Race in America, and the Real Problem

We live in a cursed and fallen world.  That proposition shouldn’t require more evidence than looking around us.  There is no hope for this world outside of the gospel of Jesus Christ; the whole Old Testament and the history of Israel demonstrates that you cannot change people’s hearts by law.  The perfect law of God given through Moses did not change the hearts of the people.  The laws of America sure aren’t going to, either.  Neither will protests, riots, or elections.

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No Nationalities in the Eternal Kingdom

There will not be nations in eternity.

The Lamb, according to Revelation 19:15, will destroy the nations.  He strikes them down with the sword and rules over them with a rod of iron.  The “rod of iron” quote is from Psalm 2, and there, the consequences of being ruled with a rod of iron is being smashed into pieces like a piece of crockery. The people of God are redeemed out of every tribe and nation.  That “out of” is important.  All ethnicities are represented, but their ethnicities are no longer their primary identity.  They are part of the one family of God now, the one human race.

This should inform us as we consider our loyalties to ethnicities and nations in the present age.  Taking care of one’s family is important, and this can extend to the broader family as well without damage to Biblical principle.  We can also look at how God has blessed particular groups over the years, especially through their training in Christianity, that has had such profound effects on the history of Europe, for example.  But we must always recognize that these benefits come from God and from Christianity, and never from the racial / ethnic identity per se.

I believe racism is making a comeback, and I think it’s a direct consequence of the racially inflammatory propaganda of the progressive movement, especially of the current president and his administration.  Rush Limbaugh called it just right; he said electing Obama would make race relations much worse, not better, and they certainly have.

It is no accident that those pushing race conflict are also statists; by breaking down all other allegiances and sources of identity, they can bind everyone to the state.  Further, by stirring up conflict they have a handy club to beat any opponent with.  Statists always push conflict with others, because they always thrive in environments where people are angry and fearful.  But the more they beat people with the club of racism, the less effect that club has.  The sad (and I fear intended) result is actually to drive more whites into their whiteness as a source of identity, for that just increases the conflict.  People are just not going to believe that they are evil monsters because they are white; their response instead will be to say, what’s so bad about being white?  Some are going to believe the arguments that white people are uniquely horrible, and blame their own identity for the ills of the world, but a lot more just won’t.  Kinism, white nationalism, aspects of neoreaction- I’ve seen a real rise in discussion of these ideas, though it’s difficult to discern how much internet discussions represent the broader population.  But knowing people, and knowing the sad history of the human race gives me concern that these represents wide trends in the population.

The response of Christian people must be to not take this bait, to not fall into the trap of the statists, to remember that our identity is in Christ, not in whiteness our American-ness, or western European-ness (if that happens to be our identity).  It is absolutely true that the peoples of western Europe and America have been greatly blessed by our long training in Christianity.  But this fact should amplify our identity as Christians, not as white people.  We will see what happens to these peoples as they reject Christianity, and what happens to other peoples and nations as they embrace it all the more, as is happening in Africa and Asia, for example. There are no nations in the eternal kingdom.  There is one people, called out of the nations, which at the coming of Christ are destroyed by His wrath.

Love your Neighbor

My deepest condolences to the victims of the shooting in Charleston and their families and loved ones.  They were believers and they are my brothers and sisters.

I’m also glad to hear that the suspect is in custody.  If he is guilty, as seems very likely, then I pray that he receive the death penalty for his crime.  In God’s great grace and mercy I also pray that he repent of his evil before that happens, but that’s God’s business.

I read recently that one of the greatest contributions of Christianity from a societal perspective, and the thing that made western civilization possible, was that Christianity teaches people not to seek simply to do good to those in their tribe or in-group, but to see all as in the image of God regardless of tongue, tribe or family, and all worthy of respect, justice and love.  Christians have of course been very slow to implement this in a thorough way, but all repentance takes time.  What is remarkable is not that Christians fail at this principle of loving others even outside of your own kin-group, for that failure is universal to humanity.  What is remarkable is that they ever succeed in doing so.  That’s what’s truly unique.  This consensus, of the equal dignity of all human beings, as unevenly and imperfectly implemented as it was, was a big part of the foundation of western civilization and a big part of what made it so successful.

Our own fixation on race and ethnicity is destroying this consensus that made western civilization possible.  If a white man is constantly having his whiteness thrown in his face and treated as a member of a tribe and collectively guilty for the sins of that tribe in the past, why should we be surprised if he actually comes to identify with that tribe?  And do you expect him to hate himself and his identity which has been forced on him?  Are you surprised when he starts thinking of all the failures of other tribes, since this is the social reality you have constructed for him, and that he would then go hold some members of that other tribe collectively guilty for the sins which other members of that tribe have committed?

This young man, it appears, was a white supremacist.  This is an abominable position which has nothing at all to do with Christianity, though many Christians have held it in the past and present.  There’s a lot about him we don’t know yet, though I’m sure we’ll find out in the days to come.  I have already read people using this attack to denigrate whole groups of people, just as others used events in Ferguson or McKinney or other places to denigrate whole groups.  If you think it horrible that he held those black people collectively guilty for the sins of completely different black people, wouldn’t it be a good idea to stop holding white people collectively guilty for the sins of different white people?  Including long-dead ones?

In Deuteronomy 24:16, 2 Chronicles 25:4, and Ezekiel 18:20, among other places, the Bible specifically rejects collective guilt.  A man dies for his own sins, not for the sins of his fathers.  This man needs to be held responsible for his sins and punished according to God’s law.  But he will be used, by those with axes to grind and careers to advance, to attack whole ethnic groups as being somehow responsible for his crimes.  Ideas have consequences, and lies contrary to God’s law always lead to death in the end.  The love of Christ is the answer, the only answer the world has ever found, to the tribalism and chauvinism that has worked so much misery throughout the history of the world.  Jesus told us (Matthew 5:43-48) to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, to bless those that curse us.  He told us not to do good only to our friends, for even pagans do that, but to love our enemies.

There are many today that believe that the consensus of equal treatment and doing good even for those outside our immediate ingroup can be maintained even in the absence of the Christianity which created that consensus.  I am skeptical.  All of history seems to be against the proposition, and it strikes me as an exceedingly foolish experiment to run, given what’s at stake.  Nonetheless, I expect we’re going to find out.

If we insist that this incident draws no larger conclusions about the white population in general, then let us return the favor, and the next time a black man commits a crime, draw no larger conclusions about black men in general.  If we want to teach our young people not to obsess about race like this young man did, then let’s stop obsessing about race.  Let’s reinforce the Biblical message that in Christ, we are all united in His mercy, forgiveness and love, and outside of Christ we are all equally hopeless and condemned.  That is the distinction that matters.