How Can We Achieve Racial Unity?
#BlackLivesMatter is a popular hashtag that has swept through social media outlets in recent months. In recent years, we’ve been witnessing a rising tension among the different ethnic groups in America. Racial unity, or better phrased ethnic unity, is something we in America have struggled with for many years, and only in these last few years have we witnessed our country take steps backward rather than forward. Last week, we all watched as the city of Baltimore was in a state of emergency as rioters and protesters burned cars and looted stores in order to gain the attention of leaders in Baltimore and beyond. It looked more like the 1960s than 2015.
From debates over immigration, religious diversity, and the controversial police shootings, the nation of America stands in need of ethnic unity throughout the general public. The media driven responses to the events of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and other similar incidents are not always helpful. Young people are wearing t-shirts with slanderous statements that incite violence against police officers. Cars are burning in the streets, rocks are flying, moms are crying, and the younger generation is watching. With the political season starting to heat up, many people are starting to suggest options and solutions to these growing problems. How can we achieve racial unity?
Diversity Among Political Leaders Isn’t the Answer
The election of Barack Obama as the president of the United States has accomplished many things. First, his election has shattered the glass ceiling of ethnic advancement in American politics. Today, we see a great and wide diversity of ethnic groups represented among political leaders in America, including the highest office within the free world. Secondly, we have likewise witnessed under President Obama’s leadership a greater ethnic divide. He promised to bring races together and to unite the multicolored American population, but that has not been the case.
What can we learn from this scenario? We can learn that politics alone can’t solve the ethnic problems of America. Diversity among leaders will not bring about ethnic healing. President Obama has not provided such ethnic unity as our leader in America. Likewise, the city of Baltimore is governed by black leaders and that didn’t stop the citizens of their city from looting and burning buildings and cars under the statement of “inequality.” The problem is not the color of the skin. The issue is the condition of the heart. Politics and political leaders are unable to change the color of the skin and they can’t change the condition of the heart.
The laws that govern our land matter. The leaders who enforce the laws and govern the people are important factors that we must not take for granted. To point out inconsistencies and the need for reform in sectors of government and cities as a whole is not wrong. In fact, it’s healthy to point out the problems and deal with the issues. However, all responses to the problems we face must be acted out in harmony with the laws. What isn’t healthy is to foster a thug mentality or a rogue and rebellious subculture that views the government and police officers as the enemy of the people. Wearing t-shirts with rebellious and slanderous slogans about police officers isn’t the answer.
Not only is this unhealthy, it’s unbiblical. The Bible is clear in Romans 13, the governing leaders are ordained by God. Sometimes that’s mysterious to us when we see abuse and scandal, but we must trust that our God remains in control at all times. The system of government itself is not the problem. Sin is the problem. Depravity is the issue. The human heart is deceitful and full of wickedness. God uses the power and sword of government to govern the people in such a way as to bring about peace in the midst of different races and a pluralistic religious population.
A culture of anti-government or anti-police is not the answer to American ethnic division. Not only is this not the answer, such a rebellious attitude dishonors the victims of systemic racism and it dishonors the God who established the government system from the beginning. As Christians, we must be champions of societal unity. As we look outside of the church, this type of societal unity comes through a solid governmental system that operates according to laws and seeks to care for the wellbeing of the citizens. We must not teach our children that the “system” is the problem. We must not perpetuate a culture of entitlement that leads our children to burn cars and buildings if we think that our message isn’t being heard. An attitude of rebellion and lawbreaking will never deal with the real issues that drive racial division.
The Gospel is the Answer
Just because you’re born white and considered “privileged” doesn’t make you a racist. Just because you’re born black and you live in poverty doesn’t make you immune to racism. The fact is, racism exists on both sides of the fence. The ethnic problem is rooted in the heart and is caused by the appetite of our depraved human nature. Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden and he wasn’t white, but he was certainly privileged. Due to the sinful choices of Adam and Eve, sin entered the world and humanity has been suffering ever since that day in human history (Romans 5:12). All problems from fatherlessness, drugs, alcoholism, divorce, homosexuality, and racism are rooted in the sinfulness of our human heart – not the color of our external skin.
The problems of America will not be solved with political savvy, political correctness, or political tolerance. The problems we face in ethnically divided America are not simply due to the color differences of our skin. From Ferguson to Baltimore, we have problems that must be addressed. The right voting campaign from the ultra-conservative political leader will not save us. We can’t be looking for some political leader to fly in like Captain America and save the day. It’s not going to happen. I don’t mean to sound like I’m looking at the glass as half empty. However, I do want to communicate the truth, and the truth is – politics and political leaders are not the true answer. The Jews once looked at life through a political lens and they ended up crucifying the Messiah rather than following His leadership.
The real answer is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Jesus Christ changes us, we will view the world through a different lens. We will start to see that while there are real systemic problems for many black neighborhoods (poverty, high crime, violence, fatherlessness, etc) to overcome – the real issue is rooted in sin. We may look at what some label as the privileged community of white America and identify ethnic biases and inconsistencies. However, Jesus Christ can wash away the sins of the poverty-stricken communities of America along with the racism of the privileged class.
If the church of Jesus Christ in America desires to see genuine healing from these deep rooted ethnic divisions, it will take a firm commitment to Jesus Christ and the spreading of His gospel across the soil of America. What would happen if we stopped using the church and the pulpit for political speeches and just preached the gospel? Following the donkeys and elephants around the country will not solve the issues. Attending Tea Party events will not bring about real ethnic healing. Saturating ourselves with rhetoric from talk radio or political commentators on the main stream news outlets will not bring about healing and unity.
Genuine healing will come as people bow to Jesus Christ as Lord. As white people, black people, hispanic people, and the multiplicity of other races in America bow to Jesus Christ as Lord, we will experience real unity (Ephesians 2:11-22). This Christian worldview will change how we view government, police officers, and systemic inequality. Christ will govern our hearts, our lips, our voting practices, and how we deal with instances of inequality and ethnic division. In Christ, we learn to value marriage and we place a high priority upon being a parent to our children. Christ will help us value all life – no matter what color of skin the person has. We will come to the realization that “black lives matter” because all lives matter.
In his famous I Have a Dream speech, Martin Luther King Jr. said:
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
In many ways we are still dreaming as a nation. Although we have experienced great healing from the days of the civil rights era and great progress has been made, we still have a need for ethnic unity. Our faith must not be in politics or men such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton who often do more damage to ethnic unity than they accomplish for good. Our faith must be in the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone can bring about ethnic unity. His eye is upon the nations and one day a people from every nation and skin color on planet earth will be gathered before his majestic throne worshipping Him (Revelation 5).
On that day, racism will be no more.