I woke up a little after midnight unable to sleep. On Facebook, an African American student from one of our Chi Alpha groups messaged me asking for my prayers and help. The KKK is handing out flyers in his town (more flyers). I can't imagine the many emotions he is feeling, but he told me, "This really angers me, but it angers me to want to do something about it through spreading the love of Christ even more, and how we are all one blood under Christ." I am so proud of this student. In the midst of his own feelings, he is staying focused on Christ’s mission.
So, I am up praying and crying and asking myself, “How can this group still exist today?” But, of course I already know the answer. We are not a post-racial society. There is so much going on in our world, but most in the church are so very ignorant of it that I am inspired today to speak out and bring some truth to bear. Ignorance, by the way, is simply not knowing. There is no shame in not knowing, only in refusing to learn. Let’s start with some basic definitions to help us sort through some of the lies.
Racism. This word gets thrown around a lot, but what is it actually? I like the clarity that sociologist Michael Emerson brings in his paper, “The Persistent Problem”. “Research consistently finds significant differences in the way that racial groups tend to define racism” (e.g., Yancey 2006). Whites tend to view racism as intended individual acts of overt prejudice and discrimination…In short, it defines the person’s essence. To be called “racist” by others then is so very offensive to so many whites because it communicates an amazing charge. It says, “You, white person, walk around holding crazy stereotypes in your head, and you then go around intentionally and directly parading your racial prejudice and discrimination against me and others. Whatever else you may be, white person, this racist label is your master status.” Ouch. No wonder the word makes the blood boil. Most people of color define racism quite differently. Racism is, at a minimum, prejudice plus power, and that power comes not from being a prejudiced individual, but from being part of a group that controls the nation’s systems. So while anyone can be prejudiced, only whites can perpetrate racism in the United States, for they hold and have always held most of the power in American institutions. Even in a nation that currently has a president as black, nearly all senators, representatives, governors, and CEOs, to name a few, are white. This view of racism is called the structuralist definition, and stands in stark contrast to the individualist definition.”
Let’s be clear. Both definitions of racism are sin. The individualist definition violates the sacredness of humanity. The structural definition violates the very essence of the gospel. Those who claim the cross are called to serve and lay down their lives for others, not to use whatever power they might have for self-protection and self-aggrandizement.
White Power/ White Privilege. Here are some more terms that are incredibly misunderstood. Again I turn to Michael Emerson. When trying to understand sociological concepts, turn to a sociologist. He uses the term, “structural advantage” probably to lighten some of the weight.
“White Structural Advantage: As alluded to earlier, white Americans occupy the location of dominance—politically, economically, culturally, and numerically—within the racial hierarchy. They have disproportionate control of influence of political parties, legal system, government-controlled institutions, industry, and business. These structural advantages provide privileges to whites, where privilege here can be defined as benefits accrued by virtue of having a white identity. This advantage is in everyday situations and at institutional levels. Some examples, with varying degrees of significance for life outcomes: whites easily purchase movies, literature, or greeting cards with whites in them; white Americans can ignore the experiences, writings, or ideas of racial/ethnic minorities without penalty; whites are assumed to be middle class, law abiding, and well meaning, unless they prove otherwise (and they will have to work at proving it) whereas for other groups it is typically the opposite; whites have the ability to set laws and policies (in part because elected officials are overwhelmingly white)—including who is defined as white and who is not, the power to interpret what is a racial problem and what is not, who gets into the country and who does not, the ability to pass housing policies that favor their racial group, and whites shape the development of educational curriculums that emphasizes Western history and social experiences, and much more.”
I find people are often offended at the notion that they might have “white power”, like they have done something wrong. Look, if you are white (actually I don’t like that term, but will use it for the purpose of this discussion), the truth is that you do have structural advantages. This does not make you a bad person! If you are a Christian, then I would challenge you to use this advantage for the benefit of others who do not have this advantage. THIS IS THE GOSPEL. Jesus shares his power, privilege, and advantage with us. He has all of these, and does not deny it, but instead uses it.
KKK. I do not claim to be an expert on this group. On the website listed on this flyer they say, “Our goal is to help restore America to a White Christian nation founded on God’s word. This does not mean we want to see anything bad happen to the darker races... we simply want to live separate from them as GOD intended (Lev. 20:24-25).” A few things regarding these two short sentences.
Leviticus 20:24-25 says, “But I said to you, “You will possess their land; I will give it to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the LORD your God, who has set you apart from the nations. “‘You must therefore make a distinction between clean and unclean animals and between unclean and clean birds. Do not defile yourselves by any animal or bird or anything that moves along the ground—those that I have set apart as unclean for you.”
Regarding the scripture reference- Yeah, I don’t get it either. I guess they bank on most people not actually looking this up or they think that God’s command to the Hebrew people to live separate from idolatrous nations around them somehow equates to racial segregation today. Race is a human construct that was not part of the ancient world and that is one, among many reasons, why this Scripture is horribly misapplied by the Klan.
Secondly, White and Christian are not synonymous terms, though I think perhaps the Klan thinks they are. Christianity was in Africa before it made its way to Europe. Most Europeans were idolatrous “barbarians”, much like the people Moses warned the Israelites to separate themselves from, before the gospel took root there. Christians are people who have embraced Jesus as Lord and Savior and actually live by his ways and do his will. By the way, believers were first called Christians in Antioch because their multi-ethnic congregation of Jews and Gentiles necessitated a new term. Thank you, Luke, for recording the leaders of this great church for us so that we will not get sucked into the lies of groups like this. “Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas (Jewish), Simeon called Niger (Sub-Saharan African), Lucius of Cyrene (Greek), Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul (Jew from Greek city).” Acts. 13:1. Italics are mine.
Lastly, Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month are not racist because they celebrate the culture and contributions of often over-looked groups. Ethnic specific events, media, and resources exist because many of us feel we are completely lacking from the general culture. If we want to make these things obsolete then let’s create school curriculums, movies, and events that truly represents all of us.
Here’s the bottom line, brothers and sisters. Everything that quotes Scripture and claims Jesus’ allegiance is not of God. Jesus taught us to judge a tree by its fruit. This is a good standard to apply to all of our lives.
The kingdom of God is made up of every nation, tribe, people, and language. THIS IS TRUTH. As Mark Deymaz says, “if the kingdom of heaven is not segregated, then why on earth is the local church?" It is time to deal with the reality of the racial injustice in our world through a Biblical lens. Like my brother put it, "This really angers me, but it angers me to want to do something about it through spreading the love of Christ even more, and how we are all one blood under Christ." Me too. Will you join us?