This evening, I have seen a few friends mention an article about a “whites only” pastor’s conference which apparently is going on right now. I can’t say I am sad I am missing it. Two of my friends summed up the problems with this conference very well. Phil Fletcher, director of CoHO said, “Here’s a conference Jesus couldn’t attend!” He’s exactly right. Jesus was not white; therefore, he would not be welcome at this particular pastor’s conference. Elizabeth Harper, an English professor at UCA and member of Christ Church said, “Let me be very clear that this is NOT Christianity.” She’s exactly right. Of course, these two points are related. If your conference would by definition exclude Jesus, the Christ, then it is no use calling it a Christian conference. It is not a Christian conference; it is something else, something unbiblical, something evil.
Racism is a hard issue to deal with for a number of reasons. However, one of the reasons is not that the Bible is unclear on the issue. Go back to the beginning, and we see that we descend from a common ancestor, Adam (Genesis 1-2). Step forward a few generations, and we see that, due to sin, humanity is again reduced to a common ancestor, Noah (Genesis 6-9). Turn the page, and we see that many of the cultural differences (or the basis for them at least) we find so troubling were put in place by God (Genesis 10). Again sin played a fairly major role in what was going on. Continuing through Genesis we find the Abrahamic Covenant, in which we read, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12). So, in the first twelve chapters of the Bible we have common ancestor A and B, divinely appointed cultural (racial?) differences, and a promise to bless all the families of the earth through the seed of Abraham, who is Jesus (who can’t come to a particular conference). God set up cultural and racial differences for his glory. God conquers cultural and racial differences for his glory (see Acts 2). God has promised to redeem people from all sorts of races through the seed of Abraham for his glory.
As we read through the Law and the Prophets, the biblical stance against racism only comes into sharper focus. There are provisions for bringing the sojourner to be part of the Passover. There is the potential for any race to bear the sign of the covenant. Finally, there is the promise in Deuteronomy 30 which says, “[God] will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you.” Of course, here the Hebrews are in mind (they’re not white people by the way), but that is not the full meaning, for God says through Isaiah, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49). We also have John’s explanation of the words of Caiaphas, “He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” (John 12). Bear in mind that the Greek words behind “gather” and “scattered” used in John 12 are the same Greek words behind “gather” and “scattered” in the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament, which would have likely been in use by John. John’s point is clear, God’s plan of a gracious salvation, promised to the people of Israel in the Law, was not intended only for Israel in the nations to which they had been scattered but also for the nations into which Israel had been scattered.
When we get into the New Testament, we see several important things at work that teach us to guard our hearts against racism. Matthew records these well known words of Jesus, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28). Paul says things like, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3). Again Paul writes, For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Romans 3). Finally, John writes in his Revelation, speaking of Jesus, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, 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).
Beginning to end, the Bible leaves no room for racism. God’s grace indeed extends to all kinds of people, and not inviting some to our conference does not change that.
With that said, I want to respond to something specific from the article I read at The Huffington Post. The article contained the following paragraph,
When confronted by a reporter with Bible verses on equality of all races, Rev. Mel Lewis, the founder of Christian Identity Ministries, the event’s co-sponsor, got defensive:
“Well, you’ve picked out some wonderful verses out of context and out of the direction of Scripture. All you’re doing is making a mockery of God’s Word,” said Lewis, according to WFSA. “You’re absolutely abusing the Scripture.”
Let me be clear. Rev. Mel Lewis is dead wrong. It is not those who have challenged his and others’ racism who are “absolutely abusing the Scripture.” Mel’s argument is a type of ad hominem (against the person) argument that I refer to as the Pee Wee Herman argument which goes like this, “I know you are, but what am I.” Mel was challenged and had no answer, so he turned the accusation around and accused his accuser of the same thing. I do not say this to run Mel Lewis down, though that is hard to believe when I have just compared him to Pee Wee Herman, but to remind us that what Mel made to sound like an authoritative statement holds no water. Don’t be fooled by such foolishness. The teaching of Scripture demands that we repent of our racism, which is only a type of pride, and believe in Jesus, who died for people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. To say so is not to abuse the Scriptures but to uphold them.