Rev. Mark H. Creech
Race and racism are closely related, but very different in their meaning, said John Suk, in Creation and/or Evolution.
Race describes a certain kind of person. It's part of God's plan for the world, wrote Suk. We sing, "Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight." But, said Suk, if we add only three letters to the word race, then we have something hideous. Racism is believing that "Red and yellow, black and white, but only one is precious in his sight."
Race is to be celebrated and honored, while racism should be rejected as godlessness. It's terribly unfortunate it takes some people a long time to learn this lesson.
During the 1980s, when I was pastor of the First Missionary Baptist Church in LaGrange, North Carolina, some of its members shared with me the church's rich history. During the Civil War, the church’s sanctuary was used as a hospital for Confederate soldiers. Beneath the carpet, on the large planked pine floors, were bloodstains from the wounded who were treated there. The sanctuary also had a slave gallery in its early days, where the slaves would sit during worship services. After the war between the states, the slave gallery was torn down as an overture for peace. Nevertheless, it would still be many decades before the church even had one person of the black race as a part of its membership.
I remember admonishing certain members of that church of the contradiction in sending thousands of dollars to evangelize people of color through foreign missions, but then being unwilling to invite certain people of another race in our own community to church. I was encouraged to suppress such talk, or it might get me into a lot of trouble.
Wendell Phillips, the American abolitionist and advocate for Native Americans, once said, "There is nothing stronger than human prejudice."
The late Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life and work are celebrated on Monday as a national holiday, is a memorial of the constant need to endeavor for peace and equality between the races. Although our country has made considerable progress, King's dream for judging people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin, has been long in coming. We should also be admonished that making mistakes is understandable. However, repeatedly making the same mistakes is evidence we aren't learning – something inexcusable.
One mistake concerning racism today is the current emphasis on Critical Race Theory. Professor Gerald R. McDermott, the Anglican Chair of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School, has rightly argued:
"For CRT, the world is divided into two groups, the oppressors and the oppressed. Each person is defined by his or her group. Even those who condemn racism are defined as oppressors if they belong to the wrong (white) group. People of color are victims of systemic oppression by whites and so are considered innocents in the cosmic war between good and evil. White people are 'complicit' in white society's war against color, no matter what they say they believe or do…Teachers of CRT tell their followers they need to recognize that 'no white member of society' is 'innocent' of racism."
What is this but another form of prejudice and bigotry, where people are judged based on their skin color? – "bad motives to one skin color and good motives to other colors," says McDermott. "This is racism by another name."
The book of Acts, chapter 10, tells of how God dealt with the apostle Peter's prejudices in a vision, convincing him that no race should be considered "unclean."
It's one thing to refer to people as sinful. It's one thing to rebuke their errors. It's even fair to call them evil when they practice iniquity. But it is another thing altogether to diminish the dignity of someone's humanity by calling them "unclean," which would mean to reject them because of their ethnicity.
Therefore, Peter said, "In truth, I understand that God doesn't show favoritism, but in every nation, the person who fears him and does righteousness is acceptable to him" (Acts 10:34-35).
This was something with which Peter struggled. He had his relapses and walked back his noble stand after receiving pressure from some in the Jewish church, who believed Jews and Gentiles shouldn't mix. He was once rebuked by the apostle Paul for his show of racial partiality. But Peter was never in full retreat and kept moving forward, which is something we must do – always be moving forward on the issue of race.
"Ignorance is stubborn, and prejudice dies hard," said former U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Adlai E. Stephenson. Indeed, it does – it dies hard in the church – in the nation.
Don't let it take you a long time to learn the lesson: "Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight."
Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!© Rev. Mark H. Creech
The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.