“Remember, man, that you are dust and into dust you shall return.”
I came across an article the other day in which Dr. F. Keith Slaughter of the Morehouse College School of Religion suggests that the Black Church should welcome and embrace the message of liberation as espoused by Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam.
Perhaps I’m stating the obvious here, but, it should come as no surprise to those of you who regularly follow this blog that I disagree, vehemently, not only with the sentiments expressed by Dr. Slaughter and the worldview he posits with regard to black liberation theology, but also with Islam, which has been so instrumental in shaping the worldview of Louis Farrakhan.
Though it cannot be said that Dr. Slaughter’s perspective applies to the Black Church as a whole, and I don’t mean to imply that it does, it is no less concerning that in light of recent events in America in which race has either been alleged or proven to be a factor, many today within the Black Church appear to subscribe to a theological paradigm which proposes that it is more important for black Christians to identify as black than Christian.
But why should such a distinction be necessary to begin with?
After all, is not the One upon whom the Christian faith is founded the Creator of us all (John 1:3)?
If so why, then, are we so discontented with this reality that we seek to leverage our God-given race and ethnicity as if we created ourselves that way? And even if we did possess within ourselves the ability to determine our own racial or ethnic composition, the logic of black liberation theology suggests, does it not, that to choose to be black would be a most egregious error given the inherent suffering that accompanies those who possess such a trait?
All this begs the question which is more important: how God formed me on the outside or how He desires to conform me on the inside (Romans 8:29)?
Perhaps I’m in the minority (no pun intended) but, as a Christian who is black, I am of the opinion that the process of God conforming me into the image of His Son (sanctification) is infinitely more important than how He formed me physically (as should be the case for every Christian regardless of race or ethnicity.)
…and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation. – Acts 17:26 (NASB)
I’ve often thought that the incomparable genius of God in sovereignly creating each of us with our own unique set of external characteristics, presents us with somewhat of a paradox in that inwardly we all share the same sin nature.
So, even those seemingly innocuous physical attributes, such as race and ethnicity, with which God endows us as an expression of His glory can, because of indwelling sin (Romans 7:21), be viewed in ways that would entice us to ascribe to ourselves the glory that rightly belongs to Him (Psalm 29:2) and that is idolatry.
Consider, if you will, that the most significant attribute of Jesus is His deity (Colossians 1:15, 2:9; Philippians 2:6), and yet during His earthly ministry Christ did not presume upon His divinity for His own advantage. I mention that because I believe there is an inherent danger for we who are black and followers of Christ in viewing our ethnicity or, as some would say, our “blackness”, as a pretext to our identity in Christ.
That is not to say that our ethnicity should not be taken into account with respect to who we are as individuals, or how our individual experiences—whether socio-cultural or otherwise—have contributed to shaping our unique personhood.
I’m not saying that at all.
Quite the contrary.
I count it a blessing to have been born where I was, when I was, and as I was. I can appreciate having been exposed to what many would call the “black experience”—the food, the music, the ecclesiological distinctions—nevertheless, I count it an exponentially greater blessing to have been born again, because when my life on this earth is over my ethnicity won’t count for anything—not one thing.
In that moment when I breathe my final breath and my heart beats its last in this life, the only thing that will matter will be the condition of my heart not the color of my skin.
But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” – Galatians 6:14 (NASB)
What I fear is happening today within the Black Church is that ethnicity and, more specifically, social justice/liberation theology, is becoming a type of golden calf by which many black Christians are hoping to be ushered into a worldly “promised land” where our blackness (there’s that word again) is worshiped by non-blacks in the Church for the ecclesiastical and cultural commodity it is.
However, my question to those who would aspire to such a temporal vision is this: is it not enough for us to be counted among God’s elect (Romans 9:16) that we would desire to augment His grace, unmerited as it is, by seeking to be viewed first as black then elect? Have we forgotten that all who belong to Christ are of one Lord, one faith and one baptism (Ephesians 4:4-6) and that godly oneness should be the goal of His body, the Church (1 Corinthians 1:10; Romans 12:18)?
The truth is, there is no room in the Church of Christ—I say that in an ecclesiastical sense, not a denominational one—for the separatist worldview of people like Louis Farrakhan.
In fact, for the Black Church to offer a platform by which to proffer such a divisive message based solely on the fact that Farrakhan is black, not to mention that he is Muslim and adheres to a worldview, Islam, that couldn’t be more antithetical to biblical Christianity, is sinful and as such should be wholeheartedly rejected.
My loving admonition to my black brothers and sisters in Christ is that we set our minds on who we are in Christ, not on who we (or others) see us in the world.
And all dust is the same color.
Humbly in Christ,