Race, the Sabbath, and Resolutions

Race, the Sabbath, and Resolutions March 29, 2019

I wonder if Thabiti Anyabwile will support a resolution condemning the desecration of the Lord’s Day if I will also support a resolution condemning racism. The thought occurred to me after reading the pastor’s reaction to news that Tennessee’s legislators had refused to support a resolution condemning racism.

Might it be the case that the inability to admit the obvious about our past shows itself in fresh aggravation and consternation when we see Neo-Nazis marching today? Could it be that the simple act of failing to admit the historically true turns into complex construals that keep us from forthrightly naming present manifestations around us? I mean, how do Tennessee legislators today fail twice to pass a resolution condemning blatant racism?

Someone might say that legislatures should not issue resolutions but instead make laws. Simply refusing to support such a resolution might say something about politics more than race, though that is not how Anyabwile prefers to interpret it.

At the same time, Joe Carter, one of Anyabwile’s colleagues at The Gospel Coalition, warned that one danger of intersectionality is to nurture among Christians a sense of identity that relies more on demographic qualities than on a shared faith in Christ.

intersection theory may be of some use to Christians. But when it is used to justify the creation of ever more narrow and increasingly divisive identity groups, it becomes another secular worldview that Christians must reject.

While characteristics such as race and gender are not erased when a person becomes a member of God’s kingdom, our identity as Christians is rebuilt around Jesus. As the apostle Peter says, “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).

Such an understanding of Christian identity might prod me to think that Anyabwile, because of our shared identity in Christ, would support a resolution that condemned sinning against the Fourth Commandment. And if he did not lend his support, then I might also be tempted to conclude, as he does about the Tennessee legislature’s bona fides on race relations, that he is not properly concerned to defend the law of God; I might even conclude that someone who failed to support a resolution condemning violation of the Lord’s Day was a moral relativist because God’s law is the basis for any understanding of morality.

But I can well imagine that someone would object that a resolution condemning Sabbath desecration is really just my interpretation of the Fourth Commandment, not the one that all Christians who trust Christ accept. Of course, my understanding of the Lord’s Day leans heavily on my own convictions as a Presbyterian and what the Westminster Confession and Catechisms say about God’s law and the Fourth Commandment.

In which case, I don’t conclude that someone who refuses to support a resolution against Sabbath desecration is a bad Christian or a moral relativist. I believe the Ten Commandments to be obvious in the truths they communicate about God and our duty to serve him and love neighbors. But I also get it that Christians disagree on how to apply those truths to politics, society, and non-church institutions. Heck, not even Presbyterians agree on how to observe the Sabbath.

I wonder then if Anyabwile can be similarly flexible about opposition to racism and how obviously objectionable it is. A lot of people may oppose it but they may not agree on the methods to do so. I also wonder if he can make that concession, then perhaps he will be less inclined to reach certain judgments about those who dissent from the way he chooses to communicate about race relations.

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