"Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things." -Romans 2:1
Judgement; rather truly righteous or self-righteous, is based on a moral framework. It is acknowledgement of right and wrong in addition to making or coming to conclusions based on the said framework. It seems as if in today's society, we are constantly in a state of flux when it comes to moral issues. In the Romans 1, Paul lays out a clear definition of what God's righteousness is (truth) and what unrighteousness stems from (the suppression of truth). Therefore the Christian has a immutable source (if truly from God) to make sound judgements.
In our Western culture it has become easy to avoid the often abrasive parts of truth rather than developing and cultivating ourselves and our skill sets to speak the truth in love. We often believe that many will just come to "know" their sin, and we will be there to let them know that Jesus Christ was crucified for their sins. Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in. The reality is that people are all too comfortable with sin and some may even deny such a thing. As Christians, we are often bystanders, sitting on the sidelines, letting sin reshape our world as we find ourselves in a world that is increasingly more bizzare. We do not intelligently voice our opinions on key subjects, leaving a vacuum on structural moral issues that frame the health of our societies. As a result, the Christian voice is replaced with various worldviews that will lead people away from the truth, creating a world where the idea of sin is more and more intangible.
I feel that the root of this problem is based on an over-correction of dealing with religiosity and legalism. I often hear terms like; "I'm not religious but I believe in God," or "those Christians are legalistic." I often cringe when I hear these terms thrown about to appease those that have criticized a religion for being religious or exclusive (having legality). While I admire the attempt to comfort those who have been scarred by religiosity and legalism, I think that is important that we value religion and the law.
The Law and Propitiation
The importance of understanding the law is to realize that it provides a reference in understanding why there must be an atonement for sin.
“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. and are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:23-25)
The understanding and realization of propitiation is often an overlooked term in our evangelical approach. This was first brought to my attention by reading J.I. Packer’s Knowing God. In it he says the following regarding propitiation:
"No doubt it is true that the subject of divine wrath has in the past been handled speculatively, irreverently, even malevolently. No doubt there have been some who have preached of wrath and damnation with tearless eyes and no pain in their hearts. No doubt the sight of small sects cheerfully consigning the whole world, apart from themselves, to hell has disgusted many. Yet if we would know God, it is vital that we face the truth concerning his wrath, however unfashionable it may be, and however strong our initial prejudices against it. Otherwise we shall not understand the gospel of salvation from wrath, nor the propitiatory achievement of the cross, nor the wonder of the redeeming love of God."
It is important for Christians to not shrink back when they see that something is clearly wrong in their communities. We can not merely just complain and grumble about it, we must engage our culture in helping them understand the problem of sin.
I am writing my thoughts here because I find the current view of racial reconciliation imperfect and inferior to the Gospel message. The more I try to research the topic, the more I feel as if it is a distraction from the Gospel. True racial reconciliation should be an indicator of the Gospel and not a topic that leads the Gospel. Furthermore, I believe that most people have a difficult time defining the goals of the current view on racial reconciliation because it is contradicting to an objective reality. As a result, I think their are two core issues with the topic of racial reconciliation and the church.
1. Most discussions on racial reconciliation are almost entirely polemic.
2. It easily distracts from the message of the Gospel.
The Polemic Arguments of Racism: Racism vs. Culture
I hear many claims of racism that are a result of a person’s outlook on reality (philosophy) rather the objectively deducing racism from the said event or series of events.This is an epidemic of the lack of critical thinking and the danger of relying entirely on polemic arguments to form a conclusion on any world-view.
I think one of the fundamental mistakes in the racism debate is that individuals believe that rejecting one’s culture is rejecting someone's race. When I see a black man from England, I do not define him as an African-Englishman but merely as an Englishman. It is obvious that his race is of African descent, but in reality he is, potentially, no more African in culture than his fellow non-black Englishman.
Sociologist Daniel Bell defines culture as “the effort to provide a coherent set of answers to the existential predicaments that confront all human beings in the passage of their lives.” For the Christian, the coherent set of answers is summarized in the command to love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength and all of your mind; and to love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). However, another culture may have an entirely different outlook on reality than that of the Christian.
