FERGUSON, MO and the Church of Jesus Christ
We are witnessing one of the most insidious, most clever smoke-screens that has haunted mankind, probably since the very first which was uttered in a beautiful garden centuries ago. “Indeed, has God said…..?” was the clever utterance of the serpent who beguiled Eve with tantalizing questions masking his true intent. And this smoke-screen has succeeded in creating a most interesting phenomena within the Church of Jesus Christ today. Instead of the church joining together to speak to the world with one voice about the REAL TRUTHS of the gospel of Jesus Christ it has been reduced to sniping at one another about diverging viewpoints on major issues like the recent Ferguson, Missouri situation.
The concept of military smoke screening dates back hundreds of years. One of the earliest documented uses of smoke screen in combat was the burning of green vegetation by the Romans and later the burning of peat moss by the Vikings. In the American War between the States, General Robert Schenck burned wet tree limbs and leaves to create a smoke screen to cover his retreat. What is a smoke-screen? According to the classic military definition it is a cloud of smoke used to conceal ground maneuvers, obstacle breaching, recovery operations, and amphibious assault operations as well as key assembly areas, supply routes, and logistic facilities. In short, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, 2009, it is an action or statement used to conceal actual plans or intentions. Such is the case with this delusion to which I wish to focus this article – that RACE has become one of the major smokescreens before the world today.
Just before the 2014 Thanksgiving holiday, Voddie Baucham, a pastor of Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, TX, authored an article entitled “Thoughts on Ferguson” in which he posited that the primary root cause of the disparate and hopeless situations in the black community is fatherlessness and not the purported result of “systemic racism” that seems to be the mantra of various segments of America in the aftermath of tragic shootings of young black men. Baucham said: “Rest assured, I do believe there are systemic issues plaguing black men. These issues are violence, criminality, and immorality, to name a few. And all of these issues are rooted in and connected to the epidemic of fatherlessness. Any truly gospel-centered response to the plight of black men must address these issues first and foremost. It does no good to change the way white police officers respond to black men if we don’t first address the fact that these men’s fathers have not responded to them appropriately.”
A few days following this post, I ran across another article by Alan Noble, Asst. Professor of English at Oklahoma Baptist University, on the Christ and Pop Culture website, entitled “Sin’s Part in the System (and Vice Versa): Thoughts on Voddie Baucham’s “Thoughts on Ferguson”. Mr. Noble noted: “..I was disappointed to read an article by pastor Voddie Baucham responding to Ferguson published at The Gospel Coalition, not because the article offends my taste or doesn’t fit with my views, but because it perpetuates what I believe are some harmful perspectives on race in America.” (emphases mine). Following this Mr. Noble proceeded to carefully pick apart statements made by Voddie Baucham in his article. Nobel offers a very revealing conclusion: The difference between Thabiti Anyabwile’s reaction to the Ferguson grand jury’s decision and Voddie Baucham’s reveal a divide in American society in general and in particular the American church over the nature of the black experience in contemporary America and who or what is responsible for that experience.” (emphases mine)
I can just imagine that the deceiver, Satan, one of our real enemies (and likely the most active perpetrator of this smoke-screen) has to be quite pleased. He is likely gloating endlessly as he sees this kind of activity ensue within the church of his enemy, Jesus Christ. “Let’s make the people believe that their enemy is someone with a different skin color.” “Let’s delude them into thinking that the enemy is someone who has more money that someone else.” “Let’s fool them into thinking that the enemy is someone who is of a different nationality that me.” “Let’s even cause them to believe that there are systemic problems that have everything to do with their environment, their surroundings, their education, their finances…”. And it goes on and on.
Not a New Problem
The smoke-screen has been ceaseless and pervasive throughout the ages. To the ancient- era Hebrews, it was the Canaanites, the Hittites and Philistines. To the Romans, it was the Visigoths and the Ottoman Turks. To the Marxist proletariat it was the bourgeoisie class. To the Indian Shundras it was the Brahmin. To the 1930 German Jews it was the Nazis. To the Rwandan Hutus it was the Tutses. And to the “blacks” it is now the “whites” who have developed a comprehensive system of racism.
How much history does humanity have to suffer through before we understand that this smoke-screen, this delusion of RACE (or any of the other smoke-screens mentioned above) has nothing to do with the real culprit behind our inability to live together in harmony in our world? If you believe the Bible then you undoubtedly would see the truth. Before there was ever two men of different skin-color there was hatred. Before there was ever men of differing socio-economic backgrounds there was malice in the heart. Before there was ever men of differing nationalities, there was murder. Just ask Abel, Cain’s brother. The problem IS systemic but it has nothing to do with racial biases and injustice.
