• Josh Reading

RACISM pt 2 - What is racism? Why is it wrong?

I am writing this fairly late at night after a very long week, please excuse my tyops, ok that one was intentional. My first blog post on this can be found here - https://www.joshreading.com/post/understanding-and-dealing-with-racism-as-a-christian

WHAT IS RACISM?

“Racism takes many forms and can happen in many places. It includes prejudice, discrimination or hatred directed at someone because of their colour, ethnicity or national origin.” https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/race-discrimination/what-racism The Oxford dictionary describes it as such, Racism is “...prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group”  Oxford Dictionary


Allow me to frame this just a little more from a Christian foundation. No doubt it may need some refining. Racism is the marginalization, minimization or mockery of another person, made in the image of God (Gen 1:27, Acts 17:26) because of their skin colour, ethnicity, language (Rev 7:9 – 12) or national identity. As this afront is against an ‘image bearer’, it is not only an act against a person but a denial of the sovereign position, decree and character of God (Acts 17:27 – 28).

WHY IS RACISM WRONG? For a Christian, I hope the previous definition is enough but lets continue. One explanation says...

“Racism is wrong not simply because it causes pain, or it conveys feelings of superiority of one person or group over another. “Racism causes harm to those who are on the receiving end. It hurts individuals, communities and our society at large.” (https://itstopswithme.humanrights.gov.au/why-racism-problem-0

Here is the problem with this reasoning. Why should a person care? Especially if there is no negative effect to themselves or their offspring?. Many humans have ‘thrived’ by being racist, some materialistic evolutionary biologists have even argued it is simply part of our survival mechanisms, some have even argued it is ‘hardwired’ into our brain. (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2164844/Racism-hardwired-human-brain--people-racists-knowing-it.html). I don’t agree with either of these of course morally or in terms of neuroscience but if the only answer is pragmatic, we are in trouble. Also feelings of pain or pleasure as motivators of morality are also a slippery slope. It makes immorality and morality subjective or worse still, an inescapable part of our dna. Racism hurts but that is not enough to define it as absolutely wrong. ‘You should be nice’ definitions of any moral action lack a central absolute reason.  Our society has largely embraced a materialistic worldview. We, as humanity are little more than ‘differently intelligent’ animals, the strong survives, the perceived weak is assigned ultimately to history. I am known to rant a bit so let me get to the point, here is the real reason. Allow me to frame this primarily by using Acts 17:24 – 31

1. God’s creative design is on EVERYONE.

The Apostle Paul, a Jew, when speaking in Athens to Epicurean and Stoic philosophers said,  “...he (God) himself gives EVERYONE life and breath and everything else.” Acts 17:25b  Gen 1:27 frames human creation this way... “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Gen 1:27  In a sense, his breath is permeating through us, even if we do not personally know him.  Each and every person is an image bearer. Through sin we have become marred, however, even though broken in sin our value can never be diminished because God has never defined our value by our action or merit but because “we are his offspring” (Acts 17:28b)  ‘Creationally’ we are ALL his offspring, sons and daughters, there is a ‘relational’ dynamic missing but we will get there.  2. There is only ONE race Let us continue in the text.  “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth” Acts 17:26 There are biblically speaking, no ‘races’, there are diverse cultural ethnicities, there are nations (biblically more cultural then modern nation state) there are language groups (Rev 7:9 – 12) but race is a myth. The whole idea of race is a fairly recent development that as far as I am concerned should be consigned to history. ‘Racism’ and hate, as a sin has nearly always existed but ‘race’ as primarily being a colour related distinguishing factor is historically a fairly recent phenomenon. Hopefully that I may get to that soon.  There is only one race, the human race.  3. Diversity has ALWAYS been PART OF GOD’S PLAN “and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.” Acts 17:26 From the very beginning of creation, God mandated that humanity fill the earth.  “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gen 1:28) but in classic human style we resisted, and did not take the path God called us to but rather we aimed to “...make a name for ourselves. Otherwise we will be scattered across the face of the entire earth.” (Gen 11:4b) Humanity was called to spread across the earth, in doing so creating diverse cultures, increasing the tapestry of God’s creative work yet it is always our arrogance that gets in the way. God loves unity but not disobedient uniformity. When God birth’s his new covenant community in Acts 2, it is reflected in a unified diversity glorifying God "...they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” [Acts 2:7-12] What does this mean? Peter answers this, in short “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ (Acts 2:21). EVERYONE who calls, for “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal 3:28) 4. God is calling ALL to himself and he is always close “God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ (Acts 17:27 – 28) Catch this, the nations themselves, the diversity of culture and language all plays part in God drawing people to himself, that “they would seek him...and find him”. We see this reemphasized in the eternal vision of God’s people in heaven. "They sang a new song, saying: 'Worthy are you [Lord]...for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.'" [Revelation 5:9-10] 5. To deny God and his plan is to come up against the judge “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands ALL PEOPLE EVERYWHERE TO REPENT.” There may be some pragmatic, even emotional reasons racism is wrong but it comes down to this ultimate reality. To oppose God’s creative plan for unity across for “every nation, tribe and tongue” (Rev 7:9 – 12) is to oppose God. It is an afront to him. Verse 31 continues... “For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31)  God will judge, and he will judge righteously and his plan from beginning to end has ALWAYS been both diversity and unity. Don’t miss this because if we maintain our rebellious stances in sin, including that of racism we will face the judge of the heavens and earth.  LEAVING OUR BROKENNESS BEHIND Yet not even the sin of racism, as deep an offense as it is against God and people need keep anyone away from stepping from simply being an “offspring” (Acts 17:28) of God ‘creationally’ to being a true son or daughter of God ‘relationally’ (Romans 8:15) Just as it is positively affirmed that all bear the image of God, it is also true negatively, “There is NO DIFFERENCE between Jew and Gentile, 23 for ALL HAVE SINNED and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and ALL are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:22 – 24) “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to ALL PEOPLE, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12) “so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life FOR ALL PEOPLE.” (Romans 5:18b) for “...those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” Romans 5:17b) The only ultimate hope to eradicate racism is Jesus, he is our hope, our salvation, it is in him that all nations will be unified. NOTE:

Part 3 and 4 are coming. I will move next to "What can / should Christians / the Church do about racism' after that I will address some approaches in our society and the Church that are intended to address racism but, in my opinion do the opposite. Additionally, I will not be addressing issues like ‘Is the racism in America systemic or not’ (I simply have no idea of the nature of the systems, though there is very clearly an ongoing significant problem). I will attempt to engage with general principles of systemic, cultural and communal racism as it pertains to a Christian's responsibility. I will delete comments that aim to make the issue solely an American systemic issue. There ARE places for it and it is a relevant issue, it is not mine to really speak into. Discuss it in a relevant place. I am not getting involved in ‘who’ is to blame. Such is not really that helpful, well above my pay grade and outside of my knowledge. Others can and should address these concerns, I am not the right voice to do so. I will post some links to those I believe may be better at addressing them.

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© 2015 by Josh Reading