When I was a child, Hip-Hop and many other sub-cultures in the African-American culture played a prominent role on how one viewed life’s existential questions. While rappers such as NWA were rapping about police brutality and alleged racism, I, for the most part, did not experience these events because my father chose to reject Hip-Hop culture. As a result, I partly grew up in the inner-city without experiencing any systemic racism from police officers.
The question then is what does it mean to be Black, White, Indian or any other race in America. If one thinks that being black means that you are predisposed to like R&B music, talk a certain way or like certain foods, then we are teetering on the edge of racism. There are specific qualifiers that must be in place for someone to be deemed racist. It is here that we run into a huge problem in regards to accusations of racism. For example, if I am followed in a store, I cannot truly say that it is racism without the proper information. When I worked retail there was a time when I was asked to follow a white male because he matched the description of an individual that was stealing from other stores. If my wife takes a large bag into a boutique, she is followed as well. The individual who accuses someone of racism would have to see a consistent trend and take into account a number of other trends in order to assure that one is making deductions scientifically.
Because there is a such thing as “Black” culture in America, one can make quantifiable probabilities that someone who is black is more likely to identify with “Black” culture (whatever that means). But being black does not mean that one has to accept or even relate with “Black” culture.
This is where I think the current view of racial reconciliation falls apart. It does not address the inconsistencies in movements such as Black Lives Matter. It does not objectively consider if positions and truth claims meet the requirements for debate. These requirements are empirical adequacy, logical consistency and experiential relevance.
A recent example would be the tragic story of Michael Brown. The argument for racial injustice may seem to pass the logical consistency and experiential relevance test, but the empirical data contradicted what was deduced from the media and individuals involved. Even if all the tests were passed, the deduction from that series of events would not be enough to empirically determine that there is an epidemic of police brutality based on one’s race.
This leads me to the reason I have decided to address this topic. The Christian mind should be one that is firmly rooted in reason, and an advocate for truth, no matter the circumstances. But we all too often fall into having the Christian message altered by the trends in society.
Social Justice in Place of The Gospel
“...many Christians, realizing the ineffectiveness of many current approaches and sensing the unpopularity and implausibility of much Christian witness, have simply fallen silent and given up evangelism altogether, sometimes relieved to mask their evasion under a newfound passion for social justice that can forget the gaucheness of evangelism.” -OS Guinness
“...Jesus’ blessing is totally different from its caricature in the form of a political-social program. The Antichrist also declares the poor to be blessed, but he does it not for the sake of the cross, in which all poverty is embraced and blessed. Rather, he does it with political-social ideology precisely in order to fend off the cross. He may call this ideology Christian, but in doing so he becomes Christ’s enemy.” -Detreich Bonhoeffer
When the Christian is primarily concerned about “social justice” and the current view of racial reconciliation, he is most likely on a path that is leading away from the Gospel message. Yes, the Gospel message can lead to true racial reconciliation and “social justice,” but those subjects, as defined by secular philosophy, are not foundational components of the Gospel message (Psalms 127:1).
I would argue that is it better to focus on one’s cultural philosophy rather than focusing on one’s race. When we discuss the current view of racial reconciliation we are generalizing a people into one way of thinking.
When our soul purpose is to convince people of the truth, then our approach should be individualistic. Christ calls each individual alone and uniquely. The combination of our experiences is unique and if one assumes that, in order to “reach out to black people,” he must talk about specific “Black” topics without learning about the individual, then that person is self contradicting their racial reconciliation narrative. Furthermore, we must stop assuming that all people have general philosophical views based on the color of their skin.
I have been more frustrated with people who try to “sympathize” with my race than those who just see me as a person. I have had experience after experience where people automatically assume that I vote a certain way, think a certain way or like certain things because of the color of my skin. Most of the time, it is these people who are calling others racist. Unfortunately, I am beginning to see moral relativism influence the church to a greater degree.
It is time for the church, as a whole, to get involved in topics and subjects in today’s society and to stop simply adopting the narrative of a moral relativistic society. We should be clearly speaking truth into a world that is filled with contradictions and confusion, and do so boldly and with love.