Why The Debate Over The Star Spangled Banner Has Been Brewing For Over 2,000 Years

https://i1.wp.com/farm9.staticflickr.com/8286/7853865782_b28710c0a0_z.jpgCommemorative statue of “The A&T Four” on the campus of North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, North Carolina. 


Over the course of human history the goal of all protest has been to either change minds or influence behavior.

Whether it is the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement, or Black Lives Matter, all dissent, be it corporate or individual, has as a common denominator one, if not both, of the aforementioned objectives.

But given our normal propensity to focus on what a particular protest may or may not ultimately be designed to accomplish, what is often overlooked is that antecedent to the aims of any protest are its motives.

Irrespective of the issue(s) being contended or the method(s) employed to bring said issue(s) to the attention of the masses (a requisite if any protest is to achieve its stated goals), what is inherent to any complaint, demurral, or remonstration is a standard of righteousness that is borne of a worldview – a personal moral or ethical framework – that is grounded in an awareness that there exists such a thing as truth.

The high-minded man must care more for the truth than for what people think. – Aristotle

Contrary to what many today believe, when it comes to matters of protest the predominant question is never a matter of right and wrong but of truth.

There can be no consideration of what is right or wrong about a particular issue, be it social, cultural, political or otherwise, apart from first establishing what is the truth about a matter.

That I said “…what is the truth” versus “…what is true” is not a misstatement.

Understanding the distinction between these two paradigms is crucial to any conversation about issues of social justice, because by definition truth is objective (impartial, unbiased, unprejudiced, nonpartisan) whereas that which can be said to be true is subjective (personal, individual, emotional, instinctive, intuitive).

The intrinsic discordance between subjective and objective truth is why a person like San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick can on the one hand be inspired to protest police-involved shootings of black men, women, and children by not standing during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner before a game, while on the other hand remaining deafeningly silent, at least publicly, about the millions of unborn black babies who are aborted each year in the very same nation whose anthem he so despises.

It is this same ideological dissonance that serves as the impetus for Megan Rapinoe, a player on the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, choosing to align herself with Kaepernick by kneeling when the national anthem is played before a match.

But where was Rapinoe when 9-year old Tyshawn Lee was shot five times in a retaliatory act of violence by a black gang member while on his way to his grandmother’s house? Or Nykea Aldridge, the cousin of Chicago Bulls star Dwayne Wade, who was shot and killed, allegedly by two brothers who are black, while pushing her 3-week old child in a stroller near a school?

Tell me, where were her protestations then?

Oh, wait.

On second thought, maybe I’m being a little too hard on Rapinoe.

Perhaps she was simply unaware that the Star Spangled Banner was America’s official national anthem when both Lee and Aldridge were murdered – and has been since 1931.

All this to say that a subjective paradigm of truth leaves people like Kaepernick and Rapinoe free to pick and choose which “injustices” they will place their supposed righteous indignation on display for all to see. Whereas an objective standard of truth views all injustice – regardless the race, ethnicity, or socio-economic station of either the offender(s) or victim(s) – as wrong.

What is truth? – Pontius Pilate

The question society faces today is the same as what Pontius Pilate posed more than 2,000 years ago during the first Roman trail of Jesus Christ (John 18:28-38).

In fact, the question of truth is so fundamental to our understanding of right, wrong, justice, and injustice that the only way anyone could ever protest anything under the pretense that it is right or wrong or just or unjust, is against an objective standard of truth that universally applies equally to all of God’s image-bearers.

And the only source of objective truth the world has ever known is found in the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12).

The objective truth of the Bible was central to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

The Civil Rights Movement was not about the unjust treatment of black people simply because they were black. The issue of race was but one factor in what was a much larger discussion. Ultimately, the Civil Rights Movement was about the unjust treatment of black people who, like their oppressors, were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).

It was on that one precept that the entirety of the Civil Rights Movement hinged.

The universal truth of imago Dei – that all mankind bears the image of God – is what affirmed the Civil Rights Movement as a just and legitimate cause that garnered global support.

It is the objective truth of the Word of God, which is applicable to all human beings regardless of race, ethnicity, or nationality, that validated both the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-56 and the Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins of 1960 as righteous, and therefore, necessary undertakings relative to the principle of imago Dei.

The early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the Church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letters From a Birmingham Jail

A primary reason Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe, and other athletes like them, would choose police-involved violence against blacks as the impetus for protesting the more than 200-years old Star Spangled banner as opposed to, for example, the decades-long strategy of Planned Parenthood of deliberately placing the vast majority of its abortion clinics in minority neighborhoods, is because of a view of right and wrong that is filtered through a subjective definition of truth as opposed to an objective definition.

But, you see, what they and we must understand is that all truth, and all that could ever be said to be true, begins and ends with God.

That God declares Himself to be “the Alpha and the Omega” (Revelation 22:13) is not to be understood only in an eschatological context, but also in the sense that our understanding of everything about our existence in this world is both founded and consummated in Him and in the objective truth of His revealed word.

Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth (John 17:17).

Apart from the Word of God not only is there no right or wrong or justice or injustice, the very concepts themselves would be non-existent because we possess neither the inherent capacity nor the desire to want to do what is right or just to one another (Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9).

