Wednesday, July 18, 2012


This week Melissa and I are thinking about bigotry. It's a topic that leaves both of us with a nasty, greasy feeling in the pit of our stomachs, not one of those lovely or noble thoughts.  However in our lives there have been a series of events, each one leaving us more disturbed than the last.  We want to address it together.

It all started with my friend Brenda. She is a former missionary in Africa and still travels back and forth regularly. She and her husband Dan worked among Muslim people for years.  As we grew closer she shared with me how concerned she is about the number of African refugees in her hometown.  Naively, I suggested that this could be an amazing opportunity for evangelism and she remarked sadly, "They are Muslim."  Confused I asked, "So?"  Then she shared with me the attitudes of fear and hatred that they face when they try to talk in American churches about reaching out to Muslim people.  

About the same time, Melissa had this experience:

In my local congregation, there was a Bible class lesson about Cornelius.  Although the lesson was about baptism, one of our deacons said something that struck me.  He compared Peter going to Gentiles to a modern Christian going to a Muslim.  I live in the South, and there is a mosque being built in a nearby town.  Residents of the county have fought against the mosque tooth and nail.  Our deacon said, "If I brought in a busload of Muslims, preached to them and they decided to be baptized, a number of people here would complain.  That was the kind of reaction Peter experienced." I thought to myself, "I wouldn't complain.  I would rejoice!"  

With this modern problem of our view of Muslims fresh on my mind, I read my friend Yavonda Chase's blog.  She was writing about the time of segregation at my Alma Mater, Harding University.  In response to a recent article in the Arkansas Times, she wrote about the long period of segregation.  Apparently the student association indicated their eagerness to integrate based on their faith 6 years before the board of trustees allowed it.  The point of Yavonda's post was her disillusionment with the school's president at the time.  He simply did not take the radical step of faith and lead Harding to equality until long after the school was ready for it.  You can jump over and read the whole post here and the original article here.  

Similarly, Melissa writes:

I'd like to think that the separation of black and white was over.  But looking at the congregations I've attended, at least in the South, I know that we have a lot of work to do. When I asked my deacon if he really believed that his fellow Christians would complain about Muslims in our worship service, he quite boldly stated that some would have a problem with an African American family worshiping with us.  I wanted to say it wasn't true, but I know better.

How can we be so naive? Yavonda, Melissa and I all grew up in the South.  We all lived through 9/11.  Still for all of us there was a sense of shock and outrage.  Was it naivete or something deeper?

I live far from America and my brown hair and blue eyes stick out like a sore thumb here.  Everywhere I go people turn and stare.  Still, I left home convinced that under the skin, down in our hearts, we are all much more alike than we are different.  We are all sinful and desperately need Jesus. Our personal experience with sin and death unifies us all.  

So that leaves us with a couple of questions.  How does a Christian reconcile gross injustice, like the segregation going on at Harding all those years ago?  How are we supposed to feel?   How does a Christian allow fear of another religion and its fanaticism to disintegrate into hate?  How dare we exclude any group of people from the command to make disciples of every nation?  How are we supposed to feel when the people around us are ignoring the clear teaching of Scripture?  

We are sent into all the world.  We are carrying the message that there is no Jew, no Greek, no male, no female, no slave, no free. (Galatians 3:26-28)  We are going with the good word that when a person is baptized into Jesus Christ he is a new creation.  (2 Corinthians 5:7) We are sent out into all the world knowing that God waits and longs for all men to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) Although our world hides behind a mask of political correctness, it is still filled with hate, injustice and fear.  The blood bought church of Christ has no room for such things. 

It's that honesty that's hardest to come by.  Because when we are honest about what God wants, we are compelled by our faith to obedience.  Although the article in the Arkansas Times indicates that it was financial considerations that finally cause George Benson to integrate Harding, it was a clear view of God's will that drove 75% of the student body and faculty to sign the "Statement of Attitude" calling for integration.  And surely in the end it will be Christian obedience that leads us out of hatred to lovingly call our Muslim neighbors to come and meet our Jesus. 

So let me ask again, how are we supposed to feel? I, for one, am angry and scared.  Angry, because neither of my nieces are "white" and I would fight anyone or anything who dared to say they were unwelcome because of the color of their skin.  Scared, because hidden underneath that burka* is one more sinner.  Who dares explain to God that she was unworthy to hear that Jesus died for her?

Although this post is a little darker than our typical Whatsoever Wednesday post, the ideas have been weighing on our minds.   We usually give you positive things to think about on Wednesdays and today we'd love it if you'd return the favor.  Tell us are there people you know, situations you are aware of, where people are living out Galatians 3?  Tell us about the open hearts and the welcome hands in your churches and lives! Or tell us how you feel about the question posed above. 

Helene and Melissa

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