By Jim Tune
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, English Standard Version).
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18, ESV).
A number of widely publicized events have many people concerned about racial tensions in America. Blacks and whites may not agree on underlying causes or potential solutions, but skin color aside, it seems no one is happy about the present state of affairs. Many of my Christian friends are increasingly concerned about racial injustice and are making their dissatisfaction known on social media.
Shouldn’t the church be the most active voice to champion racial reconciliation in our society? Paul makes it clear the task of racial reconciliation is not some addendum to the gospel. It cannot be shrugged off as political correctness or “social gospel.”
In The End of Evangelicalism?, David Fitch maintains the worldly powers rule by perpetuating systems of antagonism. The world, Fitch says, runs on antagonism. It requires the “other,” an object to despise, distrust, dehumanize.
Fitch examines the work of Slavoj Žižek on how ideologies work. Žižek says every ideology requires an object in order to survive. The flames of antagonism are stoked by creating this object we all despise. We galvanize around it. We form our identity around it.
Of course, this is antithetical to our real identity in Christ. But the power of the object is strong. It unites us around our worst fears and feeds our anxieties. The object is blamed when a person does not get what he believes he deserves. The Nazis had the Jew—the usurious banker, that shifty figure who aims to undermine pure German culture. Nazism survived around the object, the Jew.
I think that many Evangelicals have created an object with the LGBTQ community. They threaten our existence, our families. They stand in opposition to our idol of “family values.” We must defeat them! Entire churches are galvanized together against the object, the LGBTQ person.
Most of our culture wars require an object to despise. We pick and choose our moral indignations, leaving us distracted and impotent to accomplish our real work—the ministry of reconciliation.
For centuries, the white man has had his object in the black man. The black man is a threat to our white suburban utopias, inclined towards violence and crime. “Just look at the number of African-Americans in our prisons,” we say.
I don’t believe God intended us to view any of his image-bearers as objects to hate. So when it comes to the issue of race, I’m working harder to resist the reflex to become defensive when challenged by African-Americans about the privilege I enjoy as a white male.
I was born into social and economic systems constructed by white men. Because it’s all I know, I cannot see the world any differently without help from those who are not white and not male. I need to be intentional about listening to others and building bridges between the races.
Jesus refused to turn people into objects. So I need to take the initiative and go first. Yes, it’s humbling and it’s not easy. But when I think of what it cost Jesus to reconcile this alienated man to God, it doesn’t seem like so great a stretch.