At the risk of being misunderstood in what I have said in this blog post, I want to be clear that I do not begrudge Colin Kaepernick, Megan Rapinoe, or anyone else for that matter, the right to protest.

That I would be so arrogant as to take issue with either of them for exercising their Constitutional right to disavow the Star Spangled Banner would be hypocritical on my part, especially when America as a nation was founded on protest.

Would I have taken the same approach as Kaepernick and Rapinoe?

No, I would not.

I consider myself blessed that God, in accordance with His sovereign will, foreordained that I would be born in America (Acts 17:26) and for that I am profoundly grateful.

Having said that, no, America is not perfect. That is true.

Then, again, it was never meant to be.

Where the notion originated that America is somehow obligated to live up to some pie-in-the-sky standard of collective righteousness, I do not know.

There is no nation that is perfect. There has never been nor will there ever be.

There can be no perfect nation whose inhabitants are themselves innately imperfect.

To believe otherwise is to live in a state of perpetual naivety.

These are the things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates. – Zechariah 8:16 (NASB)

I fully expect that over the next several months there will be others, perhaps even you, who undoubtedly will feel motivated to come alongside Colin Kaepernick in protesting the Star Spangled Banner whenever it is played.

And that’s fine.

However, as you protest, please consider that the grievance you hold against America has more to do with the words spoken by Pontius Pilate 2,000 years ago than those penned by Frances Scott Key 200 years ago.

Objective truth demands that our indignation not be selective.

One cannot compartmentalize their morality and protest one thing as being wrong but not another.

For at the heart of all protest is the question, “What is truth?”

All other questions are secondary.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

The Sin of Injustice is No Excuse for the Sin of Racism

Image credit: nypost.com


For many young black Americans today, particularly millennials, the pursuit of “social justice” has become somewhat of a raison d’être (the sole reason for which a person or organization exists.)

Being convinced that both their personhood and purpose are first and foremost founded in their racial and ethnic identity, they live by the credo: “Before I am anything else, I am black.”

This “black-first” mindset has given rise to a belief among these young people that, “Whatever happens to any black person happens also to me.” As such, their “righteous indignation”, such as it is, over perceived acts of injustice is purely subjective.

Their anger, for lack of a better word, is rooted solely in identifying racially with the “victim” of said injustice.

If the victim of what they perceive to be oppression is “black like me”, then, the right and requisite response must be to cry out for “Justice!” Conversely, if the victim happens to not be black, then, not only was there no injustice but I also absolve myself of any responsibility to care about what maltreatment may actually have occurred and why.

To that end, if my so-called “blackness” has become such a god to me that the degree to which my conscience is moved by acts of injustice is predicated upon the extent to which my own subjective standard of race-based morality has been violated – as opposed to being convicted that God’s objective standard of righteousness, which applies to all people equitably, has been contravened – then I must confess and repent of my idolatry.

And racism is idolatry because it exalts what which was created, namely race, above that of its Creator (Romans 1:21-25).

If there is a poor man with you, on of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you should shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks. You shall generously give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all your undertakings. For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.’ – Deuteronomy 15:7-8, 10-11 (NASB)

We must be honest enough to acknowledge that this race-centered view of injustice has in fact been embraced by many black Christians.

Their rationale is that because Jesus had (and has) a particular concern for the poor and oppressed of the world (Luke 14:13-14; Mark 10:21; Matthew 5:3) – and who is more oppressed today than black people? – it is not sinful for them to possess the biased sentiments they harbor within their own hearts.

In seeing the world as if through race-colored glasses, they define terms like oppression and injustice within a construct that is shaped more by humanist sociology than biblical theology. Consequently, in their pursuit of social justice the ends – including their racial attitudes – justify the means. Hence, they see themselves as ‘warriors’ not racists because, in their minds anyway, their cause is inherently “righteous” in itself.

The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.1 John 2:9-11, 4:20 (NASB)

The sin of injustice is no excuse for the sin of racism (Romans 12:17).

The same Jesus who washed the feet of Peter, washed the feet of Judas as well (John 13:1-15).

As Christians, the indignation we may feel over the egregious mistreatment of one person by another, irrespective of the race of either the perpetrator or the victim, does not give us the right to respond with our own nefarious actions and attitudes (Luke 6:27-38).

That followers of Christ would be in any way prejudiced toward anyone because of the race or ethnicity with which God Himself endowed them (Acts 17:26) is sin – period.

The God who Himself shows no partiality (Romans 2:11) cannot – and will not – condone any expressions of racism on the part of those who profess to believe in Him. Because, believe it or not, the same God who created you in His image created every other human being in His image as well (Genesis 1:27).

Christians should not simply reflect the morality of their era but the morality of the Bible. – John Piper

In whatever manner we might be unjustly treated, the model for how we should respond is Jesus Christ (Mark 14:64-65, 15:16-20). For nothing we encounter in this world, regardless the situation or circumstance, will ever rise to the level of indignation and humiliation Christ endured on the cross for undeserving sinners like you and me (Ephesians 5:1-2).

