Here are some of my thoughts on racism and Christianity in the wake of the tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12:
- Racism is evil. Viewing or treating other human beings as inferior because of their ethnicity or skin color is a sin. Groups which encourage or feed on racism (such as neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and other white supremacists) are despicable. All people of good will should oppose efforts to exalt the interests of one race at the expense of another.
- The anti-Semitism (hatred of Jews) that seems to be a prominent theme in various white supremacist groups is especially repulsive to genuine Christians. Even though the two religions are in strong disagreement on very important theological issues (such as whether Jesus is the Messiah), Christianity is deeply rooted in Judaism. It is absurd for someone who is a Christian to despise Jewish people since Jesus himself was a Jew, as were all the Apostles and other early followers of Jesus. Are some people who call themselves Christians anti-Semites? Yes, of course, but Christianity has nothing to do with their hatred.
- The philosophy of “scientific naturalism,” which dominates various segments of American society, makes us more vulnerable to racism. The full title of Charles Darwin’s most influential work was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. The German Nazis relied on “Darwinism” to justify their efforts to engineer a genetically superior race. From this naturalistic perspective, which sees human life as merely a product of unguided chemical processes, it is very difficult to see why racism should be considered wrong.
- Christianity is the world’s best antidote for racism. The Bible teaches that we all are part of one race, the human race. Acts 17:26 says, “From one man God has made every nationality to live over the whole earth.” The Apostle Paul argues (Ephesians 2) that through faith in Jesus Christ, the walls that frequently divide people have been torn down, allowing us to become “one humanity.” For Christians, loyalty to Jesus and fellow believers in Christ (no matter what their skin color) trumps loyalty to “blood and soil.” Yes, white supremacists sometimes attempt to disguise their agenda in Christian symbols and language, but like the German Nazis they want nothing to do with genuine Christian faith. In the past, others (some genuine Christians, some not) have mistakenly thought the Bible endorsed racist attitudes or practices. The error is a testimony to human fallibility, not an indictment against Christianity.
- Our primary focus needs to be on our own actions and attitudes. On issues involving race (like many others) we tend to be very good at “seeing the speck in someone else’s eye, while ignoring the log in our own.” The first step in combating racism is treating everyone we encounter, no matter what their ethnic background, with respect, fairness, and kindness. That is what Jesus expects all Christians to do.
Rev. Dan Erickson
Senior Pastor, Chisholm Baptist Church