Racism in America

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August 9th, an African-American male, Michael Brown, was shot six times and killed. Varying reports have been circulated as to what really happened. The New York Times stated,

“The circumstances of Michael Brown’s death on Aug. 9 are in dispute. The police said that Mr. Brown was shot during a fight for the officer’s gun, while some witnesses say Mr. Brown’s hands were in the air when the last of several shots was fired. Accounts given to local and federal investigators by witnesses seem to agree that the struggle began with Mr. Wilson in his patrol car. Mr. Brown was leaning in through the window, and Mr. Wilson’s firearm went off inside the car. As Mr. Brown ran away, the officer got out of his car and fired at him. Then Mr. Brown stopped and turned around to face Mr. Wilson. Accounts differ after that, with some witnesses saying that Mr. Brown moved toward the officer, possibly in a threatening manner, when he was shot. Others say that he was not moving and may have had his hands up when he was killed.”

This tragic event, as with the Trayvon Martin case from 2012, has once again brought racism to the forefront of the American conscience. In the recent case, was the shooting race-related? And whether it was or not, I want to take this opportunity to make a few comments concerning racism as it pertains to the Christian faith.

Practical/Moral Observation: Just because a white man shoots a black man, or, just because a black man shoots a white man, does not necessarily mean the behavior was racially motivated. To conclude such a thing by the mere external behavior is at best, to move too hastily, and at worst, to judge superficially. Context is crucial. Motivation is paramount. Some people seem all-too-eager to blame race. In some cases, the motivation is absolutely racial. But at other times, it is not, and in these cases, the reason a person may be quick to blame race may stem either from past wounds and/or racism in that person’s own heart.

Spiritual Overservation: God is absolutely, in the deepest way possible, both opposed and grieved by any expression of racism. James writes,

“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. [2] Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. [3] If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” [4] have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (2:1-4)

Granted, this passage is addressing the sin that Christians were committing against God and their fellow man by choosing how they would treat a human being based on a person’s socio-economic status. But the principle is somewhat the same: A follower of Jesus Christ must never choose an attitude toward a person based on a fact, whether that be gender, race, religion, or socio-economic status. Rather, a Christian must always choose an attitude of love (love can take on varied expressions depending on the specifics of a situation) toward the other for the sheer fact that God created and loves that individual.

The fact that God has created all people demands that a Christian hold to an intrinsic view of human value as opposed to an instrumental view of human value. In other words, irregardless of functional worth (a Marxist concept that ironically has worked its way into a Capitalist economy), a human is valuable and must be respected if for no other reason than that God made that person. Psalms 139 holds true for all people.

Racism is wrong in all forms. Personally, I do not even tolerate racist jokes. It is not a laughing matter.

Can a Christian be a racist? I would say yes, but a very qualified yes. Can a Christian struggle with an addiction? Yes. Can a Christian live in sexual sin? Yes. Can a Christian be greedy? Absolutely. Look around.

A Christian can live compromised. Compromise does not necessarily imply that a person is not a Christian. Instead, it demonstrates a considerable distance between that person and their Lord. Christians are called to incarnate Christ in all spheres of life. A racist Christian cannot do this at full capacity, and that is putting it nicely.

Racism is another sin. A great sin. An extremely destructive sin.

I end with this: If you are a Christian and have racism in your heart, you are living in sin. You are compromised, and unless you repent and allow the Holy Spirit to change your heart and perspective, you cannot become nor can you fulfill all that God intends. A racist Christian, though maybe still a Christian, is a poor expression of Jesus to the world. It will be judged.

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