Friday, July 11, 2008

Racism, the Gospel and Presidential Politics

I grew up in racially volatile times. Racial integration came to my elementary school in 1967. It was a confusing time for blacks and whites alike. My high school had race riots for six consecutive years before my senior year (1975) broke the cycle. Both my mind and body were scarred during those times.

In one particularly painful (and bloody) episode, while being admitted to the Emergency Room at the Baptist Hospital in Beaumont, Texas, the Lord gave me a glimpse into the perverse racism in my heart and exposed my superficial understanding of sin and grace.

That experience built upon an earlier one that came when, as a middle-schooler, I chose to read and write a report on John Howard Griffin's Black Like Me. Griffin helped me understand that I did not know what I did not know about racism.

I resolved then, as a young teenager, that I would forever stand against racial bigotry. I stood up for black friends who were threatened by white friends. I wept and burned with anger when my white pastor refused to baptize my black friend, Josey. At the principal's request, I gave a speech over the Public Adress system of South Park High School, pleading for racial harmony. I gave another one, after asking our coaches to leave, to my racially divided football teammates.

So, I thought I was racially sensitive and enlightened and free from bigotry, until that Christmas night in th ER. But the bitterness, hatred and rage that poured out of me against not just the black men who had beaten me but against a whole race of people shattered my self-righteous delusions about living above the fray of racial tensions that characterized so much of my context.

Since then, I have learned something about the doctrine of remaining sin and have come to understand that there are some things that I simply cannot understand about the insidious sin of racism. That is why I read Eric Redmond's post today with such interest and appreciation. It is entitled, "How Can Any Christian African American Vote for Obama? Throwing the Race Card on an All Black Table."

Eric, who served us very well in his Founders Breakfast address last month, thoughtfully analyzes this issue from an insider's perspective. You may not agree with the arguments that he highlights--indeed, he doesn't ask you to--but you can gain helpful insights into many of the racial issues that are woven into the fabric of American society. He gives several thoughtful reasons why sincere African American Christians will indeed vote for Obama. It is a very helpful read, especially for white folks.

I commend it to everyone who believes that Jesus Christ "is our peace who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity" (Ephesians 2:14-16). The same Gospel that reconciles sinners to God also reconciles sinners to each other and is able to build blacks and whites and every other race and ethnicity into the one body of Jesus Christ.

As that happens, God's wisdom and glory are put on display in His church.

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