This article is about prejudice. It's about the ‘n’ word, as well as every other denigrating racial slur in use today. Of course, the mature Christian would not use any of these ugly slurs as they indicate a condition of the heart that is clearly condemned in the Word of God. We'll have more to say about this shortly, but first there are some things we ought to consider concerning the subject of prejudice.
Thomas Sowell, an extremely talented thinker and writer, who happens to be black, writing in the Washington Star, said:
A man who says we should really "tell it like it is" refers to whites and blacks as "pink people" and "brown people." These jarring phrases are of course more accurate, but that may be why they are jarring. Race is not an area especially noted for accuracy—or for rationality or candor. More often it is an area of symbolism, stereotype, and euphemism. The plain truth sounds off-key and even suspicious. Gross exaggerations like white and black are more like the kind of polarization we are used to.
All of us, no matter what color we happen to be, are much more alike than we are different. We are all created in the image of God and the blood that gives life to one race also gives life to another (cf. Acts 17:26). We all share a plethora of beliefs, thoughts, feelings, hopes, and aspirations common to the human race. This is not to say that there are no differences among us. Some of us are male, some female; some black (brown), some white (pink); some red, some yellow; some tall, some short; some thin, some fat; etc. Of course, none of these differences are what makes us uniquely human. Prejudice, whether it be racial or sexual, in an effort to disguise the commonality shared by all human beings, always seeks to capitalize on our differences.
In the surrealistic motion picture Apocalypse Now, there is a graphic scene in which a group of U.S. servicemen on gun-boat duty encounter a boat load of Vietnamese civilians. One thing leads to another in the confrontation and eventually, when a misinterpreted move is made by one of the civilians, the Americans open fire with machine-guns, killing all the Vietnamese. All during the killing, which was shown in slow motion, the Americans, both white and black, were using words like "gook," "slants," and "slopes." Just how accurate this scene was in portraying the reality that was Vietnam we do not know; nevertheless, it did accurately represent the idea that murder is facilitated by hate, and hate by ugly racial slurs.
Until recently (the last twenty-five years) prejudice against blacks was institutionalized in this country. Not only were blacks considered to be second-class citizens, but they were thought of as second-class human beings as well, and in some cases, not even human beings. To deny this is to deny the way things were. As a nation, we have acknowledged the wrongness of racial prejudice and have instituted efforts to protect the citizenship privileges of black Americans.
Does this mean that prejudice and racism are dead in our society? No, it does not! Prejudice and racism are still very much a part of our nation. Although it is no longer institutionalized, it lives in the hearts of men and women, both white and black. Sometimes it even rears its ugly head among Christians. Recently, while making preparations for a gospel meeting with an evangelist who happened to be black, the local evangelist of a church of Christ in St. Louis, MO, received a phone call from an individual who insisted that it was wrong for those of different races to meet and worship together on a regular basis. This individual is reported to have said that such would cause "the blacks to think they were equal with the whites." The shocked evangelist says his response was, "I surely hope so." What makes this call so shocking is that it did not come from a member of the Ku Klux Klan or some other "White Supremacy" group. Neither was it from some person in the world who is not interested in the Word of God. It was, instead, from an individual who is a member of the body of Christ and a preacher of the gospel. When this individual was asked what he would do if black people visited the congregation where he preached and indicated their desire to be identified with the work, he is reported to have said he would take them aside and talk to them and advise them to attend elsewhere (naming three other congregations in the St. Louis area). At least the man James condemns in James 2 was willing to make a place for the poor man; this man is not even willing to do that for one who happens to be black.
There is absolutely no excuse for such behavior on the part of one who professes to be a Christian. The apostle Peter said, "God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean" (Acts 10:28). Peter should have known that the Gentiles were to be a part of the New Covenant based on what the prophets had said about it (Isaiah 2:2-4; Joel 28:19,20), and the commission the Lord gave him (Matthew 28:19,20), but it took a miracle to make him really understand it. With improved perception, Peter said, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34). This seems to be a very hard lesson for some to understand even today. Short of a miracle, it appears some are just not going to be convinced of this truth.
Someone might be tempted to say, "Okay, okay, you've made your point; if they are going to be in heaven, then I suppose I can stand them being in our assemblies, but that's as far as it goes." But, dear friend, we have not yet made the point we wish to make. The issue of prejudice is not just limited to what some would call a religious application; but it has a social application as well.
In Acts 11:3, certain of the Jerusalem brethren were upset with Peter because he had socialized with the Gentiles. Later on, because he apparently feared this powerful group, Peter failed to eat or socialize with the Gentiles, and it was necessary for Paul to withstand him to his face because he was to be blamed (Galatians 2:11). Notice, if you will, that Peter was not refusing to have fellowship with the Gentile Christians in the assemblies of the church, but he was refusing to eat or socialize with them. According to Paul, Peter "walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel" in this matter (Galatians 2:14). If it was wrong for Peter to refuse to socialize with people because of their racial background almost two thousand years ago, what makes anyone think racial discrimination could be right when engaged in by Christians today?
