OCTOBER 25, 2016 (Original Publishing Date)
Ethnic Reconciliation will never happen in the church unless the church begins to take a deeper look at systemic racism and how she has been culpable. This election cycle, in my opinion, has demonstrated how vast the chasm is between black and white Christians. One group, even if it is willing to acknowledge Trump’s racism, sees it as a secondary negotiable issue. The other group sees it as a non-negotiable first tier issue. One group thinks certain policies are good for America; the other sees them as prejudice and oppressive to entire people groups. Some believe this election is about the country’s future; others believe it’s about the churches.
There comes the point where ideologies draw a line in the sand. At this point, one is tested concerning whether or not they really desire what they claim to believe and how willing they are to pursue it. When it comes to the Church, the claim and conviction are ethnic reconciliation and unity. I believe as a whole; the church does not truly want it yet (not speaking of my local church but a large percentage of Evangelical Christianity as a whole). If the church truly wanted it, then it would be willing to open itself up fully to correction and invite minority perspectives in with a humble heart to listen and learn. Sadly, that has not been the case. Many within the majority culture church have chosen to drive the narrative. Kaepernick is unpatriotic, Black Lives Matter is a bunch of terrorists; blacks don’t join the GOP only because they like handouts, any minority who speaks with boldness about race issues is divisive, etc.
Many within the majority culture church have yet to be humbled. They still believe that they have gotten the narrative correct, and that minorities need to get on board with that narrative. For some, with privilege, this election at the end of the day, is just a simple election. For others, it’s a test as to who is really willing to stand with them. For some, with privilege, traditionalism and liberty are on the line in this election. For others, moral traditionalism includes racism and liberty includes systemic oppression. African American just aren’t as afraid of losing what they feel they have never truly had. Evangelicalism stands at a crossroads and what has been happening in this election cycle has determined much more than an election. We are witnessing what may determine whether the American church is segregated for the next generation or more. Evangelical Christians need to ask themselves whether the country’s well-being is more important than the churches. Of course I am not speaking of all evangelicals but only a large percentage. Ultimately, God chooses rulers, but many in the church must decide whether they will trust in His providence or risk its reputation trying to control it. Every Christian will have to decide where they will stand. Will they support the killing of the unborn? Will they support racism and racist policies? Or will they say, “I will not vote for either, here I stand I can do no other, so help me God!”?
If a saint of God chooses to vote for either of these candidates, I will not judge them harshly or hold it against them. But, if you want ethnic reconciliation and you believe for some reason you must vote for Trump; for the sake of the Church and her unity- I plead with you not to broadcast that decision on social media. You may not understand the affects of doing this but I beg you to believe me, it is destroying ethnic unity more than you may realize. At the end of the day, we are called to abound in love. The love of the saints is radically more important than elections and even kingdoms.
If your actions despite your freedom to make them, will compromise love and unity; are they worth doing?
I recognize that some might say, “You are being divisive and seeking to segregate Christian Trump voters!” This would be a false indictment. I am not segregating anyone. I am simply pointing out the fact that majority culture Christianity here in the West has been segregating minorities for centuries and is currently still doing it. I am not segregating Trump supporters. I am telling white Christians who are voting for Trump that their vote very well may be an act of segregation. It has nothing to do with how I feel about it personally. This is a sociological reality and not a personal one. It will make a statement to African American that racism is a secondary issue and that you are in support of certain policies that perpetuate it. It very well may cause not only disunity in the church but in the witness of the church to African Americans who have not embraced the Gospel. This may or may not be the intention of white Christian voters but this is where we are and how it will be perceived. The Evangelical Church has for a very long time rested its security in America and American politics. I believe that Evangelicalism is now at a divinely appointed crossroads. I am making an appeal to White Evangelicalism and saying, “Choose unity over security.” It is better for the church to be unified in persecution than divided and secure.*
I also recognize that for many of the Republicans I am speaking to, the pushback I will receive is regarding Hillary Clinton. Everytime I have criticized Trump the most common response I have received is, “well, what about Hillary!” I recognize that I am speaking to saints who already consider Hillary to be “off the table.” Most evangelical Christians already consider pro-life to be a non-negotiable issue. The question I am raising is whether or not they will consider racism to be a non-negotiable issue as well. When conservatives say, “pro-life” will they include in that black lives from the womb to the tomb? If not, then it will likely cost them ethnic reconciliation
In the early 5th century, the once beautiful and power Roman Empire had fallen. Christians had already lived a few centuries in relative peace, and they had begun resting in the security of the Roman Empire. How could the Christians be comforted when their national security and religious liberty were now once again in jeopardy? Saint Augustine sought to encourage the saints by writing a book, a book called the City of God. In this work, Augustine sought to remind the Christians of the reality of two kingdoms. Saint Augustine believed that it was critical for the saints of the era to understand the differences between the City of Man and the City of God. In Augustine’s mind, the City of Man had benefitted greatly from the City of God, but the Church had become too complacent relying on the City of Man. Augustine sought to remind the early Christians that they ultimately belonged to another kingdom and that they were to live according to that reality. Augustine believed that Nations rise and fall but that the Kingdom of God was forever. The American church needs to be reminded of this distinction. In my opinion, the Church has come to rely too much on the City of Man for its comforts and liberty. The more Christians realize they are not of this world, the more they begin to make decisions based upon their true citizenship. The Kingdom of God is made up of image bearers from every tribe, tongue, and people group. They are bonded together in unity through the work of Christ, their King. The Kingdom of man is a segregated place. It does not know how to experience unity in diversity, and so it seeks to establish unity not by recognizing the beauty of diversity but rather through segregation, concepts of ethnic superiority, or by encouraging its citizens to be colorblind. The Kingdom of God is built upon foundations of love. The Kingdom of Man is built upon the foundation of self-perseverance. For the past several months, the church has struggled greatly regarding the unity of its citizens. I believe this struggle is primarily a battle in the Christian mind concerning what Kingdom holds their allegiance. As you go into the voting booth tomorrow and as you share who you are voting for on social media and the reasons why you are doing so, remember this;
The City/Kingdom of Man is perishing, and its nations rise and fall. The City/Kingdom of God is forever, and the unity of its citizens is bonded together with the glue of divine love for all eternity. Rest in your citizenship Christian and vote as an ambassador who is simply sojourning through this land whose hope is in elections.
You can follow me on Twitter @KyleJamesHoward. Also, check out my podcast “Coram Deo Podcast” which focuses on issues concerning Biblical Counseling and Practical Theology. You can search for podcast on any major podcast catcher, listen on the web here, follow updates @CoramDeoPodcast, or just click the artwork below.
Kyle J. Howard currently serves the church as a Christian counselor. He is a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he received his associate degree in biblical/theological studies and a bachelor’s degree in biblical counseling. He currently lives in Atlanta & is finishing an advanced M. Divinity in Historical Theology and ultimately desires to pastor.