By In Culture, Family and Children, Politics, Scribblings, Theology, Wisdom, Worship

Why I No Longer Participate in Racial Reconciliation Services

Guest post by Rev Sam Murrell of Little Rock, AR

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, closeupSam 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.

Identity madness is a current hot topic. People question their identity as man rebels against the boundaries of a biblical anthropology they seek in vain to invent their own explanation. This radical subjectivity results in daily re-definitions. God’s people need to understand their true identity. As a Christian, what is my preeminent identity? Am I a Black Christian, or a Christian who is black? We must not give priority to tribal or ethnic loyalties in place of fidelity to the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have found nothing in scripture that affirms that I am allowed to believe that old tribal devotions neither can nor should take precedence over my identity as a member of the Body of Christ, the nation of the New Israel come down from heaven. We give lip-service to this reality, but do we walk in this truth consistently? The only way is to manifest the truth of the Gospel of King Jesus. The Church cannot continue to trail along behind the world attempting to sprinkle ‘holy water’ on the latest iteration of Marxism and call it ‘social justice’.

Racial reconciliation services are founded upon a lie from Satan. The whole motivation behind them is a false anthropology. Allow me to nuance my previous point. These worship services focus on corporate confessions by the white section of the congregation. And once the service has ended it is expected that the white brother will now go forth and sin against his black brother no longer. Recall here that for many they are expected to repent of being made white which is not a sin. If the white brother does eventually cause offense against black brother, and he will and vice versa, his former repentance, based upon a false premise, will then be viewed as being disingenuous. How is that justice? The line of thought is that, had his confession been genuine, then his offense would be unrepeatable. The offended Black then may accuse the White of ‘racial insensitivity’, latent racism, ‘racial privilege’ and a host of other insults. But rarely is the individual treated as a fallen human being, struggling with a fallen nature, who is wholly incapable of living up to God’s expectation of loving his neighbor as himself. If the person were to be treated fairly, we would seek to follow Jesus’ mandate that, if you offend me, I am to forgive you. Period.

“He said to His disciples, ‘It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.’
” ‘Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive
him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I
repent,’ forgive him.’” Luke 17:1-5

The message is clear that the offended brother must forgive if so asked. This is repeated several times in the Gospels, for example, Matthew 6 wherein the Lord instructs His followers to pray to God asking that we are judged as we judge others, to be forgiven just as we forgive. We can all relate to the apostles’ response, “…increase our faith!” In own of strength, we cannot possibly hope to be the people that God has called for us to be, nor can we love the way that Jesus says to love. So, when my brother sins against me in prioritizing his ethnic, social, political and economic tribes over mine I am to forgive him. It is not my place to accuse him and therefore all who look like him of being hopelessly lost, nonredeemable and less than me because of some new ‘Mark of Cain’ in his skin that looks different than mine. I pray for him. I talk with him. I seek to help him grow beyond the limitations of his tribe, ethnic or otherwise.

In Summation

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.

The call of the Church is to love one another. This means that I must deal with you personally when you sin against me personally. I cannot hold you accountable for sins committed by past generations, nor can I regard you as a pariah because I perceive that God has blessed you differently than He has me.

No ethnic group has the market cornered on any particular sin. The Church does mankind a disservice when she disciplines them to believe the lie that skin color makes them immune from the accusations of hating or discriminating against others of a different tribe. Many blacks have been sold the lie that their identity as an oppressed minority renders them exempt from being found guilty of tribalism. In the Marxist worldview, such may be lauded as a foundational truth, but when life is seen from a biblical perspective that simply does not pass the smell test. Christ has commanded us to love one another. That call can only be fulfilled on His terms.

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21 Responses to Why I No Longer Participate in Racial Reconciliation Services

  1. Amazing article. Thanks for sharing your heart with us.

  2. Kenneth Murphy says:

    Very good! Thanks for expressing this so well!

  3. James Davis says:

    Thank you for this awesome article. I agree 100%. As a white man with a family living in poverty and suffering from many health needs and nobody in particular to help me out of it, I would like to remind people that race is not what matters, at all–our relationship to Jesus is everything. These daily struggles we all face are not worthy to be compared with the future Glory God will reveal in us in the ages to come. Thank you so much, brother-from-the-same-mother! (Eve,that is!) 🙂 We’re all in this together.

  4. Paul Reynolds says:

    Given your premise that race is a non-Biblical modern construct and that the favored categories are of tongue and nation, what kind of distinction is there between Jew and Gentile? It can’t be merely religious because both are in the New Testament churches. And it’s not just linguistic or national/political, either.

    • Kenneth Murphy says:

      The distinction is ethnicity, which is different than race.

    • Jillian C says:

      It’s in the DNA. Jewish people are of different races, too, but they are linked by DNA. They are God’s chosen. We don’t even know why He chose them, really, except that God found them to be a “peculiar” people. But then, who are we to question God? He created all of us. That said, Christians – followers of Jesus Christ, regardless of race – are grafted into this particular family tree.

      Race is now become an “idol” of sorts to many people. It is another extension of being given over to the flesh and being worldly-minded. We are called to put that away from us, yet race is all that some people think about. It defines everything they think and do. It’s a form of lying vanity. We are not defined by the color of our flesh, but by our spirits. Our hearts are all the same color. Put away the idols and come back to God.

      Jonah 2:8 “8 They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.”

    • April Sigmon says:

      Paul,
      The Jewish people were called out to become a witness and instrument to show who God really is and to give him glory through finding out his Character. (How many times did God never give up on them and still called them his people, despite their failings?)

      Jew and Gentile are still the same human race – homo sapiens. We aren’t different species, different breeds. Point being that we all come to one Savior, no matter if we are slave or free, Jew or Gentile, male or female.

