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Pride and Prejudice on Martin Luther King Day

Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier

No, not the movie (can you spell B-O-R-I-N-G while yawning?) I’d rather watch Fried Green Tomatoes twice than watch that sleep inducing 19th Century chick flick once. What about reading the book? I’d rather read through the Book of Leviticus backwards in the original Hebrew while standing on my head listening to blue grass.

I’m not talking about the movie or the book entitled “Pride and Prejudice” I’m talking about the pride that is behind real prejudice. Sometimes when we think of prejudice we tend to have visions of car transmissions in the front yard on blocks and stills in the backyard…on blocks. But it’s been awhile since I talked to any good ole’ boy who believed enough to declare the “superiority of the white race” out loud in front of God and everyone. I know they’re still out there but most of them are smart enough to know how dumb this declaration sounds in 21st Century America. My advice to those who are still making this declaration? Brush your tooth and repent!

No, I believe that the old, bold racism is on life support in America. Although these sheet loving punks are still out there they have been marginalized in America and nobody really pays much attention to them.

But there is another kind of racism that is thriving. This racism, like a morphing virus, is alive and bad in the United States. It has evolved (or devolved depending on how you look at it) from the not-so-subtle proclamations of racial superiority and name calling to the secret recesses of the mind. This racism is even more sinister because it’s harder to detect. At least the Klan and skinheads are easier to spot and more honest about what they believe.

No this more subtle kind of racism is not just in the south. It’s thriving in the north, east and west…maybe even more so. As a matter of fact some of the most racially reconciled people I know live in the deep south. Many of them have thought through and fought through their racism and come to the conclusion that we are all equal in the eyes of God.

The kind of racism I’m referring to is more ingrained and subtle. It only shows itself when it hits close to home…in our neighborhoods, at our jobs and in our families. It especially shows itself if and when our sons and daughters want to date a member of the opposite sex and race.

I remember preaching a sermon on this when I was pastoring. I asked the question to my mostly white congregation, “If your daughter was dating a black man who loved and served Jesus with all of his heart and you had a problem with her dating a black man you are a racist.” I went on to declare that many Christians would rather have their daughter date an unbelieving white man than a fully surrendered to Jesus black man.

Immediately after the service I got accosted by a bent dad who tried to show me from Scripture that whites were supposed to marry whites, blacks blacks, hispanics hispanics, etc. He got his Biblical ammo from Genesis 28:6 where Isaac, “…had blessed Jacob and had sent him to Paddan Aram to take a wife from there, and that when he blessed him he commanded him, ‘Do not marry a Canaanite woman….'” While it’s true that God commanded the Israelites not to intermingle with the pagan Canaanites it has nothing to do with the argument at hand. As a matter of fact it is a tremendously racist thing to say!

To compare the pagan Canaanites in the Old Testament with people of different skin color today is tantamount to calling other races cursed by God! What’s ironic is that the Israelites and Canaanites were most likely the same skin color. It wasn’t the color of their skin that mattered to God, but the color of their hearts.

Did you know that Moses married a black woman? Check out Numbers 12:1, “Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite.” Do you know what God’s response was to them when they complained against Moses? He struck them white with leprosy! It’s almost as if God was saying, “If you want to complain about skin color then let me give you some color to really complain about!”

The New Testament injunction against intermarrying centers around believers marrying unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14.) When you think about it Jesus married interracially when he took the church from every tribe and every nation as his bride.

It’s not just prejudices when it comes to marriage that apply here but how we view people of different nationalities in our neighborhoods, in traffic, on the street and at our jobs. And it’s not just white to black racism that applies. It’s black to white and brown to yellow and every color to any color.

Prejudice comes from pride (no matter what the color of our skin) and pride comes from the Fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden. So the solution to racism, like the solution to the Fall, is found in the cross of Christ. In the words of Dr. Tony Evans, “It’s not a black or white or brown or yellow thing. It’s a red thing. And red is for the blood of Christ that unites all believers together regardless of their skin color.” When I have struggled with racist thoughts (and I think, if we’re honest with ourselves, that we all struggle with it from time to time whether implicitly or explicitly) it’s the shed red blood of Jesus that reminds me that Jesus died for everyone so that we could all be united equally in the body of Christ together as one family.

Amen Dr. King.

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