Where have the true leaders of Christianity gone? This is not to say there are none at all. We have men like John MacArthur, Voddie Baucham, Steve Lawson, Phil Johnson, and others. But it seems that these men have become the exception rather than the rule. A Christian leader is one whose life is a revelation so to speak, of our Master. We see in him, the traits and characteristics of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sadly, and much more often, we see and experience week in and week out in our churches, men who follow rather than lead. Rather than reflecting the agenda of our Master, as it is clearly set down in sacred Scripture, they introduce to their respective followers, a different agenda. One might inquire, if the Master of the house does not set the agenda for us, then who does?
For some time now, I have watched American culture. Over time, I have become more sad and angry with the beliefs, theories, hypotheses, and practices of this culture. I suspect this is due to my own spiritual growth into the truth, or as some call it, progressive sanctification. But I also believe it is due to the erosion of morality that appears to be gaining momentum with each passing day. Three movements, in particular, come to mind as I think about leadership in the church, the divine truth given in Scripture, and the erosion of morality in American culture.
The first of these movements is feminism. American culture has a very devious method for how it manipulates society into adopting or embracing key doctrines. Each of these movements have embraced the strategy and employed these devious tactics. I want to start with Feminism and abortion. The issue of abortion is framed as a “woman’s rights” issue or to make it even more reasonable, it is framed as a “woman’s health” issue. The tactic that is employed to support this strategy is to show the cultural images of women being abused and mistreated in the worse possible way. Images of abusive husbands and boyfriends are put in front of millions of Americans. The message is that woman have suffered terrible abuses in this county at the hands of criminals, boyfriends, husbands, and family members. Crimes such as rape, physical violence, and molestation are trotted out and condemned as they should be. Woman have a right not to be abused. Since woman have rights over their own bodies, and a right to carry on a healthy life, anyone who stands opposed to these rights in any way is placed in the same category as the abusers and criminals. Because Christian leaders want the respect of the culture, and because they want to maintain credibility with the culture, this tactic forces them to change how they speak about these issues and even how they might think about them. The Christian leader is deathly afraid now to call abortion murder. But abortion is just the beginning of the problem.
This feminist strategy and its underlying tactics soon expand to other areas. The one that is most concerning to the church is leadership. Any man who opposed women pastors and leaders in the Christian church is portrayed alongside the rest of these scoundrels as a bigoted and hateful misogynist. He is not to be taken seriously. The leaders scramble, attempting to find ways to accommodate women in their congregations who have embraced the feminist gospel from the culture. We see the strategy or should see it clearly by now. Frame the issue in the most positive way, ignoring facts and data along the way. Infuse it with as much emotion as possible. Gain acceptance from those that matter in society. Use that acceptance to shame others into getting in line or else. It has worked far more effectively than even the feminists could have imagined.
The feminist strategy worked so well that another movement picked it up: the homosexual movement. The homosexual movement started its assault by demanding that homosexual couples be allowed the same legal status as married persons because they were at an unfair advantage when it came to things like taxes and benefits. Many of us who were watching the execution of their strategy knew better. We knew it had nothing to do with benefits or taxes. The was another, more sinister motivation behind it all. When the movement started to win, the momentum was greater than anything the feminist movement experienced. The issue quickly moved to marriage and then to the outright demand that no one be allowed to take any position on homosexuality that was not celebratory and fully accepting. The homosexual framed their issue as a rights issue. They had a right to the same benefits as heterosexuals. They framed their relationship in terms of love, not sexual practices, even though the one thing that distinguishes homosexuality is sexual practice. They exploited any opportunity they could, such as magnifying homosexual hate crimes. They selected the most unattractive and radical opponents of homosexuality as they could, placed their images and ideologies in front of Americans in almost every sitcom and movie they could until society accepted the idea that everyone who opposed homosexuality is like that guy. That guy is hateful, violent, disgusting, and a bigot in every sense of the word. Well, who wants to be placed in the same category as that guy? No one. So Christian leaders have reacted to these tactics by admitting that Christians need to do better where homosexuals are concerned. We need to stop preaching about it, creating hate in people’s hearts regarding homosexuals and their practices. And now, almost every sermon that might reference homosexuality is accompanied with the disclaimer up front, “Before I say this, I want you to know that I love everyone. We have to hate the sin and love the sinner.” Well, something like that is said almost universally before the subject is treated in most sermons today. The Christian leader does not want to lose his credibility. He does not want to be marginalized. So, he does everything he can to walk the tightrope. You know, he walks a tightrope just like Jesus walked it.
