A few years ago I lost a close friend due to cancer. His name was Rev. Denny Denson (pictured). Denny grew up on the south side of Chicago and at one time was involved with the Black Panthers. By his own admission he was the toughest of the tough, the baddest of the bad. Growing up, Denny didn’t like white people.
As an adult, Denny became a Christian, answered the call into ministry, and became a pastor in my home town. Through a series of events God worked on his heart, he repented of his racism and spent the last years of his life working for racial reconciliation, pouring his heart into younger pastors like myself.
Denny was my mentor, my spiritual father, my hero.
But Denny was a minority. He wasn’t part of the dominant group. He could only push the issue of race so far.
Racism will never be completly defeated in our country – and in our churches – until guys like me, part of the dominant group (WASP: White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant) decide enough is enough and stand up at every opportunity and say, “Racism is wrong!” instead of saying, “We need to just get over it and let it go.” Our country is a little over 200 years old. We are still young, and in spite of all the blessings God has given us, our country is steeped in racism based on our immoral treatment of Native-Americans and African-Americans. The Civil War was less than 200 years ago; we are still violating treatises we made with Native-Americans; and there still remains institutionalized racism in our churches.
As followers of Jesus we have got to stand up and say, “Racism is wrong!”
Pastor Denny used to say, “If you don’t constantly stir the pot, the people on the bottom get burned.”
When was the last time you stirred the pot? (For me, it was the day before yesterday, but that’s another story.)
When was the last time you told a friend or family member or coworker or religious leader that their joke or actions were racist and totally inappropriate?
Recently my daughter was at a party where a guy started mouthing-off, uttering racist’s comments. According to her, she got in his face and let him have it. She said she was as angry as she has ever been in her life. A righteous anger if there ever was one. She made her daddy proud. You gotta stir the pot. Racism is wrong!
For the life of me I cannot understand how believers of the Bible can tolerate any form of racism. (I am mainly talking to Christians of my own race.) Consider the following:
- Biblical scholarship places the Garden of Eden in Africa, Egypt, or the Middle East (Iraq to be exact). This means that Adam, the first human being, was either black or Middle Eastern (possibly Asian) in color. Adam’s last name was not Columbus. The first human-being was not a white European.
- Right now, today, you have to read Numbers 12. In that chapter, Moses marries an Ethiopian (a different race than Moses). Miriam, Moses’ sister, complains about this interracial relationship and God strikes her with leprosy. Moses intercedes on her behalf and God heals her, but not before saying what she had done was a disgrace. (Now, before my biblical scholar friends jump all over me, I know the main issue was her rebellion against Moses’ leadership, but the issue that put a spotlight on her rebellion, and her heart, was Moses marrying someone outside their “tribe.”)
- Jesus, an Israelite, born in the Middle East, probably looked more like Osama bin Laden than He does me. Because of His race, ethnicity, and age, if He were alive today, he would have a difficult time going through airport security. (On a side note: One day, while I was at my local bank, a person was talking to the teller beside me. After about the fourth time he mentioned those “towel heads” who are out to destroy our country, I said, “Excuse me. You do know Jesus was a towel head, don’t you?” It got really quiet in that bank. Every once in while you just gotta stir the pot. Thanks Denny.)
- In Acts 8, Philip evangelizes and baptizes an Ethiopian Eunuch. To this day, Ethiopia has one of the largest Christian populations in all of Africa.
- In Galatians, Paul writes, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”(Galatians 3:26-27).
- In the context of Galatians 3, Paul mentions a time when he opposed and confronted Peter very publicly. He didn’t follow the Matthew 18 model. What was the issue that caused Paul to do such a thing? Peter had been racist in the way he had treated Gentiles (Galatians 2:11-21).
- The Book of Revelation teaches that people from every tribe, nation, and language will gather around the throne and sing praises to God (Revelation 7:9-10).
The above is just a portion of what Scripture says concerning race. Taken all the Bible teaches, how in the world can any believer not say, “Racism is wrong!” In addition, one of the greatest theologians in church history was Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo. In case you are not familiar with Hippo, Hippo was an ancient city in North Africa. One of the most influential thinkers, possibly the most influential thinker, in church history was a black guy.
How any attitude of racial superiority crept into the church is beyond me.
Racism is wrong!
The weed of racism must be rooted out of the church. It’s 2011. It’s time the church finally, seriously, humbly, and in repentance, dealt with this issue. And by church I mean the universal church, as well as my own church and denomination. Do not sweep this issue back under the rug.