With each new ensuing “boogie-man” the oppressed party becomes ever more convinced that their real enemy is the guy on the other side of the socio-economic street; the other side of the de-militarized zone, the other side of the racial divide, and now it is the all-encompassing SYSTEM of institutional racism. But who is the real enemy? Who or what is responsible for the “black experience in America” today?
In spite of all the evidence that exists today regarding the disparate amount of crime, violence, ill-legitimate births, fatherlessness in the black community, there are those who persist in saying that the underlying reason for these disparities is none other than systemic racism and bias. Here is where the Church of Jesus Christ has failed - not the BLACK church nor the WHITE church but THE ONE CHURCH that Jesus came to raise in the earth - HIS church.
The church has continued to perpetuate the myth of multi-racial humanity. In spite of the fact that from a genus classification standpoint, there is only one species of human being in existence, homo sapiens sapiens, we continue to perpetuate multiples RACES (sub-species) of human beings. In spite of concrete biological evidence that there is negligible genetic distinction between a man of “white” skin “black” skin, “red” skin, etc. we continue to perpetuate multiple RACES of human beings. And more importantly for Christians, in spite of our biblical history that ALL human beings descended from ONE MAN and ONE WOMAN creating ONE RACE of human beings with ONE BLOOD, we continue to perpetuate the myth of multiple RACES of human beings.
We have bought into the construct of the Darwinian theory that multiple “races” evolved through the evolutionary cycle, some more advanced, others just above animal level. Is it any wonder that with these distinctions being held as sacred “scientific evidence” that animosity and suspicion exists between people of different ethnic variability? A cursory study of Charles Darwin’s philosophies on the evolution of the races will reveal horrific philosophies that still haunt the world (and the church) today.
To amplify that this is still a problem for the Christian church, note that we still have the BLACK church in American and the WHITE church in America. How absurd is that concept when the Lord has commanded that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus…” “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups to be one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall..” Gal 3:28 & Eph 2:14 We still have churches in America that preach a message of suspicion, division and hatred of other “races” spurred on by the growing list of antagonists who are duly employed in the “race and oppression” industry.
Instead, God’s church has a great need to emphasize over and over again that God sees only two classifications of human beings on the earth – covenant keepers and covenant breakers, sons of Adam and sons of God, sons of the light and sons of the darkness, the saved and the unsaved. And even for those on the other side of this divide, we have not been called to hate and despise them but to “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt 5:44) We must hearken to the revealed truth of the word of God that the REAL culprit is not the color of a man’s skin but the color of his heart that makes him dangerous and a detriment to societal peace and harmony – the black heart depraved by the evil of sin vs. the red heart washed by the regenerating blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ.
The mainstream church in America in large part remains silent on these kinds of societal and political issues because it believes they are not part of the church’s appropriate domain. Sure, we have a few eager Christian writers who will come out in support or opposition to an issue here and there but the overwhelming majority of pastors and teachers will say nothing to their congregations about the biblical perspectives on these down-to-earth issues facing us today. Presumably it is a “holier than thou” pietism which allows us to believe that the issues of this world are somehow separate and distinct from the theology and practice we are supposed to feed to our congregations. But the Lord has given HIS church one clear command as He ascended to be seated at His Father’s right hand: “Go therefore and make disciples of ALL the nations…teaching them to observe ALL that I have commanded you…” Matt 28:18 (emphases added)
Every problem of fallen mankind is another golden opportunity for the church to herald the solution which we have so gratefully received into our lives. We have not been called to crawl into our pietistic holes in the sand and pretend that these issues do not affect “spiritual people” but are in fact a result of spiritual people refusing to tell the real truths regarding these societal ills. That there is only ONE solution to violence (whether its “black-on-black” or “white-on-black”), fatherlessness, children out-of-wedlock, lack of hope and prosperity, whatever…that is the saving gospel of Jesus Christ who knew only two “races” of men - His and Satan’s.
For those that wish to rely on the illusion of a winning “political solution” we should be aware of the reality. Political change is fleeting. If we are intent on effecting real and lasting social policies and systemic changes in our world, it will come only when the hearts, minds and souls of the policy-makers and their constituents are truly impacted by the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Any other policy is temporary and subject to the fluctuating whims of the current administration.
In his article, Mr. Baucham had it right when he said: “I have come to realize that it was no more “the system” when white cops pulled me over than it was “the system” when a black thug robbed me at gunpoint. It was sin! The men who robbed me were sinners. The cops who stopped me were sinners…” It’s time that the church of Jesus Christ started making these crucial distinctions instead of falling behind the delusions of this confused world: “the white man caused me to be this way because of his system..” – or - the “black man deserves what he gets because he is so violent, angry and criminal…” Until we begin speaking the truth in love, the entire world will continue to grow darker under a veil of ever-increasing smoke screens of deception and falsehood.
Elder, Family Community Church