Regardless of your position on the rebel flag or the removal of Confederate monuments from public grounds, the events of August 12 that took place in Charlottesville should be grieved and condemned by all Christians as sinful racism.
White Nationalism and Charlottesville, Virginia
The rally was organized by the Proud Boys, a pro-western, alt-right group with a budding history of violent activism. Numerous other groups attended the rally including a variety of alt-right, white nationalist, white supremacists, neo-Confederate, and neo-Nazi organizations. Counter protesters were also present at the rally.
There were violent clashes between protesters, some of whom where reported to be carrying crude medieval shields and clubs and long pieces of wood. Some rally organizers encouraged attendees to come prepared for violence and recommended they bring pepper spray, shields, and even guns “for the security of their own person.”
And yet 35 people were injured in protest-related violence. This includes the death of a 32-year-old woman who was killed by a white nationalist when he plowed his car into a group of counter protesters. Two state troopers were also killed when their helicopter crashed while responding to the rally.
Responding to Charlottesville
The nation and most evangelical churches have been largely unified in their outcries against the violence in Charlottesville. But that is not enough. The Church must go further in its denunciation of these events. This is true even if these radical groups do only represent a small fraction of the American public. This is also true even if they carry none of your sympathies. The racial superiority they promote, including all its subtle varieties, dormant assumptions, and cultural stigmas must be vehemently condemned by every single person who considers himself a follower of Christ.
It is not enough to categorically condemn racism as a general idea that exists “out there somewhere.” For it is not merely the sin of other people or of another generation. No, it is our sin and it is our problem. As such, each of us must take personal action to understand it, find it, condemn it, and root it out of our lives and hearts. The only solution to our dark, racist prejudices is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Racism and the Bible
The Bible is clear about racism so we should be too. God made mankind in his own image (Gen 1:26-28) which gives him intrinsic value and worth (Gen 9:5-6). Paul explains that it is from one man Adam, that all races are “created” (Acts 17:26). Not only are all men created from one race, but Christ has died for men of every race (Rev 5:9).
When Jesus died, he died to create “one new man” (Eph 2:15). This means that if you are in Christ, not only are you biologically related to men of every race, but you are spiritually and eternally bound to men of every race. Therefore, if you or I make any spiritual distinction based on race, it is an affront to the Gospel and to Jesus Christ himself, a sin for which even the apostle Peter was bitterly rebuked (Gal. 2:14).
This is why I think Al Mohler is right in his provocative assertion that any claim of racial superiority is heresy, because it leads to a denial of Jesus Christ. Notions of white superiority or any other mutation of racism amount to a denial of the glory of God as displayed in his creation of mankind. Furthermore, if it is a denial of our shared humanity, it is also a denial of our shared salvation which was achieved by the Son of God himself in the form of a Middle-Eastern man.
Looking for Strands of Racism in Our Hearts
But what does racism look like? It is easy to condemn flag-waving, mask-wearing racists in Charlottesville, but what form does it take in our own lives? I myself have much to learn in this regard, but here is the progress I’ve made so far as I consider myself to be a repenting racist.
Racism is the belief that one race is superior to other races. It values those of one race over those of another race. It assesses the character, value, or intelligence of a person merely on the basis of his skin. Racists are those who commit the sin of racism. There are white racists and black racists.
If you believe that a white person possesses more dignity or is inherently superior to persons of other races, you are a racist. If you believe that whites are naturally smarter, more diligent, or more trustworthy, you are a racist.
One way to detect racism in our hearts is to examine our preferences. Our preferences are not neutral but are formed by our beliefs and therefore can display our racism. So let me be clear:
If you would rather have a white president than a black president, a white neighbor than a black neighbor, or a white boss than a black boss, you struggle with racism. If you would prefer your child be taught by a white woman than a black woman, you struggle with racism. If you would prefer to find yourself alone in a gas station with a white man than a black man, you struggle with racism. If you send emails that make jokes at the expense of other ethnicities, you struggle with racism. There can be no other honest explanation for such prejudices.
Be On Guard at Trinity
Our church in Jonesborough is geographically positioned in a region that is 92.7% white (2016). Our church demographics reflect that. However, this means that we must be all the more vigilant against the subtle forms of racism that may rest unchallenged in our church’s culture, norms, and traditions.
It is my prayer that the believers at Trinity would look more and more like the sanctified bride of Christ as she is presented in Revelation 21, coming down from heaven. That future bride is in one sense very much unlike our local church, unmistakably multi-ethnic. But may it be true that while we wait for that day, that our hearts would be ready to affirm and delight in the glory of God as seen in the creation and redemption of men and women “from every tribe and language and people and nation.”
God hates racism and white superiority. We must learn to hate it too. But we must begin by hating it not in others, but in ourselves. This means we must first admit to its presence so that we may repent, while celebrating all the more that Jesus died for sinners like you and me. He alone is the cure for the racist heart and he alone is the hope for this world.
Photo Credit: Rodney Dunning