There weren’t supposed to be anymore after this one. World War I. The war to end all wars. You’ve probably heard that phrase before. You’ve probably also heard the phrase, World War II. So much for ending all of the wars.
Racism was dead. That’s what we were told after the election of Barack Obama. Racism, just like war, is still with us. It seems that humans aren’t so good at putting an end to things, no matter how bad we may hate them.
Why? Why can’t we get rid of racism? The Klan isn’t what it used to be. Blacks and whites share the same water fountains and schools. We have a black president. But we still have a racism problem.
It’s a problem that can’t be fixed by a new government program. Remember, the great advances that took place under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King in the 1960s were not done in partnership with any government. They were done in resistance to government.
And the problem can’t be fixed by somehow morphing all varieties of cultures into one, as if that were even possible. Some of the most racist comments I’ve ever heard came from the mouths of white kids who loved hip-hop and had reputations for “acting black.”
Racism is a heart problem. It’s a worship problem. When Christ is not the Master of our hearts, we will quickly find something else to worship. Sometimes that something else is our race. The first and most frequent order of business for worshipers of race is the classic double standard. That’s what happens when people stop at nothing, even faulty logic, to protect their race god. It’s what happens when things like truth, love and grace take a backseat to skin color.
You live in a pretty nice neighborhood. The white guy who lives a few houses down from you doesn’t take care of his yard. It must be because he’s just too busy. The black family on the other side of you is just lazy when their yard gets out of control.
When the white guy’s dog growls at you and scares your kid, you mutter something under your breath about that guy needing to get a new dog. When the same scenario plays itself out with your black neighbors you say something to yourself about it being a cultural problem and “just how those people are.”
I grew up just south of Atlanta in Clayton County, Georgia. In the 1970s it was the place to be. In the 1980s, when I was living there, it was slowly becoming the place not to be. So people started leaving. Not all people. Mainly just the white people. Most of them were moving a county or two south, further away from the Atlanta sprawl. People called it the white flight.
A few months ago, Spike Lee lamented the fact that garbage is getting picked up and schools are improving and white mothers are pushing their kids in strollers down 125th street at 3 a.m. in his old New York neighborhood. When he goes on a profanity laden tirade to tell white hipsters to get out of his neighborhood, he’s just “pointing out basic facts of gentrification.”
World War II let us know that World War I wasn’t the war to end all wars. The ignorant comments we still hear from socially conscious filmmakers, super rich NBA franchise owners and our own muffled voices remind us that racism is still around.
I am the pastor of a church. Towaliga Baptist Church. There’s another church in my town with a similar name. Towaliga County Line Baptist Church. My church is full of white people. County Line is known as a “black church.”
Several weeks ago, two black men knocked on the door of my office. They were from out of town and trying to get to a funeral at County Line. As soon as I opened the door, one man chuckled. He wasn’t expecting to see a white guy in blue jeans. His words are stuck in my head.
“I think we’ve got the wrong church.”
Minutes later, I had the same conversation with two black women looking for the same funeral. This kind of thing happens to me a lot.
I really want it to quit. I’m tired of churches and neighborhoods being classified as black or white. I’d like to see us somehow manage to live on the same street and worship in the same building, realizing that we can be different from each other and still get along.
But it’s never going to happen if we don’t first address the double standards that keep showing up in our hearts. They can’t be corrected with a new government task force or silly clichés about love being color blind.
It will take a lot of grace, repentance and forgiveness. It will mean laying down our double standards and refusing to worship our race god. Even then, we won’t be perfect. But we can do our best to make things better while we wait for the return of our Master.
The One before whom people from every tribe, language and tongue will finally lay down their weapons and join in worship together.
The One who will end all wars.