One More In The Name of Love – Reconciliation – Martin Luther King Jr.- Evangelicals and Institutional or Systemic Sin.

Early morning April 4, shot rings out in the Memphis sky, free at last, they took your life, but they could not take your pride. In the name of love . . . one more in the name of love . . . in the name of love . . . one more in the name of love . . .  Pride by U2

“Rescue those being lead away to death, hold back those staggering towards slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing of this,’ does he who weighs the heart not perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he as done.” Proverbs 24: 11,12

“The only thing worse than hate is indifference.”

Every time I here the song Pride or think about the lyrics, my eyes well up in tears. Martin Luther King Jr. said he wouldn’t make it to 40, and he didn’t. He died at just 39 years old. I think of other people, not all Christians, but many of them professing Christians who were willing to live and to die for what they knew to be right, despite their fellow believer’s criticisms. A prophet is seldom appreciated by the status quo, which often includes popular church culture.

Most middle-class white evangelical Christians think that racism is over. I don’t fault all of them. They haven’t been taught. But we fail to realize there is something called institutional or systemic racism. When we’re confonted with it, we say, “Oh no, I am not a racist, I like black people, I have no problems with minorities.” But when push comes to shove, those in power, do not want to relinquish power to those they’ve oppressed for centuries. Forget about relinquishing, we don’t want to share power with anyone. How many blacks, minorities, or women for that matter, are afforded the opportunities to rise to the highest places in Christian organizations or even universities? Very few. And it’s not because they’re incapable, it’s because real barriers exist.

                                           William Wilberforce.
Polycarp – Martyr
I’ve been told by many leaders in racial reconciliation that the only way a Christian institution or university is going to change from racialist to biblical reconcilist is to get a black or another minority on the board of trustees, a black or minority trustee with lots of money and influence (no money or influence, no trusteeship for you, even if you’re wise and talented and smart as a whip). Why? Christian institutions and universities will quickly change their tunes, or minds, and suddenly amend their ways when money is offered or when someone threatens to pull money away. And when I was young and naive, only a few years ago, I thought that Christian institutions and organizations and universities bowed to Jesus not Mammon. Some bow to Jesus, but most to Mammon. I’ve learned that. And I’ve been disillusioned.
Yes, there is sin, systemic sin, call it institutional sin, in every church and Christian institution, just like there is personal sin. However, my brothers and sisters, my evangelical brothers and sisters, whom I love like all the rest of the brothers and sisters in the Kingdom of God, have a hard time seeing that, or admitting that. In fact, many times they down right deny it.
Susan B. Anthony.
Those like me and others who talk about it, who fight against it, are called liberals by the powers that be. And with the term “liberal” we are summarily dismissed. But dear brother or sister, dear one who dismisses me, examine my life, and see if I do not love Jesus fervently. I love Jesus fervently with the rest of them and I think that my actions show it (though I am imperfect like all).

I am not saying anything new. Plenty have said this before me. I am just one more voice in a chorus whose voices are growing louder. Tony Perkins, Brenda Salter-McNeill, Ed Gilbreathe, and others who have been calling for reconciliation in evangelical circles have been saying this for years.

We have to defend the rights of the unborn, but we must do our very best, to also knock down the walls of seperation, the walls of power that oppress. And we can do this in the name of Jesus.

Frederick Douglass
Some of the loudest detractors during the Abolition and Civil Rights and Women’s Suffrage Eras were those in the church. And those in the church who called the activists liberals and unbiblical now have historical egg on their faces. Let us fight for what is right. Let us, in Jesus’ name, respectfully yet actively, work to reconcile brothers and sisters together, to share power.

It will not be easily done, because I said above, life and history show that those in power do not like to share power. And in the case of evangelical organizations and churches and universities, those in power, don’t even think in those terms. Many don’t realize, even I don’t realize, how much we love power, how much we don’t want to share it because that means we’d have to change our ways or give up some of our preferences or non-essentials.

But let each one of us be one more in the name of love. It will require sacrifice brothers and sisters, maybe even our lives if we are to follow Jesus and follow Jesus in this way. Reconciliation is part of the gospel.

Amen.

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