I realize the tone of this post may seem rather direct, but the Scriptures are unambiguous that if there was one thing Jesus clearly despised during His earthly ministry it was hypocrisy (Luke 6:42).

The truth is often difficult to accept.

This is especially true when you and I are confronted with the deprecatory truth about ourselves.

Nevertheless, we must be willing to call out sin wherever it exists (Ephesians 5:11), especially when that sin is hidden within the recesses of our own heart (1 John 1:9-10).

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Related:

Socialism in Jesus’ Name? – Dr. R.C. Sproul
Stereotypes, Generalizations, and Racism – John Piper

Socialized Medicine and the Sovereignty of God


I recently came across the story of Anita and Wolf Gottschalk, an elderly Canadian couple who are being forced to live in separate care facilities due to a backlog in the Canada healthcare system.

The Gottschalks, who are in their 80s, have been married 62 years.

The situation in which the Gottschalks find themselves is regrettable to say the least.

After more than six decades of marriage, that this couple should have to live even one day of what remains of their earthly lives under such circumstances, is a devastating commentary on what can happen when government gets involved in the business of providing healthcare services, particularly to those who are the most vulnerable among us.

But that is what socialized medicine does.

It decimates people’s lives by putting them at the mercy of subjective decisions made by government bureaucrats; men and women who have no vested interest in the individuals being adversely impacted by their decisions. And yet government-sponsored “universal healthcare” is exactly what many in the United States want for themselves.

Or so they think.

The American equivalent of the Canada Health Act, the law that governs health insurance programs in Canada, is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (more commonly referred to as Obamacare).

I distinctly recall President Barack Obama commenting on the glorious benefits of government-sponsored universal healthcare. It was during a speech in Strongsville, Ohio in 2010, that the President boastfully declared:

…for Americans who get their insurance through the workplace…a lot of those folks…your employer, it’s estimated, will see premiums fall by as much as 3,000 percent, which means they can give you a raise.

Needless to say, such lofty prognostications have yet to come to fruition – and most likely never will.

Why?

Because that’s not how socialized medicine is designed to work.

The irony of so-called “universal” healthcare is that it is the nature for anything based in socialism to benefit only the privileged few, not the disadvantaged many.

History is replete with examples of this.

But we are still beguiled by this other fairy tale: that a large group of liberal-minded reformers, not pretending to be a class, not seizing the power but creeping into it, not smashing the state but bending it to their will, can take charge of the economy and approximate a free and equal society. – Max Eastman, Reflections on the Failures of Socialism, as published by The Mises Institute, March 1955

As insurance premiums continue to skyrocket – the exact opposite of what President Obama promised would happen – individual choice continues to decline as more insurance providers make the business decision to withdraw from the unprofitable program.

Playing on the fears of people being unable to financially withstand a worst-case healthcare scenario, Obamacare was peddled to America’s citizens under the guise that it could do what only God alone can: keep us and our loved ones ones healthy and alive.

See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; it is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, and there is no one who can deliver from My hand. – Deuteronomy 32:39 (NASB)

It has been six years since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law; and many Americans are just now beginning to realize it is not the panacea it was made out to be.

The only reward most Obamacare enrollees have to show for their misplaced hopes is higher premiums and deductibles, less freedom of choice, and – Surprise! – a Form 1095-A from their friendly IRS informing them of the ‘shared responsibility’ payment they now owe.

Sadly, evangelical Christians are as much to blame as anyone that Obamacare is now the law of the land, having bought into the fallacy that it is the role of government to ensure that all of our needs, and even most of our wants, are met. But nowhere in the Scriptures does God transfer the responsibility of caring for one another from the Church to the State (Deuteronomy 15:7-11; Leviticus 19:33-34; James 1:27).

Christians must be discerning enough to understand that the State always takes more than it gives – always.

That the State gives anything to any of us is not because it is inherently benevolent, but because it is empowered to take by force from one individual to benefit another. There is nothing the State gives without demanding something of equal or greater sacrifice in return; and that something is usually to accede to it more of our individual freedoms.

Unfortunately, the Gottschalks are learning this the hard way (as will many Americans, I’m afraid).

As Christians we should never exchange our God-given freedoms for the mirage of government-sponsored security. We must remember that though government does exist “as a minister of God for our good” (Romans 13:4a), it is God alone who is sovereign over the affairs of our lives.

But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. – Psalm 115:3 (NASB)

Though it may be the prudent thing to do for most of us, still the reality is having health insurance is not efficacious in extending our existence in this world.

That you have head-to-toe coverage with Aetna or Humana or Cigna, or any other insurer for that matter, is not what is keeping your heart beating as you read this blog post.

My father died of a massive heart attack at the age of 64 as he was sitting on the toilet in the master bathroom of his home. My mother came home from work and found his lifeless body slumped over the bathtub.

My father had health insurance coverage.

My point is that even in matters of life and death, the trust we place in a promissory government must never exceed the confidence we place in a providential God (Psalm 146:3-4).

Never.

For it is the God who keeps His promises who also keeps you and me (Matthew 6:31-34).

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

The Myth of ‘Black Community’

Image credit: yahoo.com


Much is being made today of the state of the so-called “black community”.

Unfortunately, this is not breaking news.

