than blessing, criticizing more than loving,  and running away in fear more than diving in to be peacemakers… God help us all! When the book of James speaks of  boasting about tomorrow, boasting about our neat and tight systems that make us look better than the poor, it is by no mistake this is directly called “Evil and Sinful”. James is not neutral, if our brothers and sisters are found guilty of these things, their heart is not of the Lord. Wickedness and evil will have no place in the Kingdom of God. You can claim it’s just cultural ignorance all you want, such things are to be rebuked and cast out of the church if they can not be changed. 

Again brothers and sisters, the implications are massive. If the Kingdom of God is the answer, but the apparent ‘Kingdom of God’ is corrupt with favoritism, boasting of our systems, and fear of the poor, we are noisy gongs that spew forth unintentional hatred to those who Jesus said would inherit the Kingdom some day. God help us to provide access to redemption, not react and scream foul at Marxists and liberals that threaten us. In reality, there is no threat to Jesus. Jesus is King, and nothing politically, socially, spiritually, or economically is going to change that. Take confidence in the fact that the Kingdom looks nothing like the republican or liberal agendas of our day. And I would venture to say that it appears that it sadly looks nothing like the established ‘church’ of our time. The church of Jesus is truly hidden underneath a bunch of noise and silencing voices. Will the poor have access to God’s people? Or will it be camouflaged within a system and culture that ignores them? 

May we read the Scriptures, observe and relate to Jesus, and cling to like minded brothers and sisters to be the peacemakers our country needs. We can still write letters to our mayors. We can still operate in love without promoting organizations we see as corrupt. We only need to justify and be justified by the saving work of Christ. Let all mockers and political  doubters be ignored. Whether that be from within the Menno culture, or outside of it. We need to be seeking for redemption, not reacting in fear and cowardice.

We can no longer be neutral. Turn off the radios, get off of YouTube, and begin listening to Jesus. He has given you access to the poor and disturbed,  when you see them, see Jesus. Jesus is going to teach us how to love like Him not through the rich authorities that carry guns and political power. He will teach us how to love by humbling us to recognize and empower the least of these. Let it be so, and consider this a strong rebuke if we can find any reason or justification in our life to excuse our lack of faithfulness in this area. May this generation do better than the previous ones. I know the rebuke helped me, and now I hope it will be a game changer for you. 

Wanting to keep up with some of the other things I’m working on? Check out my book reviews on children’s books that reveal African-American values, ideas, and history. Many more reviews will be coming later this fall. Stay tuned!