    • James says:

      Galatians 3:28 New International Version (NIV)
      28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

    • Tom Hill says:

      The difference between Jew and Gentile was made by God Himself. The Jews were the called out ones, the eklesea, the apple of God’s eye. Deuteronomy 32:9-10 (NKJV)
      9 For the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the place of His inheritance. 10 “He found him in a desert land And in the wasteland, a howling wilderness; He encircled him, He instructed him,
      He kept him as the apple of His eye.

    • de ambigua says:

      I’m guessing by this question you’re making a claim that since the Bible distinguishes between Jew and Gentile, then the Bible recognizes race as a category, and therefore the author’s point about refusing to adopt racial categories is false. But the two conclusions don’t follow the premise. Jew and Gentile are actually a distinction rooted in the difference between those under God’s covenant with Abraham and those who were not. It’s first and foremost a covenantal and relational distinction (proven by the fact that non-Jews could become Jews by entering the community, being circumcised, and submitting to Jewish law). This OT covenant relationship happened to be through a man and his offspring, thus creating a group defined as descendants from a single family. That is not the same thing as race. If shared ancestry were the same thing as race, then it actually proves the author’s point, for we all share the ancestry from Adam and Noah. Secondarily, even if you conceded that the Jew-Gentile distinction is a racial distinction, that doesn’t lead to your next (implied) claim, which is that this type of racial distinction is the same kind of racial distinction as the Modernist distinction of race, based on genetics, skin color, origin, etc. You’re equivocating. Lastly, even if we were to accept your first two claims, it doesn’t follow that the author’s arguments are any less valid, given that in the NT church, we are all one people united under one family (“there is no longer male and female, slave and free, for all are one in Christ”). This NT concept acknowledges diversity while maintaining fundamental unity. The Modernist racial categories and approach to “reconciliation” do not reflect this NT value, as the author argues very cogently.

  5. abcaneday says:

    What a refreshingly wonderful commentary! Treasure this, readers, and take it to heart because it is such a rare expression of truth. Because Sam Murrell is so scripturally right and so gospel-informed he is right concerning the devilish mischief that is being perpetrated upon Christ’s body under the guise of the gospel by designating its knavery “racial reconciliation.

    Many, many ministers who otherwise proclaim with clarity the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ subvert the very gospel they proclaim by bowing the knee to Satan’s crafty deception as he and his unwitting agents exploit gospel terms to corrupt the gospel they otherwise cherish.

    Thank you, Sam Murrell. Thank you!

  6. Ackbach says:

    Thank you, sir, for such a Bible-saturated take on tribal relations. It’s very refreshing! I would see Christians who are black and Christians who are white very much reconciled; and, while no doubt there are some folks guilty of tribalism, I think you’re absolutely right that painting with too broad a brush stroke helps no one. I would love to help, but I’m not entirely sure how, save praying.

    In Christ, Adrian

  7. HC says:

    Well said!

    On questionnaires that ask for Race, I answer, “Human!” There’s one race, the human race (with varying degrees of melanin in the skin).

    And yes, there are different cultures (even within the US and the church) and it behooves us to be respectful of those who may seem (or are) different than us, as we live out the golden rule. (Do into others as you’d have them do to you).

    Our utmost call is to love God and each other. If we can focus on that, we can accomplish what the Lord taught us in the model prayer: “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven.” Let’s bring His Kingdom to earth and make it more like heaven, so people can see the difference between the two kingdoms, and the choice should be clear: Choose love and life.

  8. Tony moore says:

    Thank you for this article. We are giving up the gospel in order to appear nonracial. Some pastors who I love dearly have lifted up and sung the praises of Martin Luther King and are totally unconcerned about the fact that he claimed to be a reverend but denied most, if not all, the essential claims of Christianity. The false gospel that he preached will do more damage to precious souls than any man could have done through prejudice.

  9. This is a perfect Christian view, which I applaud.
    I offer a little story along the same lines:
    As part of a touring Episcopal choir from Georgia, I attended services at the historic Old North Church in Boston on the Sunday following the murders at Emmanuel Church in Charleston, SC. As our group had been singing previously out of the country in Canada, I only first learned of that horrific event at the service. I was stunned when the vicar preached a blistering sermon, critical of the sins of all white people and of southerners in particular. I felt that he might as well have been accusing me of pulling the trigger myself.
    The next week I happened to be in Charleston on business and walked by the flower-lined sidewalk in front of Emmanuel Church. There amongst the impromptu memorials was a big plywood sign, posted by the congregation itself, that said in large letters simply, “Forgive, as we have been forgiven.”
    It was such a moving message to me. Should we not always forgive, as we have been forgiven?

  10. Carter says:

    Thank you.

  11. Josh Owen says:

    What a liberating application of the gospel, freeing all of us to forgive and love as Christ calls.

  12. […] is the alternative? The left often offers a politics of performing, of posturing — a reaction noted by Sam Murrell.  The twin posturing can easily become a sort of shadow dance, where real the performance (or the […]

  13. Steve Madison says:

    As a white man that grew up in majority black neighborhoods until I was 13 years old I too have a problem with whole racial reconciliation via church.

    I have witnessed hundreds of times racial hatred, racial hatred of blacks towards whites.
    I being on the receiving end many times. I’ve seen countless times where blacks at school beat a white student for the crime of being white. Yet moving to the suburbs and into white majority schools I never once saw a black kid beaten or even called names. They were often quite popular and well liked.

    My point simply being that I object to the pressure of whites being forced to confess and repent for nonexistent racist crimes that they didn’t commit, while nobody seems to ever call out the racism of blacks.

  14. Archie Walker says:

    Speaking the truth in love–very edifying. Well said, sir!

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