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In these days of heightened sensitivities and political correctness that has seemingly run amok, the term ‘racist’ is being thrown about as quickly as a child might say “Tag, you’re it!“ One can barely sneeze without being labeled as racist in one way or another.
There is perhaps no greater (or, lesser, depending on your perspective) example of the level of absurdity we as a society have attained than that of MSNBC political analyst, Chris Matthews, who has now deemed that merely mentioning the word “Chicago” is racist because President Barack Obama, who is black, spent several years there as a community organizer and Illinois state senator and, by association, because of the sizable population of blacks who live in the city. Not to mention that Chicago is also the murder capital of the United States, the vast majority of which are black-on-black incidents, but, I digress…
You see, my friend, as a Christian, I view racism no differently than any other societal or cultural concern in that I am compelled to approach the matter from the standpoint of God’s Word; the necessity of which is of even greater import today given the deafening level of silence on this issue from a spiritual perspective, particularly within the Evangelical Church. After all, racism is first and foremost a spiritual issue, and if the Church isn’t about the task of confronting the world on spiritual matters such as this, then, perhaps it’s time to reassess its “raison d’etre” (reason for existence).
The Scriptures tell us,
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man. (Mark 7:21-23, NASB).
The above passage is foundational to why I, personally, continue to assert the hypothesis that racism is sin and, as such, must be dealt with as an innate and universal condition of the human heart.
By definition, the terms ‘racist’ and ‘racism’ have to do with “possessing and/or expressing a bias against someone who is of a particular race or ethnic group.” However, it is interesting to note that there are other “ist” and “ism” words which carry no such negative connotation. For example, I am a capitalist, which inherently means I support or have a bias toward, not against, capitalism. Of course, there are those who do harbor an opposite or “anti-capitalist” bias (e.g. socialists, fascists, Communists, Marxists, etc.), nevertheless, to the extent that the socialist, for example, is an anti-capitalist, it is not always in the sense that it is possessing the “thing” (capital) that the person is against, as much as it is the sinful behavior which so often accompanies the possession of capital. That said, it is not capitalism, but greed, that is the real problem.
This reality notwithstanding, don’t get the aforementioned example twisted, okay? There are some wealthy socialists in the world, too (not the least of which is Venezuela president Hugo Chávez.) So, just because someone identifies himself as a “socialist” or an “anti-capitalist”, don’t be so quick to jump to the conclusion that because he or she espouses such a worldview that they intrinsically possess a “bleeding heart” for the poor and have-nots. In fact, quite the contrary. Upon closer examination, you may be astonished to learn how anti-social socialism actually is, and has been, historically speaking.
For all its innumerable benefits and rewards, the dangers of capitalism are no different from those of any other “ism” in society because of the unpredictable and sinful nature of the human heart. This is exactly why, for example, it is unwise for a nation to sign a peace treaty with an adversary and, subsequently, adopt a posture of total disarmament, trusting in the “good intentions” of that adversary only on the basis that they also signed their name to that very same piece of paper. To endorse such a policy is ridiculous! The reason nations have weapons to begin with is because the heart of man cannot be trusted. It is this same rationale you and I apply in locking the doors of our homes at night, because the human heart is “sick” and “desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).
In going back for a moment to my earlier train of thought, it was Christ Himself who spoke of the potential challenges and difficulties brought about by wealth as it relates to living a godly life (Matthew 19:23). Case in point, I would argue that it was capitalism that served as the impetus for the African slave trade, but I don’t blame capitalism for slavery. The fault for slavery lay solely at the feet of the hearts of those who volitionally chose to leverage the principles of capitalism in such a warped, twisted and macabre way, as to make it permissible, if not totally acceptable, to subject other human beings, individuals who, like themselves, were created in the imago Deo (image of God), to generations of insufferable bondage and servitude for profit, only because they were of a different color and a “supposedly” inferior culture.
The landmark Scott v. Sanford Supreme Court decision in 1857, more commonly known as the “Dred Scott Decision” was, ultimately, not a matter of legal due-process, but of sin, and the question of whether or not – in the eyes of God – a black man should be afforded the same civil and human rights and privileges as a white man. The Scott case unarguably substantiates the truism that just because something is legal doesn’t make it right.
Righteousness should always trump legalism – always.
It is this same principle which gave rise to the abolitionist movement in the 1860s because, although slavery was legal, there was an inherent awareness of the imago Deo and that it was never God’s intent that one human being should be deemed the “property” of another. Slavery existed because the darkened heart of man chose to “go there”. The point I’m making is that it is the person, not the thing, which influences and establishes the context of a matter for better or worse, either positively or negatively. In and of itself a “thing”, such as a person’s race, is a harmless, innocuous, external characteristic that is of no real or tangible threat to anyone. All you have is the person’s race, so, on it’s own, what damage could simply “being” that cause? Exactly. However, when a person’s race is held up against the heart of someone who has willfully chosen to sin against God by imparting onto that person a negative or invalidating connotation of what is an innate God-given attribute – their race and ethnicity – you have now graduated from what was merely racial to racism.
It is through the heart that the attitudes of the mind are filtered and decidedly acted upon. (Read again the above Scripture passage.) As with all sin, the Gospel of redemption in Christ is the only means by which the root cause of racism can be effectually addressed with any degree of finality. However, as powerful as the Gospel is, before it can accomplish its work within the heart of the racist, or any other person for that matter, there must first be a recognition and acceptance of the reality of who the person is in the core of his or her being – as God sees them – which is, a sinner. For the racist to remain in denial about this is tantamount to the alcoholic who refuses to admit a drinking problem: any efforts to ameliorate his condition are rendered futile and a waste of time.
In viewing the issue of racism through the prism of the Gospel, we address not only the symptom but, more importantly, the root cause: the condition of the heart – yours and mine. The Bible speaks of the heart as representing man’s entire mental and moral activity, of both the rational and emotional elements of our being. In other words, the heart contains the “real” you; that “hidden” person which you and I, if we were totally honest, don’t really want anyone else to see or know about.
The fact that racism is sin, and that sin originates in the heart of the racist, renders completely moot the matter of one’s ethnicity as an excuse that a person either is or is not capable of racism, because the one thing we all have in common as human beings, despite our racial or ethnic make-up, is that we each have a heart, and possessing a heart, we all inherently possess a heart-attitude that is bent toward sinning against God and against one another. This is exactly why people refer to each other in the racially derogatory and degrading manner we do, because sin is just “in us”. Deny it all you want, but to sin is just who we are. It’s how we roll.
Viewing racism as a sin issue, as opposed to some scientific or anthropological problem that can be “figured out” on some laboratory whiteboard or by locking a bunch of different-looking people in a room together under the guise of “diversity” and singing “Kum-Bah-Yah”, changes the entire paradigm of how we should respond to this issue to begin with. Not with more admonitions to be a “better” person, which is a self-centered, outside-in approach (not to mention it is impossible achieve), but to be transformed altogether – from the heart – which is a Christ-centered, inside-out approach.
The heart of racism is, literally, the heart. And the heart is where the “real” you dwells – for better or worse.
Only when we accept this in the context of the Gospel will our society change for the better. Not because we changed ourselves, but because we have been changed by the power of God.
Think about it.