The truth is much was being made of the black community in the 1960s…

…and the 1970s…

…and the 1980s…

…and the 1990s…

…and…

Well, you get the point.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word community is defined as:

  1. a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common
  2. a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals
  3. a group of interdependent organisms of different species growing or living together in a specified habitat

This is important to note because in terms of “black community” as a social or ideological construct, we must understand that words have meaning and meaning requires context.

The Magic of Melanin

Given the above definitions, the assumption most people make when conceptualizing “black community” is that definition number two is the most contextually accurate, having reached that conclusion by likewise presupposing that definitions one and three are equally applicable.

They surmise because black people have a “particular characteristic in common”, namely melanin, there exists an inherent “feeling of fellowship” because, again, being black, we naturally “share common attitudes, interests, and goals”, and on that basis further assume that blacks prefer to “live together” in “specified habitats”.

In other words, get a group of black and brown-skinned people together in one place and – Voila! – like magic – “black community”.

See how this works?

It is a mindset that gives little or no consideration whatsoever to the uniqueness of one’s God-given personhood. No thought at all to diversity of ideological worldview or individual cultural or social experience.

It simply assumes that to be of a certain skin color is to be in “community” with others who likewise might be of a similar skin color.

It is the cultural equivalent of making instant oatmeal for breakfast. Only instead of hot water, “just add melanin”.

The absurdity of such logic should be obvious to anyone.

And yet the assumptions don’t end there.

Losing Our Religion

There are those who would have us believe the aforementioned assumptions are representative of a mindset that is exclusive only to white people.

I assure you it is not.

There are countless black Christians who hold to the conviction that merely being black is sufficient in itself to juxtapose “community”, and that any ideological, political, or philosophical differences that might exist should be sacrificed on the altar of melanin.

I use the term altar quite deliberately. For what once was universally regarded as a righteous, that is, biblical, cause – the pursuit of social justice as an Imago Dei issue – has itself morphed into a religion in which race is exalted as the object of worship.

Like the Israelites of old who constructed and venerated a golden calf at Mount Sinai (Exodus 32:1-6), there are today those who, under the more commonly accepted notion of “black community”, have fashioned for themselves a radical Jesus who is worshiped for His “social consciousness”, while devaluing the redemptive Jesus whose atoning death on the cross forever bridged the immeasurable divide between a holy God and sinful mankind (Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:4-7, 13-17.)

The repercussions of such a partitioned Christology, is an apologetic grounded primarily in the Jesus who confronted the moneylenders (Matthew 21:12-13), but to the exclusion of the Jesus who preached the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12).

Consequently, the clenched fist has replaced the cross as the symbol of our salvation, thereby inverting the very idea of salvation so that it is no longer God who saves us but we who save ourselves through our own self-redemptive efforts, whether they be political, legislative, or otherwise.

This is problematic for several reasons, not the least of which is when your definition of salvation changes, so does your paradigm of who or what can save you and from what you must be saved.

A New “Great Commission”?

Prior to His ascension into heaven, Christ commanded His disciples (Matthew 28:19a), “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations“.

Jesus did not tell His followers to organize themselves into an 11-person “movement” so as to “impact the culture” and free themselves of the political and religious oppression they endured under Roman rule.

If such an adversarial approach could have accomplished the kind of righteousness Christ had in mind in sacrificing Himself on the cross, it stands to reason He would have instructed His disciples accordingly. That He did not has proven difficult to accept for many within the “black community”. Hence, they have adopted a new “Great Commission”, one that preaches a gospel of cultural confrontation rather than spiritual transformation (John 1:12-13; 3:7, 16).

But, you see, there can be no community where you and I have nothing in common.

Melanin does not shape my morality.

My ethics are not influenced by my ethnicity.

The notion of “black community” will remain a myth, a phantasm, a dream, a mirage, if we persist in segregating the ideals that should define it from those of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which alone has the power to unite us all under one common mission regardless of race, ethnicity, or nationality (Acts 17:26-27).

Unless the gospel of Christ serves as the impetus of our desire for community – true community – that which is rooted in the condition of our heart and not on the color of our skin – we will continue on this decades-long treadmill of societal futility with absolutely nothing tangibly to show for it (Psalm 127:1).

As followers of Christ, we must remain mindful that the “Great Commission” of Matthew 28 commands us to make disciples of all nations, not social justice warriors. (John 18:36).

To that end, I gladly confess that I am not a social justice warrior.

Nor do I aspire to be.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Black Lives Matter and the Mirage of Activist Salvation

“All of us growl like bears, and moan sadly like doves; we hope for justice, but there is none, for salvation, but it is far from us.”
Isaiah 59:11 (NASB)


Image credit: huffingtonpost.com


I recently undertook a rather judicious study of the Guiding Principles of the entity known as Black Lives Matter (or BLM).

In reading carefully through each of the organization’s 13 precepts, I was surprised by the extent to which many of the words and phrases used to describe them have either a direct or indirect parallel in biblical theology.

This is not to suggest that the dogma to which BLM subscribes has its origins in biblical Christianity.

That is not what I am positing at all.

