We’ve been uncomfortably reminded over the last few years—and the last few days—that the United States still has a long way to go when it comes to race relations. Simmering racial anger and division came out with renewed force during the Trayvon Martin case, and most recently in the racist comments of Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling.
Bundy, a cattle rancher locked in a dispute with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, wondered aloud whether blacks would be better off picking cotton as slaves.
And eighty-year-old Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, said despicable things about black men to his racially mixed girlfriend. Sterling deserved every bit of the lifetime ban from the NBA.
Christians should see racism in any form as sin, an assault on the fundamental dignity of people who are made in God’s image. But I’m sad to say, I don’t think it is going away anytime soon.
Many will say that this rancher and rich sports franchise owner don’t accurately reflect the rest of America. After all, most of us just get along, don’t we? Well, certainly most of us do, but not all racism is as blatant as Sterling’s was. And dehumanization comes in various shapes and sizes.
Take Shaquille O’Neal for example. Despite his very harsh and public words for Donald Sterling, Shaq recently took to Twitter to mock the appearance of Jahmel Binion, who suffers from a rare disorder called ectodermal dysplasia. Thousands called out his obvious hypocrisy in condemning Sterling’s racism while mocking a disability. Shaq personally called Jahmel to apologize, so good for him!
But his story reveals just what is behind the hatred, hypocrisy, and discrimination of all kinds. We are. As G.K. Chesterton reportedly wrote in response to a newspaper editorial question: “Dear Sir, In response to your question what’s wrong with the world, I am. Yours Truly, G.K. Chesterton.”
Discrimination and hate that exists in the heart, though not as crass and public as Sterling’s, is still sinful. It comes out in our jokes, avoided conversations, and anytime we’re unwilling to stand up for someone being wrongfully treated. This is not an issue on the top of the list for many white Christians, but it is for many of my black Christian ministry partners and friends. Black Christians see it in ways white Christians do not; and as a white Christian, I would say to my fellow Caucasian brothers and sisters that we need to listen to them.
And look, the consequence of this type of sin is not just personal. It becomes structural. On a recent BreakPoint This Week interview, scholars Anthony Bradley and Soong Chan Rah describe the systemic nature of racism, and our gospel responsibility to combat it. Come to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary, and we’ll link you to it.
And Christians have an incredibly important opportunity in front of us to propose the Gospel in this context.
Secularism always dehumanizes by superficially reducing people down to their sexual inclinations, or color, or socioeconomic status or looks, or some other arbitrary category. Secularism simply does not possess the worldviews resources to confront person-to-person discrimination in all of its forms. But Christianity does.
The Gospel begins with the inherent, not acquired, dignity of all people. It calls men from every “tribe, language and people and nation.” And it’s centered on Jesus Christ, the second Adam, who is restoring all things—including and especially broken relationships.
Look, many of us are tired of talking about race. I get that. But this country is growing more racially diverse by the day. And as Christians we can’t stick our heads in the sand. The Church needs to be at the front of the conversation—not out of guilt or for political advantage, but because the gospel demands that we offer reconciliation of all kinds, as a good gift to the world. Come to BreakPoint.org for some resources to get started.
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: May 2, 2014