A Sin Worse than Racism

 

In the Western world, there is no charge that can be leveled against a person that is any where nearly as bad as the charge of racism. Racism is the vile perspective that diminishes people by virtue of their race. 

In the last few weeks, several illuminating events have transpired. First, in Charleston, a horrific perpetrator of evil who shot Christians who sought only to welcome him was convicted of murder and, as he remained utterly remorseless, sentenced to death. Just after that, the nation celebrated Martin Luther King Day—set aside to honor a man who had called for peace and prayed that we would all be judged by the content of our character rather than the color of our skin. Both of those events illuminated issues of racism and gave it unmissable attention. 

In history, there are many examples of racism, some absolutely horrific. Hitler’s commitment to try to exterminate the Jews is one of the worst.

I can remember as a boy, growing up in post-World War II Germany, hearing the insistence of “Never again,” and “We will never forget,” expressing a commitment never to let such a thing happen again, but then over time, many seem to have forgotten about the holocaust. Recently, at the direction of former President Obama, the U.S. abstained from a terribly unbalanced resolution at the UN that calls for Jews to be forbidden to pray at the Western Wall (the Wailing Wall), attend the Hebrew University, or live in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem. If the trajectory of that ridiculous resolution were followed, then Israel’s days are numbered. Thankfully, it is just a UN resolution that will not actually be enforced. It is remarkable that Israel’s use of force is often cited as rationale for supporting Palestinian violence. The difference is that Israel never targets civilians and goes to great measures to keep from having civilian casualties. Hamas and Hezbollah, always, only target innocent Israeli civilians. Some days as many as 1500 rockets rain down on Israel from various Palestinian positions. Imagine what would happen if those rockets were raining down on Birmingham, St. Louis, or London. It is only the depths of racism that allow for things like that to continue. 

In the U.S., the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church regularly ramps up the rhetoric on racism. He has proposed that white people are incapable of seeing the depth of the problem in their lives because their vision is so terribly skewed by their history of discriminating against other races. He forgets that it was not just the brilliant advocacy of leaders like Martin Luther King that led to increases of racial justice. It also moved forward because of the advocacy of many people of other races who joined forces to get laws, policies, and practices changed. 

In Rwanda, tribal violence killed more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutu tribespeople. Pol Pot in Cambodia perpetrated the “Killing Fields” where class distinctions and violence were undertaken against anyone with an education. That is not the same thing as racism, but it is darn close. In Sudan, Pakistan, and Northern Nigeria, assaults are being carried out against Christians at alarming rates. Again, while these actions are not exactly racism, but they are of the same genus. 

When one considers how terrible those things are, it is hard to imagine what could possibly be worse! What could be worse than piles of corpses being burned in place, people being lined up and killed by firing squads, or multiple deaths by machetes? 

Someone asked me a question recently about how it is that people in places like Sudan can keep their joy. What I answered was that they “re-frame” pain, persecution, and violence. By that, what I mean is that they re-interpret the pain in their lives by knowing and celebrating the fact that they are looking forward to a time when they will leave this vale of tears and be with the Lord in heaven. They know that He will receive them into heaven where there is no hunger, suffering, anguish, or death. They know that it is the face-to-face glory of the Lord that waits for them, and they begin to celebrate now. Knowing that helps them get through the  bombings, the assaults, and the deaths. They know that a time is coming when all the challenges, pains, addictions, and anguish of this life will pass away and they will be with the Lord in His bliss and blessing. 

Of course, there are some voices who, like a broken record, claim racism at every turn. Perhaps that is because they don’t have anything else. 

A few days ago, I heard a caller railing against talk show host Dennis Prager. He had referred to “…the great men who began the United States.” Incensed by that comment, the caller called Prager “horrible” for daring to call the Founding Fathers “great,” because among them were slave owners. Acknowledging the moral horror of slavery, Prager said, “At the time, slavery was universal. It is difficult to judge the Founders with the understanding of today. Slavery was everywhere around the world. What is remarkable is that slavery in the U.S. and England was ended by white, Christian men, and I say that as a Jew.” 

We should never shrink back from working for and insisting on justice. Psalm 89 says that righteousness and justice are the foundation of the Lord’s throne. We must work for that to be the reality with everything we touch. Temporal issues are not unimportant. They are, however eclipsed by something greater.  

Given how horrible racism is, what could possibly be a greater sin?

A few years ago, there was an All African Bishops’ Conference. Much of the agenda was taken over by Western friendly staff people from the CAPA (Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa) who overwhelmed the program with UN NGO (Non-government Organizations) talk.  