In fact, if I were pressed on the matter, I would say without equivocation that the approach BLM has adopted in its attempts to bring about the kind of world it envisions, is more closely aligned with the philosophy of Karl Marx than Jesus Christ.

I am saying only, as a collective ethos, that much of what BLM aspires to achieve is rooted in ideals that are not totally foreign to the pages of sacred Scripture (e.g. justice, equity, love, community, and so on).

On the surface, the principles that guide the BLM movement appear quite laudable.

Who of us would argue that the world in which we live would not benefit from each of us “respecting and celebrating difference(s) and commonalities”, “lovingly and courageously working vigorously for freedom and justice”, and being “committed to practicing empathy”?

But as admirable as these pursuits may appear at first glance, it is incumbent upon us to look deeper.

Much deeper.

A Matter of Context

Every civil society that has ever existed on the continuum of human history, has been established within the framework of a moral or ethical paradigm of one form or another.

To that extent, that BLM, by virtue of the aforementioned Guiding Principles, holds to a particular view of what a just and righteous world should consist of is nothing new. Since the days of the Garden of Eden, mankind has been engaged in an incessant search to reclaim what was lost as a result of the sin of our first parents  (Genesis 3:22-24).

It is that same quest that serves as the impetus for BLM developing the Guiding Principles it believes are solutions to the problems of social justice facing us today.

But solutions are not what we should be concerning ourselves with.

Not yet anyway.

“A right view of God and the world to come requires that we have also a right view of the world in which we live and our relation to it. So much depends upon this that we cannot afford to be careless about it.” – A.W. Tozer, Culture: Living as Citizens of Heaven on Earth, p. 118

Before we can begin to consider how to redress the grievances being raised by BLM, we must go back to the beginning – to why an organization like BLM exists in the first place.

The genesis of BLM lies not in the fact that “black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise” or the impact of the “Western-prescribed nuclear family structure” on impeding the development of “black villages” or the lack of “Black women affirming safe spaces”.

None of those issues is actually the problem.

We like to think they are, but they aren’t.

That BLM exists at all is attributable solely to the fact that there exists no objective context for determining how terms such as justice, equality, and fairness should be defined.

It is this absence of context that is the real problem.

“Lawlessness is lawlessness. Anarchy is anarchy is anarchy. Neither race nor color nor frustration is an excuse for either lawlessness or anarchy.” – Thurgood Marshall, Associate Justice U.S. Supreme Court, 1967-1991

The “struggle”in which BLM is engaged is not all that different than any predecessor social justice movement our nation has experienced.

Think about it.

At its most foundational level, the fight over the abolition of slavery was a fight over the context of personhood. Conversely, the fight over granting blacks the right to vote was a fight over the context of human rights. Likewise, the fight over the legalization of same-sex marriage was a fight over the context of equality. The same can be said concerning the ongoing fight over abortion which, at its core, is a fight over the context of life.

The question of context is germane not only to issues that concern us collectively as a nation, but as individuals as well.

We raise our children within a context of parenting. We go to our jobs within a context of work ethic. We establish loving relationships within a context of mutual commitment. We manage our household finances within a context of standard of living. We help those  less-fortunate than us within a context of charity. Even the choices we make about the foods we eat and the clothes we wear are made not in a vacuum, but within the subjective context of what are our personal preferences for certain foods and styles of fashion.

This is not an exhaustive list, of course.

There are any number of other examples that I could cite.

All this to say, irrespective of the tactics being employed by BLM to achieve its stated goals – or whether or not you or I concur with those tactics – until the question of context is settled, no amount of “guiding principles” will bring to fruition the kind of change BLM – or any other social justice movement for that matter – is seeking.

A Matter of (Guiding) Principles

There is a certain dualism at work within the Black Lives Matter movement which I find both encouraging and disheartening at the same time.

Though I could not disagree more with an agenda that is so thoroughly rooted in cultural Marxism, I can somewhat appreciate the fact that BLM is desirous of a world where justice and equity are a normal way of life.

But this Nirvana-esque worldview is not unique to BLM.

Every day countless millions, if not billions, of people around the world strive in vain to create a similar Promised Land as the one visualized by BLM.

And though the world being dreamed of by these multitudes may not be built upon the same ideological pillars as those endorsed by BLM – globalism, collective value, restorative justice, etc. – the aim is nonetheless the same: a world in which righteousness dwells and where sin (as they define it) is no longer a reality.

The only difference between the world they see and the one BLM proposes, is the contextual framework through which they hope to translate their empyrean illusion from imagination to manifestation.

“What is the good of telling the ships how to steer so as to avoid collisions if, in fact, they are such crazy old tubs that they cannot be steered at all? What is the good of drawing up, on paper, rules for social behavior, if we know that, in fact, our greed, cowardice, ill temper, and self-conceit are going to prevent us from keeping them? I do not mean for a moment that we ought not to think, and think hard, about improvements to our social and economic system. What I do mean is that all that thinking will be mere moonshine unless we realize that nothing but the courage and unselfishness of individuals is ever going to make any system work properly. It is easy enough to remove the particular kinds of graft or bullying that go on under the present system; but as long as men are twisters or bullies they will find some new way of carrying on the old game under the new system. You cannot make men good by law; and without good men you cannot have a good society. This is why we must go on to think of the second thing: of morality inside the individual.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

What many advocates of the Black Lives Matter agenda fail to realize is, yes, there is a better world to come; but it will not be brought to fruition by conforming to a list of ideological beatitudes.

