There was a pretty significant paradigm shift 2000 years ago that forever changed culture, religion and theology. When Jesus came on the scene, he came bearing the message that the kingdom of God had come in himself – which is what he referred to as the gospel. Isaiah anticipated the coming of Christ when he recorded God’s words to his Messiah. “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” My King is a brown, middle eastern Jew who reached out to the nations of the world, saving even those that the Jews would call dogs.
Jesus and the apostle Paul both put themselves at odds with their kinsmen for their inclusivistic messages. It is startling then to find that there are so many who carry the banner of Christianity and will deny the very inclusivism that was at the core of their King’s message. I live only an hour from Charlottesville, Virginia. It was troubling the first time that there were attacks there seeming to have been related to race. Now that it has happened again, I am afraid that a trend might be starting and that my neighbors might become a headquarters for racism and neo-Nazism.
Destroying The Bridge Christ Built
I fear that we may be reconstructing barriers that Christ himself tore down. In a theological sense, the church will always be unified; it transcends ethnicity. But with this deeply political and semi-religious division, Christianity may begin to be associated with this sort of intolerance. Violence is a terrible thing. When Peter raised his sword to defend Jesus against his captors, we remember that Jesus said, “Drop your sword. Those who live by the sword die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). But as terrible as violence is, violence that is provoked by ethnicity is literally outrageous. It is the sort of thing that warrants protests and is completely contrary to Christ’s earth-shaking inclusivism.
But there is something of an irony to this earth-shaking message. The Jews had such a strong sense of nationalism that the inclusion of the Gentiles was seen as threatening. Even disciples such as Peter fell prey to this sort of thinking (Galatians 2:11-21). When Jesus encountered Gentiles who demonstrated tremendous piety, he would say things like, “I have not found such great faith in all of Israel,” (Matthew 8:10). Or again, he said in Matthew 8:11, “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” So here is the irony: Christ was confronting Jewish nationalism, letting Gentiles into the fold (Matthew 28:19). Today, after being let into the fold, Gentiles are building nationalistic barriers of their own. I am sorry, but there are few clearer examples of irony.
Disarming The Rhetoric
There is nothing wrong with being proud of your cultural heritage. This intuitive notion has been adopted by those who call themselves white supremacists. They suggest that there are not looking down on other races; they are merely preserving and taking pride in their own. But, they argue, there is no racism in their stated doctrine. Here is the problem. If I said something like, “No, my church does not hate homosexuals,” but we spent our days gay-bashing or using violence, you would not take my claims seriously. If your stated doctrine does not match your actions, I am not going to take your doctrine seriously. I want to know about practical application and how it manifests itself in the real world.
So, if I do not see a real manifestation of charity and egalitarianism in your actions, I am going to view your stated doctrine as polished rhetoric. This reminds me of what is written in the second chapter of James. He writes in verses 15-16, “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” Why should I care if your stated doctrine is that you are not a racist if your actions betray your words?
The King of The Universe Is A Jew
We sometimes hear rhetoric from neo-Nazis about the Jews taking control; there is a grand conspiracy that is putting the Jews in positions of power. Yet there is another example of staggering irony for those neo-Nazis who would wave the banner of Christ. Christ himself is a Jew and he is the king of the universe. My King is a brown, middle eastern Jew. Of Christ, the apostle Paul writes in Romans 1:3-4 that he “who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.”
This one who was a descendant of Abraham, a son of Israel is the same one of whom it is written that “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
Listen To The Testimony of Others
I think we too often look at racism wearing political goggles. Conservatives see that it is a cause championed by progressives and we may be tempted to react by dismissing it as if it were not a real problem. Yet there are people with troubling testimonies. Some of them appear on the news and many do not. Even as you are reading this, you might have a flurry of thoughts about whether the news is accurately portraying the situation. That is fine. I am not even talking about the news. I am talking about listening to other people and allowing them to represent their own experiences. There are certainly cases of race-baiting. But the fact that there are some examples of fraudulence does not at all lend support to the idea that there is no legitimate racism.
When people say things like, “Black lives matter,” we do not really need to reply by reminding them that “All lives matter,” because that sort of misses the point. If people are predisposed to view African-Americans as violent or criminal, they might be more likely to react defensively or even violently to them. This predisposition then results in more violent deaths of African-Americans, sometimes unfortunately by police brutality or negligence. The emphasis on “black lives” is to highlight that problem. So when somebody tells us that black lives matter, we should listen to what they have to say. Allow their experiences to stand without assuming that you – an outsider – know more about their lives than they do.
We cannot and ought not politicize racism. If that trend persists, I have no idea what the consequences will be. There has been true social progress in the last few centuries. But for us to politicize racism has left many people walking too closely to that line for comfort. It is sort of akin to abortion being politicized. Many people favor this totally immoral practice mainly because it is part of their preferred party. Are we really going to allow our sin to be racism? Is that so much better?
Challenging Neo-Nazism Does Not Make You A Social Justice Warrior
A SJW is sort of a meme. It is a person who follows every dumb little controversy that emerges and cries out for social justice. But there are legitimate social issues that need to be addressed. I find it difficult to believe that racism would not be one of them. Yet it is possible to be nuanced; you can recognize the difference between race-baiting and real racism. All of this is to say that Christians should exercise some stopping power against racism. Our religion was in fact founded on inclusivistic principles.
With that in mind, we should challenge neo-Nazis in their claims to be Christians. If our fundamental beliefs include the ethical principle that all are created equal (Genesis 1:26-27) and these egalitarian, inclusivistic principles, then any time a neo-Nazi claims to be a Christian, we should ask what their basis is. The King of the universe has dark skin. What sort of model of neo-Nazism allows for compatibility between these two philosophies?
Book Burning Does Not Work
I think reason is more powerful that coercion. This is especially prevalent today as the political divide is widening. If a political idea is being stifled by one side, the other might start to think there is something to it. Think for example of the NFL players taking a knee in protest of police brutality. When the President commented on it, that fueled the cause even more.
Freedom of expression is a pretty important principle. So the approach that I have offered here is not to silence neo-Nazis unless their sentiments are of a violent nature. But book burning campaigns simply do not work. Especially with the advent of the internet. Reason is more powerful than coercion.
My King Is A Brown, Middle Eastern Jew
The kingdom of God is thoroughly inclusivistic. This is portrayed pretty well by story of the woman at the well from John 4. Just to illustrate the deep cultural and religious divide, read how she responded to Jesus. She said, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)” His response to her was then one of inclusion and mercy. That is true Christianity. Those neo-Nazis who wave the banner of Christ betray his entire ministry and one of the most important theological themes of the Bible.
The Biblical Case Against Racism
Reorienting Yourself After A Tumultuous Election Cycle