Categories
Commentary

Christians and Critical Race

Let’s start at the right place.

Critical Race Theory is not the problem.

Racism is.

That seems obvious enough. But we are making it difficult.

The day before George Floyd was murdered, most Americans had no idea what Critical Race Theory (CRT) was.

But then it burst onto the scene like a firework. It was everywhere as people searched for education, encouragement, and empowerment. Then something strange happened.

Everyone became an expert on CRT.

Especially Christians.

I’m not an expert on CRT. Hardly even a novice. What I do know is that CRT, like every other philosophy/theory, departs from Scripture at many points. I also know that CRT, like every other philosophy/theory, has many important aspects Christians can benefit from.

But I’m not here to talk about CRT. If you’re hoping for a deep dive to defend or debunk it, this isn’t the place. Other people on both sides are doing that far better than I could (because they are experts).

Angry at the Wrong Thing

Here’s where I feel qualified to contribute to the conversation. It’s obvious to me that the evil one has been able to get Christians fired up about CRT to keep them from fighting racism in any form, big or small.

In other words, many Christians are angry at the wrong thing.

Is it obvious to you?

The evil one has been able to get Christians fired up about CRT to keep them from fighting racism in any form, big or small.

Brother or sister, if this is you, won’t you please lay down your arms for a moment? I want you to feel the freedom to not pick a side. Not show someone how “wrong” you think they are.

Changing the Conversation

There’s still time to change the conversation. And we must.

Getting angry at CRT is a convenient excuse to ignore the real problems that face our communities and country. So we’re at a crossroads. We can double-down and stay angry at things we know little about, continuing to convince our Facebook friends how non-Christian a non-Christian theory is.

Or we can pursue God and our fellow human beings with humility.

Augustine wrote, “If you ask me what the essential thing in the religion and discipline of Jesus Christ is, I shall reply: first, humility; second, humility, and third, humility. Not that there are no other precepts to give, but if humility does not precede all that we do, our efforts are fruitless” (Letters 118).

What Augustine is getting at is not easy. But it is simple.

Humility allows us to recognize that God is at work everywhere, not just within religious structures and institutions.

Humility allows us to say, “Maybe I don’t know everything about that” or “Maybe everything isn’t so cut and dry” or “Maybe I should definitely not post that very one-sided, angry-sounding article.”

Humility allows us to easily find common ground with others in the fight for justice and human flourishing. No matter what the “other” side’s foundation or assumptions are.

Where to Start

If you’re at a loss for how this can happen, it’s as simple–and hard–as starting with, “I hate racism, too. Let’s get to work. Together.”

No qualifiers. No buts. No rants. No political jabs.

Just God-given, love-infused, world-changing humility.

Categories
Commentary

Why I’m Politically Homeless

I’m looking for America
I’m looking for a place to breathe in
A place I could call my home
I’m looking for America
I’m looking for the land of freedom
A place I can call my own

America who are you?
Am I asking for too much
America who are you?
Has your dream become out of touch
America who are you?
Do you get what you deserve
Between the violence and entitlements
Which nation do you serve?

These lyrics from the song “Looking for America” by Switchfoot and Lecrae encapsulate the feelings of many young Christians in America. We’ve felt this for a while. But murder of George Floyd and ensuing protests, riots, tensions, politicizing in DC, and media mess have brought it to the forefront.

We are looking for America. The idea of America, where all people truly are equal and free. Not just white ones. Where all people–particularly black people–have the right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

And while many of us were raised to find it in one of the two political parties, we haven’t found it yet. We’re politically homeless. And sometimes, it feels like we are “asking for too much.”

It’s not just young Christians who feel this way, of course. A couple years ago, Tim Keller (an old, white pastor for those who don’t know) wrote in the New York Times that all Christians do not (or should not) fit into a two-party political system.

He exposes the problem of “package deal ethics,” as British ethicist James Mumford calls it. This means that a party says you can’t work with them if you don’t adopt all of their positions. So, it puts pressure on Christians to join one party or the other. And it prevents Christians from doing what is right in the name of politics. Like work to bring racial justice to our nation.

I’ve used another term for this problem in my conversations with friends: guilty by association. We think if we associate with anyone on one issue, we are guilty of siding with them on every other issue.

But that’s a lie from the pit of hell.

Keller gives a helpful example, “Following both the Bible and the early church, Christians should be committed to racial justice and the poor, but also to the understanding that sex is only for marriage and for nurturing family. One of those views seems liberal and the other looks oppressively conservative. The historical Christian positions on social issues do not fit into contemporary political alignments.”

Do you feel that tension?

I do. If I agree with a perspective or policy advocated by a Democrat, many Christians would (wrongly) assume I am “adopting the whole package.” And essentially forsaking the gospel itself!

That’s quite an oversimplification. And Justin Giboney recently tweeted something that shatters this fallacy to pieces: “Being conservative or progressive on every single issue is intellectually lazy & unfaithful…Make conservatism sympathize & pursue racial justice. Make progressivism acknowledge absolute truth & the sanctity of life.”