That “guiding principles” thing has been tried before, you know, and look how that turned out (Exodus 32).

But there is hope.

And that hope is found in Jesus Christ.

The Heart of the Matter

What has been missing in the discussion about Black Lives Matter is context.

Terms like injustice, racism, and inequality must be defined within the framework of an objective point of reference.

Namely, the word of God.

“Ethics involves the question of authority. The Christian lives under the sovereignty of God, who alone may claim lordship over us. Christian ethics is theocentric as opposed to secular or philosophical ethics, which tend to be anthropocentric. For the humanist, man is the norm, the ultimate standard of behavior. Christians, however, assert that God is the center of all things and that His character is the absolute standard by which questions of right and wrong are determined.” – Dr. R.C. Sproul, Revelation and Christian Ethics blog post

Only the gospel of Christ can put into context the unrighteousness we see in the world today.

It is the objective truth of the gospel that provides a reasoned response to the activist salvation promulgated by BLM, and the promissory mirage that we can somehow save ourselves from ourselves.

“But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.” – Ephesians 2:13-16 (NASB)

I suppose guiding principles are all well and good if all you’re attempting to do is change minds.

But what if you’re proposing to change hearts?

What then?

After all, heart change is really the goal.

Isn’t it?

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Related:
The Marxist Roots of Black Liberation TheologyAnthony Bradley
Revelation and Christian EthicsDr. R.C. Sproul, Ligonier Ministries
Black Lives Matter Releases List of Demands Time
Warning: The Real Power and Purpose Behind the ‘Black Lives Matter’ Movement Pastor Stephen E. Broden 

The Insufficiency of Our Efforts to Achieve Christless Racial Reconciliation

“and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that thy would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist.”
Acts 17:26-28a (NASB)


When commenting recently on the shootings of six police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, three of whom died, veteran journalist Tom Brokaw, in opining that the election of an African-American president was evidence that sufficient racial “progress” had been made in America as to avert such incidents lamented, “I thought we’d be a different country by now.”

Why Tom Brokaw – or anyone else – would presume that President Obama, simply on the basis that his melanin is of a different hue than that of his predecessors, should inherently possess the capacity to bring to fruition this new age of collective racial harmony in our nation is beyond me.

Barack Obama didn’t suddenly become black when he was elected president, you know?

He has been black his entire life.

Since August 4, 1961 to be exact.

Obama was black during the years he spent as a community organizer in Chicago. Conversely, he remained black while serving as a state senator from Illinois prior to running for president in 2008.

Barack Obama is black even as I type this.

And he will continue to be black until the day he breathes his last.

All this to say that if the skin tone of Barack Obama, or any other person for that matter, were in and of itself adequate to effectuate the kind of racial unity Brokaw hoped would be a reality in America today, there would be ample evidence to support such a proposition.

There isn’t any.

In reflecting on Brokaw’s sentiments, which I have no reason to doubt are genuine and heartfelt, we are presented with somewhat of a paradox in that the optimism he expresses in the notion that America would be a “different country by now”, intrinsically suggests that such a reality cannot be brought to fruition by external forces as if by osmosis, but must be influenced by a transformation from within ourselves.

The immediate impact of such irony is that it permanently shifts the paradigm through which we normally would discuss matters of race relations from one of sociology to theology. For to even suggest that a “different” America is the ideal demands that we consider not only that people need to change, but why they need to change.

It is an unavoidable construct that invariably challenges us to look not to ourselves for answers, but to God.

“The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than the other. But the standard that measures two things is something different from either. You are, in fact, comparing them both with some Real Morality, admitting that there is such a thing as a real Right, independent of what people think, and that some people’s ideas get nearer to that real Right than others.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

What Tom Brokaw fails to understand is that the tone of a person’s skin has absolutely no bearing on the tenor of a person’s heart.

Attitudes, for better or worse, are always borne from within, never from without (Mark 7:21-23).

It is naive for Brokaw to suggest that Americans must “come together” to “deal with” these, and other matters of national concern, apart from a genuine desire to confront the truth about the real issue we are actually being confronted with.

Namely ourselves and our innately sinful condition (Jeremiah 17:9).

“This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections.” – Augustine

Perhaps it has never occurred to Tom Brokaw, or to anyone who happens to share his worldview, that the answer to the problem of deteriorating race relations in America is not to “come together” but to come to Christ.

It could very well be, notwithstanding the sincerity of his sentiments, that Brokaw has never truly contemplated that the transformation of a nation’s conscience is achieved only as the gospel of Jesus Christ penetrates the heart of each individual citizen, not by convening yet another town hall or launching yet another series of nationally-televised “conversations on race” (each of which has been tried ad nauseum to no lasting avail).

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12

If you and I were inherently capable of bringing ourselves into a right relationship with one another, there would be no need for people like Brokaw to plead that we would do so.

The reason Tom Brokaw must appeal for Americans to “come together”, is because it is not our nature to want to be reconciled to each other (Ephesians 4:17-18).

