I read with interest a couple of articles about President Obama and the appearant amount of racism veiled as criticism. You can find the articles here and here. Today in class I lectured about Civil Rights and the history of struggle various groups have gone through to obtain a more equal footing in society. All of them owing some debt to the African Americans who laid so much at the alter of freedom in their efforts to end discrimination that had already been outlawed by the courts. I get really uncomfortable teaching this stuff. I’m white, male, middle class, middle age, everything that this average and majority about this nation. It is so easy for me to transpose my thoughts and my experiences to a broader public. I have no idea what it is like to be black and pulled over on “suspicion”. I have no idea what it is like to be Hispanic and scowled out because you speak a few words of Spanish. I have no idea what it is to be like a woman who is leered at simply because God created her with different proportions than men. (I do know what it is like to be Mennonite Brethren and have people assume that you drive a horse and buggy.)
What I do know? I’ve done all those things. I don’t think that it is because white men are inherently more evil or more prone to sin than other races (or genders). I believe that blacks, Hispanics, women and all others are just as susceptible to these thoughts and feelings as others. Jesus spoke pretty clearly to this: “For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.” (Matthew 15:19 NLT) He was speaking to a group of religiously racist priests. People who made their living off making others feel “not worthy”. People who lived in a nation who prided themselves as being “chosen” and loved to rub it in the face of everyone else by completely shunning them or simply not recognizing them.
Are we a racist nation? Of course. Are we as racist as we have been in the past? No. Are we as racist as we will be in the future?
Well, that’s for us to decide, by the grace of God.
Jesus kept it real when describing the condition of the human heart. Fortunately he didn’t just leave it at that. A little later on Jesus was asked which commandment was most important when it comes to making oneself acceptable before God. His reply was twofold: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all you soul, and all you mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39 NLT) We can’t do one or the other. They are mutually fulfilling. Loving God requires loving others. Loving others only truly comes as we love God.
Here’s what’s hard for me as a Christian and an American. It seems that as we have become less “christian” we have become less “racist”. But again, I believe that if ever there is to be a Christian nation it exists in the body of the Church. Global. Not some class of ethnicity or descendants who deserve special recognition. Simply those messed up humans who have begun to grasp what the human heart is all about and have accepted the grace of Jesus Christ to love God and their neighbors.
Are we a racist nation?