Why I No Longer Participate in Racial Reconciliation Services

We must not give priority to tribal or ethnic loyalties in place of fidelity to the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Church of Jesus Christ should stop attempting to address the mythical issue of so-called ‘race’ as to do so would be to spend time and energy chasing after an imaginary dragon. There simply is no such thing and the Bible offers our proof. Biblically speaking, mankind is of one human race. We are all saved the same way, we will all be judged by the Christ according to the same standard of righteousness that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and not one has been tested and found in the right in His eyes.

 

Sam Murrell is an Anglican Priest in the Anglican Church in North America. He holds a Bachelors in Music from Covenant College and an MDiv from Covenant Seminary.  He is currently a Biblical Worldview Teacher at Little Rock Christian Academy. He and his wife Susan have eleven children and twenty-one grandchildren.

Nothing that I am about state should be construed as my advocating for people of different ethnicity to worship separately. Nothing I say here should be understood as an advocating of what is commonly referred to as ‘racism’. The Body of Christ is one, and the Church should visually reflect the reality of that ‘oneness’ to the degree that the world yearns for what they observe that we are enjoying. It is unfortunate that, for far too long, the Church has followed the lead of the world when it comes to recognizing and addressing hatred amongst the various tongues, tribes and nations.

Years ago, I participated in my first ‘racial reconciliation’ worship service. It was a well-integrated gathering of black and white folk. The service, while very moving, left me feeling very awkward as white strangers approached me to confess their racism toward me and “my kind”. It wasn’t that I had never experienced unfairness or injustices because of the tone of my skin. On the contrary, the issue was that the confessions came from people who had never done any wrong towards me in particular. So, I was left not knowing what I should do for them in response to their confessions; I was young and so chalked my discomfort up to my inexperience. Since that gathering, I recall participating in at least two other instances of worship services that were focused primarily on racial reconciliation. And I have actually worked for a church where “intentional racial reconciliation” was part of the mission statement. Over the years, I have come to a greater sense of clarity regarding my uneasiness with such event. Here, in no particular order, are the few reasons that I no longer take part in “racial reconciliation” services:

Too often, the premise of the worship service is that Whites are guilty because they are White. This is evident in the fact that the white people present at such events are expected, even pressured, to confess the sin of racism even if they cannot recall any specific instances of racist action that they have perpetrated. The assumption is that because you are white then you must have knowingly, or unknowingly, caused offense towards Blacks (and maybe other ethnic minorities too). An example of this guilt-by-association is that, although you may be unable to find any instance of slave ownership in your genealogy, you are held accountable for the history of slavery in the United States of America. The black person stands as representative of the innocent victim of so-called racism and thus serves a priestly role for the white confessor who is guilty because of a lack of melanin in the epidermis. The white person’s pigmentation carries with it a privilege, and that is enough to require repentance.

In contemporary parlance, the word ‘privilege’ is employed by the offended group as a weapon against the other. Once someone is labeled as ‘privileged’ he is supposed to realize his rightful place in the ‘race’ conversation is as the silent observer whose liberty to speak has been revoked. The accused and the accuser are no longer equals. Recently, a major Reformed Seminary hosts a conference on ‘race’ and actually advertised that they were inviting Whites to come and to listen but not to speak or interact. Such is not biblical reconciliation but rather a warped form of penance and one that cannot be paid fully, thus being reconciled, as the person of whom the penance is required can never cease to be as God created them: white or black. He can never undo the fact of slavery or systemic hatred in America and, therefore, he must embrace a life of spiritual self-flagellation as a result of the unwarranted whiteness that has allowed him to live such a life of comparative ease. What is most disturbing is not that the world would think this way but that such thought has been embraced by the Church.

Words Matter. As people of the Word, language is important and I believe it is time the Church gave up the common use of the word ‘race’ and all of its cognates. They only help to perpetuate an untruth about the nature of mankind. In the anthropology of Scripture, race is an alien concept. Scripture does not speak of ‘the races’ as subsets of humanity, but it does speak of ‘tongues (which can be translated as religions), tribes and nation’. As long as the Church concedes to the terminology of a Darwinian worldview we will never get closer to modeling the oneness of the Body of Christ for the world that is spoken of in Scripture. The Church must not capitulate to the secular world on this matter and put words into our mouths, and in doing so perpetuate a false reality. God’s Word has this right; there is one ‘race’ and many scattered tongues, tribes and nations. Many anthropologists agree that the 19th-century idea of many ‘races’ is not a biological reality but rather a myth. My point here is not to argue the science but to emphasize worldview. When discussing biblical anthropology we should insist on biblical language, and there is no Scriptural basis for diving mankind among the so-called ‘races’. The illusion of racism is not where the discussion should lie, and as long as the Church discusses issues of pre-Christian tribal and ethnic allegiances from the perspective of so-called racism then we will not see any real progress as we are led by the nose by every new social-justice group that comes along to claim their place as the new prophetic voice of a downtrodden minority.

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