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Neither Black nor White

David Mathews

When Paul wrote to the Galatians, he spoke of the unity of believers in a powerful manner: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). Ideally, the barriers which are present in society will not continue to exist within the church of God. Former divisions based upon nationality, race or economic differences would become irrelevant when faced with the knowledge that God has created everyone and that God gave His Son for the souls of all people. When speaking to the Athenians, Paul unified all humanity by saying: "He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on the face of the earth" (Acts 17:26). None of the distinctions between the races

In spite of many assertions by Christians of equality and numerous examples of Christian condemnation of racism, evidence would seem to indicate that Christians have not resolved the racial issue. Numerous congregations of Christians are exclusively white or predominantly white. Very rarely are congregations found which possess a mixture of the races which accurately reflects the community in which the church exists. Oddly enough, exclusively or predominantly black churches exist. Such disparity indicates to me that Christians are segregating themselves into separate congregations for separate races or that white churches make little or no effort to evangelize minorities. Without speculating about the motives or thoughts of others, the very existence of segregated churches would suggest that black individuals are not welcome in white churches. If this is the case, then Christians are guilty of a grave sin and should devote their efforts toward evangelizing, welcoming and having fellowship with minorities. The gospel, which is powerful enough to save the depraved sinner, is valuable enough to spead to all people regardless of their race, nationality, culture, language or any other incidental quality of their identity.

Those who wish to understand why things exist as they do today should investigate the past, because nothing exists in the present without some underlying cause in the past. I have found a useful source of historical information about the racial issue through the internet, specifically a compilation of documents written in the 1900s by various Christians. Don Haymes compiled the documents and anyone may read them by visiting the web site: http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/subs/race.html. I will quote from several documents which are found at the above web site because they were written by Christians and they serve as indications of racist attitudes among Christians. Even if the following quotes do not reflect the attitudes of the majority of Christians during those times, they do represent a relevant number of Christians and are worthy of attention.

R.N. Hogan made the following observation in 1963: "For nearly a hundred years our white brethren have been hiding behind the law of our land respecting segregation in the so-called christian schools." Black Christians were not welcome in Christian schools. Apparently, the job of educating was limited to only white people during these many decades. Christians who excluded black people from attending these institutions were perhaps proud to insist that "Where the Bible speaks, we speak; where the Bible is silent, we are silent." However, their devotion to the gospel of Christ did not motivate them to condemn or criticize laws or social customs which oppressed or isolated black people. Not only were Christians content with the situation, they attempted to avoid integration when the laws of the land changed in the 1950's. What educational institutions were content with segregation and even opposed integration? "It is almost an insult for a Negro to ask to be admitted into the David Lipscomb College in Nashville, Tenn. Yet it is supposed to be operated by Christians; what reason can David Lipscomb, Harding, Freed Hardeman, Florida Christian(?) and other such schools who are refusing to allow Negroes to be trained in their schools, give for such practice, but sheer prejudice and hate?" Such deplorable behavior by these institutions makes all their claims for upholding the truth seem absurd: Could they fail to notice grave social injustice even as they devoted their attention to the errors of the denominations and also the errors of each other? How could educational institutions which claimed to uphold the truth blind themselves entirely to injustice -- perhaps an explanation is already available, in the words of Jesus found in Matthew 23:23, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!"

I find the behavior of Christians in the past very troublesome, especially in light of the problems which continue to exist today. Racism undoubtedly was present among Christians in the past, and racism still exists in some form even today. Christians who claim perfection in knowing and understanding God's doctrine concerning the church, the faith and life are futile in their own perfection if racism and other forms of injustice are accommodated and even promoted among Christians. Not only should Christians banish injustice among ourselves, Christians should also actively seek to correct the racial problems of their own community and within society. Churches should devote considerable efforts to teaching and welcoming minorities, and each congregation should strive to include minorities in leadership positions as preachers, elders, deacons and Bible class teachers.

Congregations should not seek to maintain a token representation of the races, rather churches should integrate completely and seamlessly. Equality can and must exist in the Lord's church, and attainment of that goal must begin with me and you.

Note: Quotes of R.N. Hunter are from the Christian Echo 58 (June 1963): 3 and may be found at the following address: http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/texts/race/haymes21.html

e-mail this author at david_mathews@geocities.com

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