The issue of racism or perhaps a better term, the myth of institutional racism has followed the same trajectory. Over at a website called “Be a Bridge Builder” one finds the same sort of tactic. I have no idea if the person employing this tactic has actually examined with in a critical way or not. I will make no judgments about that individual one way or the other. What I will do is simply observe the method and demonstrate how it is identical to the ungodly tactics employed by feminists and homosexuals in their respective movements. At that site there is a guide entitled, “Be the Bridge.” There are four steps listed in that guide:
- Develop a White Identity.
- Acknowledge White Privilege
- Overcoming White Fragility
- Recognizing White Supremacy
Bonus Section: Bridge Building Tops for White People
The premise is that spiritual reconciliation equals racial reconciliation. But what does racial reconciliation actually mean? The guide asks us to imagine a church where the congregation is a variety of colors, or races of people gathered in one place worshipping God. Is racial reconciliation measured by the racial composition of our churches? I think that is a fair question. If it does, then does that mean that if Lutherans and Reformed Presbyterians and Reformed Baptists worship in different churches, we are bigots, or somehow alienated from those who do not quite share the same doctrinal distinctions? Let’s pretend that there are only two churches in town, one predominantly white and one predominately black. Let’s say I attend the white church simply because everything there looks like me and has the same kind of cultural practices as I do. Have I sinned? Have I engaged in racism? Have I committed some evil? Suppose I am black and for the same reason I attend the black church. Have I committed some racist crime? Have I violated some moral standard? As we examine the Scriptures, do we see anything there that commands or even suggests that we should limit the numbers of whites and blacks in a way that maintains racial symmetry in the two communities? Why? What is so terribly wrong with the existence of predominantly black churches and predominantly white churches and predominantly Asian churches? I think people flock together for other reasons than just the color of their skin. Shouldn’t that be a consideration? Isn’t the commonness among us more closely associated with the similarities of our backgrounds, our upbringing, our customs? I think that if we look a little closer that skin color is lower on the list than say, familiar customs, backgrounds, and upbringing. But there is another commonality that seems to be completely ignored in this racial reconciliation discussion: theological tradition. More on that later.
The guide goes on to say, “All of this has contributed to the current state of racial hostility in our world, in our county, and in the church.” Now, the guide doesn’t bother to offer a single thread of argumentation evidence for this statement. It just wants us to take it for granted that there exists racial hostility in the church. Unless someone can point to specifics, it is impossible for anyone to make the appropriate corrections and adjustments. The problem I have with these statements is that those who are making them, to a person, never bother with the details. Well, the devil is literally in these details. And if there is a devil to be dealt with, then we have to know the details. No details = no devil to deal with. No devil to deal with = baseless rhetoric and propaganda. I call it image marketing. Racism is a serious accusation that if it is not accompanied by evidence, by demonstrable facts, is slander. Do we really want to market our own image by engaging in slander? I don’t think so.
The guide goes on to say, Historically, the burden of racial reconciliation work in our country has disproportionately fallen on the shoulders of people of color. As white people, it is past time for us to begin sharing this burden. Again, no facts, no data, nothing but sheer speculation and conjecture. Not only this, I suspect this statement might be patently false. But I will not chase that rabbit regardless of how delicious it looks.
In step one, “Developing a White Identity, the guide says, This is because to be white in America is to be a part of the dominant, or default, culture.” Who wants to be considered part of an oppressive dominant race? And again, “It is essential we learn (or rather unlearn) our history, and acknowledge the role we have played in the oppression of people of color.” Is this pattern starting to feel familiar? The image of oppression and salves are beginning to enter your mind as you read this. You begin to think of movies, like Roots, or Amazing Grace, and the hundreds and thousands of images you have seen. The beatings, the lynching, rape, whites only fountains, diners, Rosa Parks, etc. You accept just how evil those actions were, how immoral, how inhumane! And you want nothing to do with being labelled as “one of them.” So, what do you do? You do whatever you have to in order to avoid being marginalized and stigmatized as one of them. Racists are hateful people. They do not know God. They are often violent people. But it is far subtler than that in our day. It exists and there is no question that it exists. And there is no question that it always will exist. The church will not eliminate racism in the world. And it shouldn’t even make it one of its goals. That is not why we are here today. Christ did not leave us here to end racism. He left us here to make disciples. And where true disciples are made, there is no racism.
