Over the weekend, there were a series of protests and riots in Charlottesville, Virginia. On the one side was a leftist group known as “antifa” (“anti-fascists”), on the other were “alt-right” white nationalists. At least three people died and 19 were injured in the confrontation between the two groups.
I’m at a loss to really understand the reasoning behind the protests and riots, or why this seems to keep occurring in Charlottesville (I’m told that “other than the KKK, it’s a really nice town” – not sure that this is a ringing endorsement).
What I do know, however, is that it demonstrates a sad state of affairs in humanity’s relationship with each other, a breakdown in our society, and a letting-loose from the moorings of this country’s Christian foundations.
What I mean by that last point is that although the United States does not have a state religion, the entire system of our government is predicated on the belief in God, particularly the Judeo-Christian God. A whole series of premises come from this belief: people were created equal by God and “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” government is meant to secure those rights for all people, no one is above the law, and the highest moral code is the Ten Commandments which illuminates the natural law which God has written on our hearts.
Certainly, our country has not always lived up to these ideals. But, when it hasn’t, there’s been a recognition that something is wrong. That is, people knew when we were straying from the proper path as a country and sought to correct it.
However, over the past few decades, people have been chipping away at these moral foundations of our country. This has led to false beliefs such as the following: people have not been created by God, but are instead nuisances to be borne with; rights come from the government; “might makes right;” and humanity’s own idea about what is “fair” or “right” is the highest good.
Thus, we get to Charlottesville, where two opposing groups seek to use force to achieve their goals in advancing their own idea of “right.” Ultimately, they would seek to use the force of government to impose their will on others, since government has now become their “god.”
Another failing in this awful mess is the concept of “race.” The whole idea of race comes from the Darwinian concept of natural selection. Different groups of humans were considered to be of various “races,” defined mainly by skin color (in what other element of life would we say that something is qualitatively different based on color alone? Are red and green apples both not apples?). The different “races” were believed to have arisen independently from one another and thus in various stages of “evolution.”
This concept of “race” (and its evolutionist underpinnings), however, conflicts with the Biblical account and Christian belief. The Bible teaches that God created man and woman in His image. This is the only “race;” this is the one human race descended from Adam and Eve, with God as our common Father.
Adam and Eve sinned, however, and marred the image in which God had created them. Since we are all descended from them, we therefore inherit this original sin from the moment we are conceived. Then, throughout our lives we add to this condemnation the sins we actually personally commit (“actual sin”). Thus, there is nothing we can do to save ourselves.
God promised a Savior, however (firstly in Genesis 3:15). He then gathered a people for Himself around this promise of the Savior, the Christ who would be “anointed” to bring salvation. This people became known as Israel; it is the Church. It is “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6ff). They looked forward to the Christ who was to come (just as the New Testament Israel, the Church, proclaims the same Christ who has come and who is returning).
Thus, Israel is God’s nation, called out from the other nations to be a witness to Him and His saving actions through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. In the Bible, therefore, there is Israel, and then there are the “nations” (i.e. the “gentiles” or “ethne” – from which we get our word “ethnic”).
So, the Church is God’s nation, composed of those whom He has gathered from all nations (“ethne”) around Christ. There is no concept of different human races in the Bible, just the concept of nations or “ethne” which provide a rich tapestry of human culture, language, and life within God’s creation. And the point is that people from all ethne are sinners in need of salvation, and God gives this salvation freely through Christ and incorporates people from all nations into the Church, God’s “kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” We are all united in the Church as the body of Christ. We may look different, speak different, act different – and yet, Christ is the head of us all and has redeemed us from sin, death, and the devil.
Therefore, I would challenge us as Christians to work to shift the emphasis away from “race” (since it is a human construct and serves only to divide us where there need be no divisions) and focus instead on the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all “nations” as God unites us within the body of Christ. No human endeavor can create true unity, only the working of the Holy Spirit can accomplish this as He brings us to faith in Christ.
Yes, people have tried to use Christianity to support their notions of “race” and “racial superiority” as well as other false ideas. However, this is a corruption of Christianity; evil always seeks to pervert that which is good. Christians would be remiss, indeed, to let this corruption go unchallenged.
We must continue to proclaim the grace, mercy, and love of our Triune God to all nations and rejoice in the day which St. John saw:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
(Revelation 7:9-10 ESV)
(Image: La Jérusalem nouvelle. Apoc. XXI, 1047 AD, by Facundus, pour Ferdinand Ier de Castille et Leon et la reine Sancha – Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=534186)