Why would anyone who is inherently capable of reconciliation ever do anything necessitating reconciliation to begin with?

If it were in our power to bring ourselves to love others who are of a different race or ethnicity than we, then, under what circumstances would we ever not love them in the first place?

These and other questions are why the answer to all racial discord – in America and around the world – is Christ and His gospel. For only the gospel sufficiently addresses the question of why we need to change, so that the resulting heart change is both lasting and impacting.

“…acts done in sin and contrary to nature can never honor God. Wherever the human will introduces moral evil we have no longer our innocent and harmless powers as God made them; we have instead an abused and twisted thing, which can never bring glory to its Creator.” – A.W. Tozer, Culture: Living as Citizens of Heaven on Earth

As the Scripture above in Acts 17:26 attests, it is God Himself who intentionally ordained you and I to display the racial and ethnic characteristics we possess. In the text, the Greek word for “nation” is speaking not of geographical boundaries, but is the word ethnos from where we derive the English word ethnicity.

Whoever we are, whatever our skin color, native language, or nationality, we are who we are because of the sovereign wisdom and volitional will of an almighty God who created each of us in His image (Genesis 1:27; Exodus 4:11).

That anyone would have the arrogance or temerity to judge another person based solely on the color of their skin – an attribute which we had absolutely nothing to do with – is sin and is a direct reflection of the darkness of our own heart (John 7:24John 8:44).

“The bloodline of Christ is deeper than the bloodlines of race. The death and resurrection of the Son of God for sinners is the only sufficient power to bring the bloodlines of race into the single bloodline of the cross.” – John Piper, Bloodlines: Race, the Cross, and the Christian

Unless our hatred of one another is placed at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ, no amount of human effort or, as Tom Brokaw phrased it, “coming together”, will suffice.

To whatever extent racism – and its consequent effects – is a social issue, it is only because racism is a sin that affects all of society. If there is a so-called “conversation” to be had on the implications and ramifications of racial reconciliation to our society, it must be initiated within the framework of biblical theology not practical sociology.

Because racism, like any other “ism”, is an attitude before it ever is an act. And attitudes – for better or worse – are always a matter of the heart.

Always.

I pray, by God’s grace, that Tom Brokaw will one day come to understand this for himself.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

The Fight For Justice Is a Battle Over Hearts Not Hashtags

PolicememorialvandalizedPolice memorial statue vandalized in Byrd Park in Richmond, Virginia
Image credit: Mark Gormus/Richmond Times-Dispatch


In Genesis 4:3-8 we are presented with what many would consider the first occurrence of injustice in all of human history.

The text describes how Cain and his brother Abel, the two children of humanity’s first parents (Genesis 4:1-2), willingly presented to God what they deemed to be an acceptable offering of worship to Him.

The offering each brother rendered to God was in a manner befitting his respective vocation. Cain, a farmer, gave to the Lord of the fruit of the ground (v.2b) Abel, a shepherd (v.2a), gave to Him of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions.

Whose Justice Anyway?

Notwithstanding the historical and even contemporary theological debates that have occurred over the years about why God chose to accept the offering of Abel and reject that of Cain, suffice it to say Cain was not pleased that God had granted such deference to his younger brother (vv.4b-5a).

In fact, the original Hebrew describes the anger Cain felt as being of such intensity that he was seething inside with rage. Cain wasn’t just someone who was upset or disappointed about what had transpired, he was utterly furious over it.

But in the midst of his self-justified righteous indignation, what Cain failed to realize is that his emotions were being fueled by his own preconceived notions of what “justice” is.

When Cain’s self-defined standard of righteousness was not met by God, it was then that his “countenance fell” and he became angry (v.6b).

It was not God who caused Cain to become angry.

Nor was it his brother Abel.

What crime did Abel commit to warrant such a violent response from his brother? Conversely, what offense had God committed in favoring the offering of one brother over the other?

Even if Cain was justified in his actions, the question must be asked by what moral or ethical standard would such a determination be made?

These, and other questions like them, may appear rhetorical but I assure you they are not. For as we consider them we ultimately are led to undertake an even more serious inquiry, one which, in my humble opinion, is the most crucial of all inquests, particularly in light of recent events involving incidents of violence between police officers and minorities.

It is a question whose implications and ramifications are equally germane both to victims of injustice, as well as those who would be moved toward actionable responses to it.

The question is: by whose standard of righteousness should we live? 

How you answer that question affects every aspect of your life. 

Every aspect.

What Lies Beneath

At the root of Cain’s indignant reaction to God rejecting his offering, was the assumption that what he perceived to be an injustice gave him the unmitigated right to impart upon a sovereign, self-existent, omnipotent God his own subjective paradigm of what is just and right and fair.

So what did Cain do?

He protested by murdering his brother.

Protesting as a response to a perceived injustice is really nothing new. Long before there was #BlackLivesMatter there was #AbelsLifeMatters.

At its most fundamental level all protests, for good or ill, are rooted in pride to one degree or another.

The first sin Cain was guilty of was not murder but pride. His sin was but an impersonation of the first sin ever committed before the universe began (Isaiah 14:12-14).