Evangelicals have to be very careful how they talk about race and racism. First of all, it is not an opportunity to market our image. People see through that and its embarrassing. It feels phony. Want to lose credibility, jump on the “ring-kissing racial reconciliation bandwagon” and your credibility will drop like a stone. Stop allowing the culture to set the agenda for conversations involving race. When Dave Miller and Dwight McKissic indict the entire SBC of racism and apologize numerous times, it is little more than image marketing and the price is slander. They slander every SBC member who actually is not a racist. And there are lots of us.
The guide continues in step four: Recognizing White Supremacy:
For many of us, when we hear the term white supremacy, what comes to mind is visions of men in white robes and burning crosses, or neo-Nazi skinheads, or extremists like Dylann Roof, who entered the historically black Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston in 2015 and shot nine members dead. But the ideology of white supremacy is much more widespread and insidious than those specific images.
And then again:
White supremacy can be incredibly challenging for white people to see. We know it’s wrong to be explicitly racist. However, we can easily miss the ways our worldview is subtly shaped by a sense of white superiority, or “white is right.” It’s not necessarily our fault; white supremacy has had centuries to embed itself into our country’s conscience, therefore normalizing it. It’s simply “the way things have always been.”
I love irony. So, here is what this guide is actually doing. It is framing racism as a white issue. That is the reframing of the real issue just like feminism and genderism did. When we use the term racism, think white first. Then think about slavery, lynching, white only water fountains, white privilege, etc. Now, another very interesting thing the guide does is that it tells you that you are a racist and don’t realize you are a racist. The white power, supremacy, superiority is so engrained in you that you don’t even know it’s there. Wow! Now, if that is true, then is must be true that every other culture has their own engrained, subconscious issues that they do not know is there. That means that the person writing this guide could actually be blinded by his or her own social engineering in a way that she or he sees what is actually not there at all. Isn’t that just as plausible an argument? At a minimum, I think this point belongs in this conversation.
The church is surely called to put an end to hate in her communities. And about that, there can be no question but that racism is one of those forms of hate. However, hate that is based in race is really only one form of hate and I would be willing to bet that there are other forms that are actually more prevalent. Even if it were true that institutional racism exists, one has to ask whether or not it is the mission of the church to end it. The problem here is a complete and utter lack of critical thought concerning this question. It is taken for granted that being salt and light means being concerned with social justice so to speak. My contention is that salt and light has nothing to do with social justice and everything to do with the individual pattern of justice. We are called to treat others justly, not to make sure that the pagans do so. That was never the message of the New Testament.
If you want to end feminism, genderism, and racism, the best thing you can do is focus on the actual mission of the church mandated by Christ Himself. That mission is located in Matthew 28 and Acts 1. We are to be disciple-making witnesses of Jesus Christ, proclaiming the truth of the gospel throughout the whole world to all people groups, and baptizing those converts upon their public profession of faith.
What does this look like when it is being done with excellence? First, it is deliberate. That means there is a formal discipleship structure in place and someone is actually responsible for it. It means that there are trained mentors and young men being discipled by those mentors. Everyone is on the same page. The training is monitored and directed by leaders, elders, and pastors within the church. Second, it is integrated with the training plan, be it Sunday school or small groups. People are not given carte blanch to do whatever seems best to them. They are given specific guidance and direction and are held accountability for that direction. This means that the teaching platform is structure in terms of leadership, teaching, and especially relationships. These are just two steps a church can take to put some teeth into its discipleship and training areas. The problem I have is when I see churches getting all worked up over things like racial reconciliation while they never lift a finger to institute that very structure necessary to promote spiritual growth and evangelism, two things are at the core of the Christian community.
Maybe if we spent more time on the actual mission that Jesus has mandated, we wouldn’t have so much time on our hands to manage and market our image and to worry about what the idolatrous pagans are doing. Institutional racism is not the problem of the Christian church, and that is assuming its real, something I am not convinced is actually the case. Look at the concerns of the New Testament letters. Examine them carefully. It is no accident that they NEVER address the affairs of Rome. They are concerned with making disciples of Christ. Do that well, and things like male-female relationships, human sexuality, and ethnicity will disappear with the process of spiritual growth. The pagan world has no business setting the agenda for the Christian church. So why are they?