Monday was Martin Luther King Day in the United States of America. I spent most of this day in a shooting house waiting on a trophy buck to come into a food plot. Alas, he never showed. It is amazing how much work I can get done in a shooting house. Thanks to my iPhone, my calendar and a few choice books I can get quite a bit of work done. Part of my daily routine is to read several blogs and news services. Monday my reading was overwhelmed with articles about Martin Luther King. I came across an article I wanted to interact with. This article is available for reading here, “The Most Segregated Hour in America.” Let me share with you how that I love Dr. Chuck Colson and encourage you to read Breakpoint as often as you can. However, I want to push back a little on this Breakpoint article by John Stonestreet.
In the article John Stonestreet argues that 11:00 a.m. on Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour in America. Stonestreet shares that 8 out of 10 Southern Baptist churches are racially segregated and 70% do not believe anything needs to be done about this. Bro. Stonestreet makes a few comments that I want to interact with. It is with love and respect for John Stonestreet I offer a little different view on the segregated church in America.
1. There will be solidarity and segregated groups until the end of time.
Stonestreet rightly concludes of Christian love, “First and foremost are theological considerations. Jesus, we know, prayed in the Garden that His people would be unified. This is more than a “let’s just get along” vision. Jesus said in John 13 that the way people would recognize us as His disciples would be our love for one another. We all know that love is not merely the absence of hate – it’s proactive. That seems to be missing.” He argues that Christian unity is a reversal of Babel and a foreshadowing of Rev. 7 where all nations and tongues worship God together.
Allow me to share one correction on Bro. Stonestreet’s thoughts on this matter. One of my favorite surveys of the Old Testament is Albert Baylis’ “From Creation to the Cross.” In this survey Baylis offers a slightly different view of Christian unity than Stonestreet. Consider the separation of human beings.
In Genesis we read Man was to subdue, move out and populate the earth. (Gen. 9:1) They refused to do so; they found a plane (Babel) and were content to live in one place. (Gen. 11:2)
God introduced a barrier (language) in Genesis 11:7 to human unity. This barrier would force humans to spread out and populate the earth. As long as humans were in rebellion against God, unity would be dangerous. It was God who forced people to segregate and populate the entire earth.
On Pentecost the Holy Spirit comes and the tide is turned and all people can be unified in Christ. The language and national barriers are overcome by the coming of the Holy Spirit. This is seen in Acts 2. It is a glorious picture, people from all nationalities making up the body of Christ.
What was hinted at on Pentecost comes to completion before the throne of God and the Lord Jesus. We read in Revelation 7:9,10 the nations cry out in unison, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.” All nations crying in one voice praising God and the Lamb.
My push-back to Stonestreet would be that what happened as a result of the the fall of man and in particular the confusion of the language at Babel was not reversed as he contends at Calvary but stemmed. Baylis contends this in his survey. We still live in a fallen world that is under the influence of the fall of man. These effects will only be reversed in glory. We as believers should belong to one solidarity group, the redeemed of Christ, but often that is not the case. We can be unified on the earth but in glory we will be unified. Then all the effects of the fall will be reversed.
2. Just because we are not worshiping in the same church does not mean we are divided.
Here is a quote by the author of the article, “White evangelicals remain largely unmoved by the hurts and concerns of our non-white evangelical brothers and sisters, particularly African-Americans. This was exposed in last year’s racial explosions stemming from Ferguson and Staten Island.” It seems Bro. Stonestreet contends that whites and blacks do not worship together because whites are not concerned over the pain of non-whites. If I read him right this is a huge indictment on the white church. I pastor Vaiden Baptist Church in Vaiden, MS, a town of about 700 people. We have three churches we will call white churches and 4 we will call black churches. The church I pastor will have 200 + white people worshiping every Sunday morning. We occasionally will have a few blacks and more regularly Hispanics. My contention is some whites are segregated from other whites and blacks from other blacks. This segregation is due to theology, worship styles, preaching styles, mission philosophies, etc… I believe in the deep south today that culture, style and substance has more to do with our segregation in church than race. I arrive at my office every Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m. The black church meeting in the school auditorium across the street is already singing. When we begin our worship service at 11:00 a.m. they are still singing. After I have had my Sunday meal at the local diner my family will swing by our church parking lot around 2:00 p.m. to pick up my vehicle, the preacher is still preaching. I can speak as an authority on VBC, my church family does not want to worship that long and in that manner. I suspect the same is true as well for our black brothers and sisters concerning our worship. We have to be unified in Christ but this does not mean we all have to worship the same way and the same place. Just because we are not all worshiping together in Vaiden, MS doesn’t mean we are divided. I have a great relationship with the black community in my area. We interact with each other on a daily basis. My part of Mississippi is one of the most integrated places in America. The fact that a town of 700 citizens has 7 churches does not mean we are divided especially on the lines of race. Such an assumption is wrong.
3. Finally, one does not have to agree with the conclusions of the black community in order to hurt and be concerned for the black community.
Many leaders today in evangelical circles contend that if a white Christian rejects a conclusion the black community has concerning a racial issue then the white Christian is not putting himself in the shoes of black people. I have witnessed the hatred of some in the white community toward blacks. I have witnessed institutionalized racism. I sympathize with anyone who has suffered from racism. However, in Ferguson, MO, the evidence revealed that Michael Brown robbed a store, attacked a police officer attempting to take his weapon, Brown was killed in self-defense. Some people in the black community lied to indict the white officer rather than telling the truth and thus indicting Michael Brown. When the justice system found no evidence a crime had been committed some in the black community broke laws while protesting and demonstrating. These lawbreakers burned, stole, looted and assaulted others supposedly to protest the racism they face at the hands of the police. One can reject every conclusion that the black community has drawn concerning Ferguson/Michael Brown and still sympathize and hurt with them in matters of race. Stonestreet seems to imply that white Christians do not hurt with blacks if they did not agree with the conclusions of the black community concerning Ferguson. I try to understand the effects of 200 years of slavery, prejudice and institutional racism has had on the black community. I can only imagine! That does not mean I have to believe Michael Brown’s death was not justified. I think the evidence says it was.
It is my prayer there will be unity among the children of God. I believe we are segregated but unlike Stonestreet I do not conclude that means we necessarily lack unity. I end this lengthy blog by reminding you that we are indeed one in Christ and one day we will lift our voices in unison praising God and the Lord Jesus. I hope we can also do that in this world.