Eleven A.M. Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America. So said the man we commemorate today. Martin Luther King, Jr. was driven to confront Americans for our sins of racism, discrimination, and oppression. And yet what drove him, as we’ve talked about on BreakPoint in the past, was his Christian faith.
In fact, I dare say secularist gatekeepers today would quickly dismiss many a line from MLK as fundamentalist and theocratic if they didn’t know who said it.
This is especially true of Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which Chuck Colson called one of the great documents of the 20th century. In it, King appealed directly to a standard higher than the law of the land. He appealed to the law of God, by which we can and should judge whether or not to obey a human law.
Now while I’m happy to say evangelicals are more and more comfortable pointing to MLK as an example of Christian activism, and noting his integration of faith in engaging the evils of his day, King’s observation about the church being segregated remains true today, and yet is largely ignored.
According to a recent Lifeway Research report, 8 out of 10 congregations are basically racially segregated, and yet nearly 70 percent don’t think anything needs to be done about it. Now many would say this isn’t really a problem. But I’ve come to believe that it is. And here’s why.
First and foremost are theological considerations. Jesus, we know, prayed in the Garden that His people would be unified. This is more than a “let’s just get along” vision. Jesus said in John 13 that the way people would recognize us as His disciples would be our love for one another. We all know that love is not merely the absence of hate – it’s proactive. That seems to be missing.
The reason that unity reveals our identity as followers of Jesus is that it foreshadows what we’re told is true about the fully realized Kingdom of God. John was granted a vision of this, which he reported in Revelation 7. Before the throne of God stand people from every tongue, tribe, nation, and language – all dressed in white robes praising God. It's a striking image is striking of the reversal of Babel. At Babel, one people were made into many nation. In Revelation 7, many nations once again become one people: God’s people. If that's true of the Kingdom of God, it ought be true of the Church whose job is to point people to the Kingdom of God.
But I also have a very practical concern about the segregation on Sunday mornings. White evangelicals remain largely unmoved by the hurts and concerns of our non-white evangelical brothers and sisters, particularly African-Americans. This was exposed in last year’s racial explosions stemming from Ferguson and Staten Island.
Look, as a conservative evangelical, I know that I disagree with the Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons of the world – about almost everything. And so it's tempting to also dismiss racial concerns as resulting from their kind of race baiting publicity stunts.
But what I have come to learn is that I have brothers and sisters in Christ – who share every theological conviction I have, maybe even political convictions – and yet who see systemic issues of racial injustice in our society. And if we listen, they can thoughtfully and compellingly open our eyes.
One example is my guest on “BreakPoint this Week,” Rev. Christopher Brooks. Many of us white evangelicals dismiss racial concerns as individualistic (“I’m not racist, so it’s not my problem”). But as Pastor Brooks shared on the interview, Scripture identifies both systemic and individual expressions of injustice and evil. And a racially unified church would make an incredible difference in our society.
Visit us at BreakPoint.org to hear my interview with Rev. Chris Brooks, and find resources to help the church overcome racial division and embody the unity our Savior prayed for.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.
Publication date: January 19, 2015