My friend Rob Swarzwalder is a great thinker and writer. He serves as chief of staff to Congressman Bill Sali of Idaho. Let him and me know what you think about his “brief Christmas meditation.”
To paraphrase a song of the season, although it’s been said many times, many ways, racism is a sin against the God Whose image all persons bear.
Scripture teaches us that all persons have a common set of parents (Genesis 1:27). Paul echoed this teaching in his landmark sermon to the philosophers of Athens: “He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).
If all persons descend from Adam and Eve (Genesis 2), and if all persons are stamped with the ineradicable image and likeness of their Creator (Gen. 1:26), then to claim that someone’s skin complexion or hair texture makes him or her less than human is to affront the Holy Trinity and asperse His wisdom, volition and purpose for all those whom He knits in their mothers’ wombs (Ps. 139:13).
With his characteristically relentless logic, Abraham Lincoln drove this point home when, in 1854, he wrote that if racism was justified by color, “the lighter (have) the right to enslave the darker.” Similarly, if racism was based on intellect, “By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet with an intellect superior to your own.”
The Great Emancipator would no doubt be pleased that America has elected a black man President (although he would likely have differed strongly with the President-elect on a host of issues). This is a resounding affirmation of the distance we have traveled in our national journey, including from the still-remembered days of Jim Crow laws and an era when a film about interracial marriage “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (1967) was seen as controversial.
Racism has a sad history in America, but one inimical to the principles of our Founding. Our seminal national document, the Declaration of Independence, affirms that “all men are created equal” in terms of value to their Creator and accession to the “unalienable rights” with which He has invested them. Racism is anti-Christian and anti-American, concurrently.
Small pockets of overt race-hatred still exist in our country like ugly blemishes on a beautiful tapestry, and will continue to do so far as the curse is found (OK, I’m in a Christmas mood and even the grimness of the topic at hand cannot dull it). Sin is intransigent. Racism is sin. Ergo, the sin of racism is here to stay. Yet surely we can rejoice that throughout the mainstream of society, the Ku Klux Klan rightly is viewed as a minor forum of the evil and ignorant rather than a political force whose devotees could march, en masse, down Pennsylvania Avenue as recently as the 1920s.
Racism is unbounded by geography. The Arab attacks on ethic blacks in western Sudan (Darfur), the brutal tribal violence of the Congo and, in the early 90s, Rwanda, the “ethic cleansings” of Bosnia and Serbia and the ongoing specter of murderous anti-Semitism that, in beleaguered Israel, is a daily fact of life. Evangelicals who love their Savior must stand with those suffering by virtue of racial or ethnic heritage through prayer and by giving to (and, if so called, actively participating in) ministries that bring material help in the Name of the Gospel.
Here at home, American Christians must welcome one another in love, with race and ethnicity ignored as qualifiers of esteem or affection. They are in the body of Christ together, a body where all part join to, and operate under, One Head. Some, still unsettled by close association with persons of other races, must take the risk of social discomfort and reach out to one another with the grace of Christ. A racially-healed American church: Jesus, to Thee be glory given by letting it be so.