Racism Is an Evil

Racism Is an Evil August 14, 2017

From my wife’s Orthodox church leadership in Charleston.  It’s a tradition that knows painfully well the evil of ethnicity turned sour, and racial feuds and vendettas through the ages.  As her priest said, ethnicity is a fact, and a potentially beautiful one.  But race is an artificial construct, most often leading to evil.  It’s worth noting that among all Christian leaders, hers are the ones warning against all racism and strife, not just the more obvious based on the culture at hand.  They do when Islamic terrorists strike.  They do when racist right wing nationalist terrorists strike.  That likely comes from knowing such things happen in a world outside of the demographic groups around which us Americans tend to frame the issue:

 

RACISM IS ANTI-CHRISTIAN:

“If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” – I John 4:20

ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS of VIRGINIA: come together and march together to show witness to these truths we hold: In Christ we are one, with absolutely no regard to race, nationality, color of skin, nation of origin. HOLD THOSE BANNERS AND CROSSES HIGH! LET THE WORLD SEE AND KNOW TO WHAT THE LORD JESUS CHRIST HAS CALLED US!

“We renounce, censure and condemn racism, that is racial discrimination, ethnic feuds, hatreds and dissensions within the Church of Christ, as contrary to the teaching of the Gospel and the holy canons of our blessed fathers which “support the holy Church and the entire Christian world, embellish it and lead it to divine godliness.” – Synod of Constantinople of 1872

 

Meanwhile, Archbishop Chaput had this to say:

STATEMENT OF ARCHBISHOP CHARLES J. CHAPUT, O.F.M. CAP. REGARDING RACIAL VIOLENCE IN CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA

Racism is a poison of the soul. It’s the ugly, original sin of our country, an illness that has never fully healed. Blending it with the Nazi salute, the relic of a regime that murdered millions, compounds the obscenity. Thus the wave of public anger about white nationalist events in Charlottesville this weekend is well warranted. We especially need to pray for those injured in the violence.
But we need more than pious public statements. If our anger today is just another mental virus displaced tomorrow by the next distraction or outrage we find in the media, nothing will change. Charlottesville matters. It’s a snapshot of our public unraveling into real hatreds brutally expressed; a collapse of restraint and mutual respect now taking place across the country. We need to keep the images of Charlottesville alive in our memories. If we want a different kind of country in the future, we need to start today with a conversion in our own hearts, and an insistence on the same in others. That may sound simple. But the history of our nation and its tortured attitudes toward race proves exactly the opposite.
When evil rears its ugly head, you call it out.  By name.  My uncles fought the Nazis and what they stood for when they were young.  We don’t need to excuse them now.  It was evil then.  It is evil now.
So in two different approaches from two different traditions, the message is the same.  Racism is an evil.  In America, we have seen one particular manifestation of this in the roots of how we were formed.  It’s been there from before the beginning.  It existed already in Europe before the first English came to these shores.  And it continued to shape how we see people – as races.  As demographics.
And yet it’s not just us.  It never has been.  People have divided up for ages and ages.  The reasons could be many – by kingdom or realm, empire or religion, geography or bloodlines – but the reasons people set themselves against others are limitless.  I think that’s why these two statements, from representatives of ancient traditions that were already ancient before the civilization called Europe was even formed, means something.
They’ve been around.  The idea of America?  Why, there are debates about music in those traditions that are older than America.  So it shouldn’t be surprising that they each speak to the issue in ways we’re not hearing in other quarters.  And as Christians, we should be glad.
For racism is sin.  It is an evil.  It is not unique to the US, though ours is a specific brand.  If we ended white nationalist racism tomorrow, other forms would rise to replace it.  And if no other form of racism existed, some other method for dividing those with stars on their bellies from those without would take its place.
The trick is to remember, as Christians, we live in another world model.  Another understanding of the universe.  Two thousand years before all this, the Apostle Paul was already reflecting on the ramifications of this new revelation in Christ.  In an ancient world where there were stark distinctions between people in ways we can’t imagine, he pronounced bold words that we have yet to live up to:
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
We can’t account for the world around us.  But we can show the world what we are to be about.  If the world will insist on divisions, we can still live a unity that transcends the latest discord of convenience.

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