Eventually, it got so bad that I said, “So this is the mission of CAPA: To insure that every man woman, and child in Africa is fed, clothed, housed, and cared for medically until they die and go to Hell?" 

When I shared that observation, people laughed. Well, mostly people laughed. Some cried. So it is with racism. Of course we are opposed to racism. We have to take steps against it. But even if we are successful and wipe out all racism, it is a phyrrhic victory if people perish. And this is the presenting problem in the Anglican Communion today. Those who are worshipping at the altar of institutional unity are forgetting the eternal consequences of the sins of some of the Provinces—the ones that are leading people away from the redeeming love of Christ. 

In the world, there is absolutely nothing worse than people being led away from the redeeming love of Christ. For that false direction to be promoted and pursued by the Church is the ultimate sin. It is like drilling holes in the hull of the ark. 

Of course we address injustices, but not at the expense of the Gospel. Even if we fail in this life to deal with injustices, there is still the wonderful promise that God will hold us in His bosom and wipe every tear from our eye. He will do it with such transfiguring grace, that we will never be able to say, “You abandoned me on earth!” When we are with Him and our eyes are opened, we will see how He has been working to draw us to Himself and help us to become more and more like Jesus. 

Liberal-led Provinces try to say to the Provinces that refuse to go along with their liberal agenda that they are judgmental—even hateful. That is utterly imbalanced. Either there are things that can separate us from Christ, or there are not. The Biblical witness is clear that is violating Biblical teaching imperils people’s salvation. If we go along with that, there are millstones prepared that can be hung around our necks as we are cast into God’s sea of judgment. Not only are there millstones, there should be! 

Whether one is a pew sittin’ Christian, parish priest, or Archbishop of Canterbury, there is need to guard the greatest responsibility that we will ever be given, that is to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people who are lost. To emphasize anything else at the expense of eternal life is simply wrong. The liberals don’t believe that it is possible to depart from the redeeming love of Christ. If they are wrong, the consequences of what they teach are devastating. The implication is that the death of Christ is such a powerful gift to the world that it overwhelms everything else. A better way to say that, however, is that the death of Christ is such a powerful gift to the world that it can overwhelm everything else. People need to come to Jesus Christ in faith in order to reap the benefits of His gift to us. 

Those who value institutional unity as being the highest expression of unity in the church, are, quite simply, wrong. Unity needs to be pursued under the authority and Lordship of Christ. PERIOD

When the Scottish Church wants to bless same–sex relationships and some want to do same-sex weddings, we should speak to that innovation with confidence and energy. “No,” is not just a short word, it is an essential position, and the most loving alternative in many instances. It is crucial that we speak to that issue because people who pursue that teaching and practice put their spiritual destiny at risk. When TEC worships other gods or wants to focus only on racism, we can affirm things that are true, but we must never shrink back from the ultimate truth: God has called us to bring salvation to people through our kerygma of the Gospel. To do any less than that is not just wrong. It is sinful. 

We are watching a slow-motion train wreck happen in England. The Church of England is studying marriage, sexuality, and same-sex relations. Though there are those who remain committed to the proclamation of the Gospel, there are also many who are much more focused on temporal things, are swaying to the drumbeat of culture, and will seek to import contemporary cultural sexual and relational values into the Church. As the culture more and more loudly proclaims that same-sex relations are just another form of love, vocal leaders in the Church echo that sentiment. They readily brand anyone who maintains Biblical understanding of marriage and sexual mores as hateful. 

In classic English nuance, what is likely to happen is that there will be some kind of affirmation of Biblical teaching about the sanctity of marriage, but it will be accompanied by carefully crafted language that will give a free pass to Bishops and parish clergy who decide to bless same-sex [sexual] relationships. It would not surprise me to find some rationale or loophole that allows churches to bless same-sex relations or even perform marriages. What would make that tragic is not just that it is institutional sophistry,  it is leading people away from Christ and away from His redeeming love. That is not OK. Every time someone sets off on a course that departs from Biblical faith, we have a responsibility to lovingly call them back. Even before that, we should be investing heart, soul, treasure, and time in doing what the Great Commission tells us to do and “GO!” to tell people about the joys that wait for them in Christ.

Even more than joys, life in Christ is the only possible way to truly find fulfillment in our relationship with Christ. The empty promises of sexual license will always eventually be revealed to be vapid. Life in Christ brings fulfillment. The Anglican Communion needs the Biblically faithful, Gospel preaching, voice of GAFCON. It is not the only place that is proclaiming the Gospel, but a fellowship to link proclaimers together the way GAFCON does, makes the fire burn brighter and the message more powerful; and . . .

that is what is needed most of all right now.