As ones who believe that Jesus is all and over all, and that our allegiance to him is infinitely more important than political affiliation, we should be leading the way. This should make the most sense to us. Our political convictions and ideas should be the most robust and nuanced. And it should cause both sides of the aisle find us attractive or repulsive at different moments.

This will leave us politically homeless. But this is the way of Jesus.

Categories
Commentary

Why Black Lives Matter

She left her water bottle at the well and sprinted into the village. Nearly out of breath, she gasped, “Come see a man who told me everything I ever did. He’s never met me before. How? Why? Could this man be the Messiah?”

Her life was turned upside down. That’s how it was when people met Jesus.

Meanwhile, Jesus’ disciples rejoined him. What a day to remember. That woman’s whole village, of Samaritans no less, came to believe in Messiah! Jesus told his friends about how God was harvesting–that is, gathering–people from every ethnicity on earth to be a part of his family. Even among the Samaritans. And the disciples would reap the benefits, even though they didn’t lift a finger.

“But Jesus,” objected Peter, “Samaritans? They are, uh, unclean.”

“Half-breeds. Don’t trust ’em,” Matthew chimed in. “Can’t see it.”

“I’d only trust one as far as I can thrown one!” Andrew quipped. Other disciples chuckled. Some smirked but held in their laughs.

But Jesus didn’t laugh.

He looked each of the twelve right in their eyes, his face sad and stern.

“Samaritan lives matter,” he said.

No one said anything for half a minute. They seemed, well, flabbergasted. Samaritans?! Jesus waited, took a few sips of water and a bite of bread. Peter was the first to speak up. (He always is.)

“Master, we believe that all lives matter. It is written that in the beginning, ‘God made humans in his image.’ This is true. All lives matter.”

Jesus smiled at Peter in the way he did so often. It was a smile that pierced Peter’s soul.

“Samaritan lives matter,” Jesus repeated.

“Jesus, why do you have to say it like that?” asked Peter. “I mean, that seems to be really, well, Samaritan-centered. What about Jewish lives? Don’t our lives matter, too?”

“Peter,” Jesus said in the way only Jesus could, “isn’t it obvious to all of us right here that ‘all lives matter’? And that ‘Jewish lives matter’?”

“Yes, Rabbi, it’s obvious,” Peter said looking right back at Jesus.

“But what do you all think? Does the average Samaritan feel that his life matters to you–Peter, son of Jonah–or any Jewish man or woman for that matter?”

“I suppose not, Rabbi,” Peter admitted.

“And do you suppose that the maltreatment of, suspicions about, and snarky remarks toward Samaritans has caused this people, who are loved by God, to feel devalued and denigrated?”

“I suppose that’s true, Lord.”

“And, dear Peter,” Jesus said, “do you suppose that when you say, ‘All lives matter,’ and avoid saying ‘Samaritan lives matter,’ they still sense that you do not see them or hear them because you cannot even give them the dignity of identifying their uniqueness among all the peoples on the earth?”

“I suppose that, too, Master,” Peter said.

“And suppose you sensed that you loved and cared for one Samaritan, but another said to you, ‘I do not feel loved or cared for by your people.’ What matters more–how you feel about your actions or how they have received and perceived the actions of another Jew or Jews as a whole?”

“I suppose,” Peter said, “it’s the latter, Jesus.” This time, his head was hanging low.

“Peter, lift your head. Be encouraged. And hear me: Samaritan lives matter.”


I hope the point of this imaginative conversation is clear enough. Sometimes an experiment like this on a conversation that never happened–but could have–is helpful for me as I think about what Jesus still has to say to us today. It also reminds me that Jesus was a real person who had other conversations that weren’t recorded in the Bible.

If you have no idea of the context, Jews hated Samaritans. They considered them less-thans for a variety of religious, theological, and cultural reasons. Centuries of hate and discord. The situation is not parallel to what we are dealing with today in the United States. But the racist sin in the heart is.

You can read the actual account, as it’s recorded, in John 4.

Why, you might ask, did I pick on Peter? Well, the Bible is pretty honest about Peter’s struggle with discrimination against non-Jews. You can read more about it here and here.

And while you’re at it, consider that time Jesus asked a simple question to a man who couldn’t even bring himself to say the word “Samaritan” out loud. It’s akin to saying, “All lives matter.” Of course “all lives matter.” But saying that is a convenient tactic to avoid the issue at hand. Black people have not felt honored, valued, and cared for by our system, by white people in general, and by particular white people. Neither you nor I get to determine what they have experienced and felt. This is their reality.

If you’re a Christian, we should be leading this charge with empathy and a soft heart ready to listen. Jesus is the One who brings together what is divided.

That’s why we need to get this right.

That’s why Black Lives Matter.

Categories
Theology

“Bloodlines” Documentary

This is an 18-minute documentary by Crossway based on John Piper’s new book Bloodlines. This film features Piper as he walks through his personal story of growing up in the segregated town of Greenville, South Carolina.