In a recent conversation, I was asked for my views regarding racial reconciliation and justice, especially as it pertained to local churches in my denomination (the Presbyterian Church in America, or PCA). I explained in response how the Lord has put this work on my heart over the last 4-5 years. As I have tried to lead in this area, both in concrete action and dialogue, I have often been met with accusation, defensiveness, resistance, and slander. Such reactions have only convinced me even more that the subjects of race and racism, both in and outside of the church, cannot be avoided but must instead be addressed by local churches head on.
I further explained how I believe our presbyterian and reformed tradition has a rich theology of lament, restitution, and corporate sin which seems to be conveniently ignored and forgotten in recent conversations on these subjects. In light of ongoing racial disparity in our communities and churches, I concluded by saying that the White Evangelical Church at large (which includes the PCA) must accept responsibility for advancing racism and segregation in our country for centuries; actions which continue to have lasting impact in our communities and our churches today.
My response was met with thankfulness and gratitude, and a warm conversation followed where it was safe to talk through challenges and obstacles in pursuing racial reconciliation and justice. However, there was one question that followed which required further explanation:
“What exactly do you mean by responsibility?” Continue Reading
In my message on Sunday, I explained how the Bible raises the dignity and value of women to an equal level with men, which is great news in a world that still regularly discriminates against women. After citing several examples of how Christianity has historically been very good for women, I said:
“Christianity was and has been very good for women…And we need to recognize how tragic it is when we see examples of women not being highly valued in our churches today.”
I went on to explain how the Bible demonstrates that representation matters, saying:
“In Christ’s household ethic, we see that representation matters. This is something I’ve been learning from many of my minority friends, particularly my Korean American friends…You see, it matters to us that we are represented, that our lives, that our personhood, is seen by others.”
Two days later, we witnessed the wicked actions of a man who had been conditioned not to see women, particularly Asian women, as equal in dignity and worth. Robert Aaron Long professed to love God and was a baptized member of a Reformed Baptist church. He was even described by others as being “deeply religious.”
Upon his arrest, Long said that his actions were not racially motivated. Instead, he said that his actions were a result of his sexual addiction; that the spas were a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate. The sheriff’s office has painted Long as a victim of addiction who has just had a bad day, cementing a narrative that Long was a victim to his ongoing addictions. Continue Reading
One of the overlooked consequences of turning from God is fear. In the book of Leviticus, a long list of consequences for disobedience is sealed in the fear that will overtake the hearts of God’s people:
And as for those of you who are left, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. The sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall when none pursues. 37 They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, though none pursues. And you shall have no power to stand before your enemies. (Leviticus 26:36-37)
In her oft-quoted essay on fear, essayist Marilynne Robinson comments on this passage,
Those who forget God, the single assurance of our safety however that word may be defined, can be recognized in the fact that they make irrational responses to irrational fears…There are always real dangers in the world, sufficient in their day. Fearfulness obscures the distinction between real threat on the one hand, and on the other the terrors that beset those who see threat everywhere.
When fear consumes the hearts of an individual or a group, they will be inclined to see threats and enemies everywhere, and they will no longer be able to discern what is true from what is false.
Any honest evaluation would recognize that this kind of fear is running amok in American Evangelicalism. Indeed, some historians would argue that it would be impossible to give an account of Evangelicalism in the United States without describing the role fear has played in shaping our collective conscience. Fear has become such a powerful force in American Evangelicalism today that we have become what pastor and author Skye Jethani has dubbed the “Fearvangelicals”. Continue Reading
Another reason why Christians approach cultural engagement so differently is because of their varying views on common grace and the level of cultural influence, if any, that Christians ought to have. In this third part of the series, I will try to explain how and why Christians can have such different postures toward engaging the world around them. This post is a part of a series that is meant to be read in order. For part 1, start here. For part 2, click here.