The horrific events in Charlottesville last weekend have the nation reeling once again and reopening conversations about racism. Watching videos and listening to the senseless, hateful language of the white supremacist rally organizers has not only left me with a taste of vomit in my mouth but also a deep and overwhelming sadness at the evil that human beings are capable of. The ideas and actions manifest last weekend by white supremacist and Neo-Nazi groups are just that – evil.
However, there is hope. As Matt Chandler has said, “The gospel is good news and good news as such invades dark spaces.” Racism is a dark space that the gospel has and must continue to invade. The clear message of the gospel that counters racist ideology must not only be proclaimed in times like this but regularly in our churches, homes and communities.
All too often throughout history we have seen attempts to use the Bible to support racist ideology – the slave trade, Hitler’s “Positive Christianity” movement, etc. Whereas, the Bible was used in support of these atrocities we must also remember that it was accurate interpretations of the Bible that helped lead to their demise. Consider the work and faith of William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer who opposed those movements. Therefore, the lesson for us is to accurately interpret and teach Scripture, leaving us and those in our circles of influence impervious to the toxic teachings of white supremacist theology.
So why is it that a Christian cannot be a white supremacist? Well, lets begin with Genesis. In Genesis 1:27 it says that God made men and women in his image. In Acts 17:26 the Apostle Paul stands in the Areopagus in Athens and declares to Greek philosophers that God made all people groups from one man, Adam. Therefore, all people of all races, nationalities, ethnicities are created in the image of God giving them dignity and immeasurable value.
Furthermore, the gospel of Jesus is available to all without distinction of race, nationality or ethnicity. (Colossians 3:11; Romans 10:12; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Colossians 3:28; Ephesians 2:14-16) Jesus specifically commissioned his disciples to take the gospel to all nations (Matt. 28:19). The early church leaders struggled with how to incorporate Gentiles into their church communities and ultimately landed on making it rather simple for them to become a part of the church. (Acts 15; Galatians 2:14) This gospel that was available for everyone regardless of race, social standing, and nationality expanded rapidly throughout the nationalistic culture of the Greco-Roman world. It was good news in a culture of bad news for so many people and it should be that today as well.