Years ago, while in college, I worked as a plain clothes security guard for a large department store chain. My job was to catch shop lifters—and I caught lots of them. It wasn't long before a new lady, who was black, was assigned to me for training. One day she signaled me that she had a shop lifter spotted. When I approached her for a description of the culprit, she told me he was a male and then began to give me a description of his clothing and general build. I said, "What color is he?" She gave me a very startled look and continued giving me a description of the suspect's clothing. Again, I said, "What color is he?" She said, with a very hurt look on her face, "Black, but I don't see what that has to do with it." After apprehending the shop lifter and finishing the paperwork, I had the opportunity to explain to my partner that every police description of a suspect begins with his or her race, then sex, age, etc. I explained to her that I meant nothing derogatory in asking for the suspect's race, but was only trying to get him identified. She said she had thought the question implied race had something to do with the crime, i.e., "he's probably a black, right?" I assured her this was not the case and that the question itself proved it was not intended to be prejudicial. The question assumed that the shop lifter could be either white or black, and it most certainly did not assume the shop lifter was probably black because white prejudice believes most blacks are thieves. After having some time to think about it, this lady, much to her credit, apologized for what she admitted was her own prejudice. I happen to believe the world was made better that day in that two people, two races, and two sexes began to understand the other just a little bit better.
Although it sounds strange, racism is really color blind. Although they are rarely held accountable for their own prejudices, blacks as well as whites are guilty of racism. As a matter of fact, a system of reverse discrimination has now been institutionalized in our society. White men are now being refused jobs for which they are qualified solely because they are white and male. Under the present quota system, the best qualified does not necessarily get the job. A female or black with substandard test scores and qualifications will get the job or appointment over the better qualified white applicant if the female and black quotas have not been filled. This kind of bias is wrongly being sanctioned in America today. Discrimination in housing, education, or employment is considered vile and intolerable unless it is directed at white males, in which case it is justified as a necessary expedient for attaining equality. When conservative black men speak out against such abuses, they are considered traitors by members of their own race. Why? Because racism isn't just a white man's disease.
Furthermore, it is axiomatic that many blacks vote reflexively for black candidates. A case in point is the recent (late 80s) New York Democratic primary for mayor in which David Dinkins, a black, received 90 percent of the black vote. Could I convince you that 90 percent of the blacks voted for Dinkins because they carefully weighed his qualifications and agenda and objectively determined he was the greatest political figure since Teddy Roosevelt? I didn't think so.
Then there is the 1988 Democratic presidential primaries in which blacks voted en masse for Jesse Jackson despite the fact that he made his contempt for Jews and Israel quite clear by embracing the PLO, refusing to repudiate anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, and calling New York city "Hymietown." And would Harold Washington, a man who once served time for embezzling a client's trust funds, ever have been elected mayor of Chicago had he the political misfortune of being born white? And how about Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, whose administration makes Gen. Manuel Noriega's regime in Panama seem a model of good government? Barry believes in fighting drugs by befriending pushers. Nevertheless, the political astute believe Barry could easily defeat any white challenge—regardless of the latter's competence or incorruptibility—due to the District's overwhelming black registration. And then there is black film maker Spike Lee! Although Lee's movie Do the Right Thing is a tribute to racial violence, he is celebrated as an "innovator" in a recent issue of Newsweek. Such things are rationalized by many blacks and whites as "racial pride"—a euphemism for racism the media condones. In truth, blacks today are rarely held accountable for their own prejudices. Nevertheless, racial prejudice is no less ugly when committed by blacks and certainly no more justifiable.
Racism, whether white or black, is a sin that will stoke the fires of hell for an eternity. This is the very thing the Lord was addressing in Matthew 5:22. There the Lord said: "But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." In this passage the Lord identified three stages of condemnation: (1) the local group of judges—the judgment, (2) the Jewish high court—the council, and (3) the ultimate judgment of God—hell fire. The teaching is that if one is angry with another in his heart, it may cause him to act in such a way as to be called before the local authorities, i.e., they may want to know why one is acting the way he is. If one progresses further and heaps scorn on his neighbor by reflecting on his intellectual capacity by verbalizing such words as "raca, simpleton and stupid," then one may just find himself before the high court for his slanderous remarks. But, if one thinks of his neighbor as a "fool," (all the commentators seem to agree this refers to the moral and religious character of an individual, e.g., using abusive and defamatory words like "worthless and scum") then one will be judged worthy of the ultimate penalty—hell fire!
Dear brother and sister in Christ, white or black, just because prejudice is sometimes something which is very personal does not mean it is something we do not have to worry about. Just because it often remains hidden in the heart does not mean it will not send us to hell—it will!
As we grow up in Christ Jesus, let us determine "To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men...For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another" (Titus 3:2,3).