Pride has such a capacity to alter and distort our perspective of situations, that we respond even to legitimate instances of injustice in unjust ways.

Hence the truism: two wrongs don’t make a right.

The natural life in each of us is something self-centered, something that wants to be petted and admired, to take advantage of other lives, to exploit the whole universe. And especially it wants to be left to itself: to keep well away from anything better or stronger or higher than it, anything that might make it feel small. It is afraid of the light and air of the spiritual world. It knows that if the spiritual life gets hold of it, all its self-centeredness and self-will are going to be killed and it is ready to fight tooth and nail to avoid it.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

When you think about it, particularly in light of the current state of race relations in our nation, are you and I not equally guilty of making the same assumptions as Cain?

The question is not to suggest or infer that Christians should be unperturbed or aloof concerning the incidents we see occurring all too frequently in our society today.

That is not at all what I am saying.

Scripture clearly establishes that, as followers of Christ, not only are we expected to pursue justice and point out all manner of injustice, we are commanded to do so (Micah 6:8; Ephesians 5:11).

Nevertheless, is a mandate that is a two-edged sword.

No Loopholes

The world today offers unfettered access to technology that enables anyone to freely capture and broadcast to the world images of what may appear to us to be unwarranted acts of police-involved violence.

For the Christian, however, this freedom comes with the biblical responsibility of guarding our hearts in such a way as to ensure that our voracity for justice is not rooted in an ungodly thirst for vengeance, regardless how egregious the offense may seem on the surface.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:9-21

There is no experience in life that brings us face to face with the reality of what it means, in practical terms, to confess the name of Christ than when we are treated unjustly (Leviticus 19:15). For it is in those moments that we are challenged to live up to the demands of what being a “disciple” of Jesus requires of those who follow Him (Matthew 16:24-25; 1 Peter 2:20).

Contrary to what generally is espoused by pontificates of the so-called “prosperity gospel”, the gospel of Jesus Christ is first and foremost a gospel of crosses not Cadillacs, of self-sacrifice not self-empowerment, of reconciliation not recompense.

It is a worldview in which we who profess to believe in Him are required to die moment by moment and day by day – to ourselves and to the world around us – encompassing all that we are or think ourselves to be (Galatians 6:14), realizing that:

“On the cross, by both demanding and bearing the penalty of sin and so simultaneously punishing and overcoming evil, God displayed and demonstrated His holy love; the holy love of the cross should characterize our response to evildoers today.” – John R.W. Stott, The Cross of Christ, p. 302

As Christians we must accept the fact that there are no asterisks or loopholes in the gospel.

Search the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation and you will find no fine print, no exception clauses, no situational stipulations that allow for blocking traffic on freeways, or firing weapons at police cars, or using code words that ostensibly encourage the murder of police officers (e.g. “pigs in a blanket”), or any other form of malevolent and noisome protestations.

“A man of violence entices his neighbor and leads him in a way that is not good.” – Proverbs 16:29

What this means for believers is that in every situation – irrespective of circumstances  – we willingly adopt Christ’s character, we take on Christ’s mindset, we embrace Christ’s attitude (Romans 13:13-14), fully trusting that an altogether holy and righteous God will someday redress every injustice, either in this world or in the world that is to come (1 Timothy 5:24).

This is not to suggest that Christians should adopt an attitude of passive inaction when we encounter injustice, but that whatever action(s) we endeavor to undertake must be representative of Christ and of His gospel.

The world probably won’t understand you for it.

In fact, I can assure you it won’t.

But, then, if the world understands you at all, you’re probably not doing the gospel right anyway (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Examine Yourself

Injustice demands a response.

A biblical response.

“The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works.” – Augustine of Hippo

The battle we fight today is a battle over hearts not hashtags.

We must never forget that on His way to being put to death on a cross Jesus, the Son of God, who came into this world of His own volition to take upon Himself the penalty of the sins of all who would believe in Him, was blindfolded, mocked, spat upon, beaten with fists, and slapped in the face (Mark 14:64-65; Luke 22:63-65; Matthew 27:27-37; John 19:1-7).

Yet He did not retaliate.

Not once.

“Forgiveness is a dynamic concept of change. It refuses to be trapped into a fatalistic determinism. It acknowledges the reality of evil, wrong and injustice, but it seeks to respond to wrong in a way that is creative of new possibilities. Forgiveness signals an approach to wrong in terms, not of peace at any price, nor of a destructive intention to destroy the wrongdoer, but of a willingness to seek to reshape the future in the light of the wrong, in the most creative way possible.” – Dr. David Atkinson, Peace In Our Time, p. 167

As followers of Christ, our impetus for exposing and responding to injustice must never be to exact some degree of “targeted” revenge, but to declare that God’s standard of righteousness has been transgressed in that one human being who was created in His image has been devalued by another human being who, likewise, is created in His image (Genesis 1:27).

Christians are to work to defend those who are created in the image of God. Yet we must remember to reflect the image of God in doing so.

Never in anger.

But always in love.

Always.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Related:

God is incrementally, systematically, and purposely putting you to death – Rick Thomas
GOP senator delivers trio of powerful speeches on race -WORLD