True Christian faith has nothing to do with racism in America. It speaks and works directly against it.
The other night I heard an interesting story on the radio about a missionary headed to Lebanon who discussed with the host an example of who the people might look to as an example of the Christian faith. The answer was quite surprising — it wasn’t someone like Greg Laurie or Billy Graham. It was Britney Spears.
In light of her often sexually explicit behavior, the predominantly Muslim audience viewed Christians as amoral. This obviously cannot be further from the truth. Most of us probably don’t see Spears as a model of faithful living, but we do sometimes inappropriately take certain examples as being representative of the Christian faith. One case of this occurring is when people in politics who are aligned with policies that Christians support make statements that are racist or insensitive. Another is when we think of born-again Christians exclusively as white, male, older, conservative and potentially racist. Racism, an inability to forgive and a lack of compassion all go against key principles of the Christian faith and should not be the example the world uses to judge the whole of Christendom.
With the recent Donald Trump-fueled illegal immigration rhetoric fiasco and critiques against the Black Lives Matter movement, people who oppose Christianity might be tempted to take the opportunity to claim these examples as evidence of widespread racism in the Christian community. They might argue that these comments show the white ethnocentricity of evangelical Christianity or even worse, that Biblical morality is not moral at all. This approach runs the risk of taking the speakers themselves out of context or placing a false “Christian seal of approval” on racism when the people behind these arguments may be out of line with Biblical principles even outside of any political postulation.
In the instance of illegal immigration and racist comments against Latinos, peolpe should recognize that the idea of the rule of law is a Biblical principle and that breaking the law by being an undocumented immigrant is a serious issue (likely a sin) that should not be swept under the rug. But grace and forgiveness are Biblical ideas that are just as important. In fact, the essence of Christianity states that we are all sinners who need to be forgiven and who should forgive others. More specifically, the Bible says in Leviticus 19:33–34 that if a stranger is in your country, he should not be mistreated. Christians often put this into action by helping refugees from other countries, like missionaries are doing in Syria right now. While I am not advocating for completely opening our borders, I believe that to equate hostility toward any immigrant group with the Christian faith is antithetical to the words of the Bible.
The same principles apply to the Black Lives Matter movement. Some people of faith who have criticized the movement, like presidential candidate Ben Carson, are African-American themselves and do not favor police brutality or racial profiling of blacks. They often just want to ensure that solutions, like broadening educational opportunity, combatting corruption and personal encouragement to pursue legitimate means of success come before protests that don’t do much more than grab media attention and cause chaos. The very idea of racism was refuted by Galatians 3:28–29, which some believe is one of the most powerful early anti-racism declarations. Also, don’t forget that the place that was attacked in Charleston was a church. In all of the major shooting events of the last year or so, churches and ministries have stepped up to provide prayer, counseling and exhortation to pursue peace instead of creating more violence in the streets. Notably, there were no major riots after Charleston, an incident where the focus was on a faith-based community. That might say something about the role of faith attenuating the negative effects of tumultuous racial discourse.
There is great diversity in the church and a strong commitment to serving those in need, including minorities. I have seen leaders of all races and varied backgrounds do great things for the Lord and for our communities. The church has been a first responder to disasters and human rights concerns worldwide. Even the civil rights and women’s suffrage movements were started by Christians. If someone holds a political position that someone else doesn’t agree with, they should think twice before blaming an institution that helped found this nation and makes it and the world a much better place.
Reach Contributor Greyson Peltier here.