Reflections on Charlottesville
The events that took place last weekend in Charlottesville have deeply troubled me to the core. But now, a week later, it is not only the events themselves, but the response - across our country - which reveals how deeply fallen and divided America is.
I am grateful for the wisdom of other Christian leaders who have offered thoughtful, godly responses. I am indebted to such leaders as Tim Keller for his clear, gospel-centered response. He writes:
How should Christians, and especially those with an Anglo-white background, respond to last weekend’s alt-right gathering in Charlottesville and its tragic aftermath?
Three brief things need to be said.
First, Christians should look at the energized and emboldened white nationalism movement, and at its fascist slogans, and condemn it – full stop. No, “But on the other hand.” The main way most people are responding across the political spectrum is by saying, “See? This is what I have been saying all along! This just proves my point.” The conservatives are using the events to prove that liberal identity politics is wrong, and liberals are using it to prove that conservatism is inherently racist. We should not do that.
Second, this is a time to present the Bible’s strong and clear teachings about the sin of racism and of the idolatry of blood and country - again, full stop. In Acts 17.26, in the midst of an evangelistic lecture to secular, pagan philosophers, Paul makes the case that God created all the races “from one man.”
Paul’s Greek listeners saw other races as barbarian, but against such views of racial superiority Paul makes the case that all races have the same Creator and are of one stock. Since all are made in God’s image, every human life is of infinite and equal value (Gen. 9.5-6). When Jonah puts the national interests of Israel ahead of the spiritual good of the racially “other” pagan city of Nineveh, he is roundly condemned by God (Jonah 4.1-11). One main effect of the gospel is to shatter the racial barriers that separate people (Gal. 3.28; Eph. 2.14-18), so it is an egregious sin to do anything to support those barriers. When Peter sought to do so, Paul reprimanded him for losing his grasp on the gospel (Gal. 2.14).
Racism should not be only brought up at moments such as we witnessed in Charlottesville this past weekend. The evil of racism is a biblical theme - a sin the gospel reveals and heals - so we should be teaching about it routinely in the course of regular preaching. Which brings me to a final point.
Twentieth-century fascist movements that made absolute values out of “Blut und Boden” (“Blood and Soil”) - putting one race and one nation’s good above the good of all - also claimed to champion traditional family values and moral virtues over against the decadence of relativistic modern culture. Even though they were no friends of orthodox Christianity (see Adolf Hitler’s heretical “Positive Christianity” movement), they could and can still appeal to people within our own circles. Internet outreach from white nationalist organizations can radicalize people who are disaffected by moral decline in society. So it is absolutely crucial to speak up about the biblical teaching on racism - not just now, but routinely. We need to make those in our circles impervious to this toxic teaching.
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