Monday, January 19, 2009

Becoming a Post-Racial America?

No matter what one’s political affiliation, as we again observe the transfer of the presidency, it would be difficult not to acknowledge the particular historical significance of this moment. Without question, President-elect Obama’s inauguration is evidence of the tremendous advances we have made, as a nation, in regards to race relations. Some have even begun to refer to this as a post-racial America.

However, this is still up in the air. The question remains as to how much farther we must yet travel to truly be “one people” and “one America”. Christians, in particular must be willing to address this question.

Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “You have allowed segregation to creep into the doors of the church. How can such a division exist in the true Body of Christ? You must face the tragic fact that when you stand at 11:00 on Sunday morning to sing "All Hail the Power of Jesus Name" and "Dear Lord and Father of all Mankind," you stand in the most segregated hour of Christian America. They tell me that there is more integration in the entertaining world and other secular agencies than there is in the Christian church. How appalling that is.” (Paul’s Letter to American Christians, 1956)

These words were spoken over fifty years ago and, unfortunately, still ring true today. As Dr. King recognized, the Christian Church should be at the forefront in racial reconciliation, not bringing up the rear. If we cannot worship together in our Churches, how shall we ever walk together in our social and community structures?

Concerning the role of the church, Dr. King said, “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority. (Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963)

As we remember Dr. King, on this day that commemorates his birth, and as we prepare to observe the oath of office being given to our first African-American President, let us celebrate how far we have come. However, let us also not forget that there is still a ways yet to travel.

Surely, in these days of good will, we are not so naïve as to think racism will not continue to rear its ugly head. Let us pray that it will not be so in the Church and that God will give us the grace and power to be part of the solution and deal with it quickly and decisively.

Those who call themselves Christian must strive to see that it is never again said that any institution or agency has surpassed the Church in establishing racial equality and harmony. And, though we may have different cultural backgrounds that make us distinct, may it never again be the color of our skin that separates and divides us; especially at 11:00 on Sunday morning.

[The Crosswinds Foundation for Faith and Culture is currently working on a documentary that examines the current state of race relations in America. Updates will be posted periodically on our website for those interested in this project.]

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