Christianity & the KKK

The news coverage was fairly descriptive.  Two sides stood opposed to each other in Columbia, South Carolina, just outside the Capital Building.  On one side stood those in favor of removing the confederate flag; on the other side stood the KKK.  The news coverage proceeded to discuss the small showing on the part of the KKK, its declining membership over the years, and the disjointed nature of its current organization.  For one, I am thankful the KKK has declined in membership over the years.  In my opinion, it would be wonderful if it dissolved entirely.

Yet, it made me think about its origins and implications for believers today.  Sadly, the Klan legitimized their beliefs from the Bible.  In the 1920s the Klan intentionally wedded their mission to Biblical principles in order to stimulate recruitment.  At the time 2/3 of their speakers were Protestant ministers.  To this day, there is still an underlying Biblical motivation for their cause.  For the record, I think the attempt to connect their views to a Christian belief system is reckless, absurd, and offensive.  This dynamic caused me reflect on some implications for us.

First, God is used to defend a variety of misguided views.  People can twist the Bible to say pretty much whatever they want.  This is the case with the KKK.  They appeal to a divine document in order to further their cause.  Yet, the issue is not one of conviction but manipulation.  Rather than honestly surrendering to the truths of Scripture, it is twisted for an agenda.  While I would not put us in the same camp as the KKK, I think we need to be reminded that we oftentimes use Scripture to drive our desires.  We use Biblical truth to rationalize our opinions, behavior, and choices, sometimes not because the Bible clearly states it but rather because we want it to.  I have heard cases where Scripture is used to rationalize porn-viewing in order to enrich a marriage, judgment towards others based on moral superiority, and materialism as a sign of God’s blessings.  For us, I think we need to be very willing to humbly submit to Biblical truth, allowing it to authoritatively speak into our lives rather than as a document to justify behavior.

Second, it is not simply about beliefs but character.  Apart from the KKK’s distorted views, the character is clearly out-of-whack with the life of Christ.  Even if a person agreed with their beliefs, they should dismiss it because their character is one of hatred.  Therefore, they undermine their own beliefs by their racism.  Scripture powerfully affirms that our beliefs are given credibility by our actions.  True belief is displayed by true character.  Oh, there is such a temptation for us as believers to have two sets of books:  there are our beliefs and there are our actions.  And oftentimes they don’t complement one another.  This is why many people have a problem with the church.  We say one thing and we do something else.  I am guilty of this at times.  I find myself affirming forgiveness only to discover I am also hanging onto resentment in some corner of my life.  In those cases, my character is disconnected from my beliefs.  So, I am reminded by the KKK that character must always radiate from my beliefs not be separate from it.

Lastly, we need to shine sometimes to compensate for those that give Christ a bad name.  I am the first to say that it annoys me when someone poorly reflects on our Lord.  We should strive to be a light to the world – we are ambassadors for Him.  Yet, sometimes, it is easy to hide our faith because we don’t want to be attached to those that negatively define us.  I think the solution is the opposite.  We need to graciously shine all the more so that people see and know the real deal.  There have always been people who have done unflattering things in the name of Christ and there always will be.  I can’t control them.  I can only control myself and the life I live for Christ.

Same-Sex Marriage

Ok, it is a little late to be commenting on the same-sex marriage decision.  In terms of internet time, two weeks is comparable to one decade.  Yet, I have been out-of-town for a couple of weeks due to sabbatical so I have been delayed in commenting on this topic.  However, it is better late than never.

At this point, you have probably heard every imaginable opinion on the subject.  There has been debate over the constitutionality of the decision.  Some have championed the decision while others have expressed deep sadness over the trajectory of our country.  Christians have raised concern over its implications for religious freedom, namely the church’s autonomy from the state, e.g. will this eventually require ministers to perform same-sex marriage?  Relevant to me, there has been renewed soul-searching as to how the church is to respond.  As a pastor, I would like to take a few moments to comment on this last issue.

First, we should find time to lament.  We live in a country with a Christian heritage.  While I dispute that we were founded on Christian principles (a subject for another day), I do recognize our country has a long history of commitment to Christian faith and morality.  When we see fractures to this heritage it saddens those that embrace such a value system.  We see society adrift.  We grow nervous.  We become anxious.  We want to shake society and say “don’t forget our roots.”  We look into the future and we become deeply concerned if not agitated.  Underlying these emotions is a deep sadness over how far we have swayed from a Christian worldview.  Unfortunately, this sadness is projected into judgment towards society rather than lament to God.  Scriptures calls us to bring our requests to God which includes sadness, anger, and fear.  Rather than point fingers, we should recommit our nation to God through prayer, with humility and honest lament.

Second, we should remember the church is called to be counter-cultural.  Christ was counter-cultural.  He esteemed the poor when society discarded them.  He elevated women from a second-tier status to one of dignity and calling.  He humbly yet truthfully challenged Pilate on matters of truth.  Christ’s kingdom is not of this world.  He is the light; the darkness does not understand it.  The truth was powerfully displayed because it was countercultural not because it reflected the culture.  There is a similar opportunity for the church today – to be countercultural in truth.  Yet, it is only countercultural when truth is accompanied with grace otherwise it simply becomes arrogance.  We should affirm our convictions but in a way that makes it attractive.  It is what Christ did; it is what we should do.

Third, we should remember that our lives are not dictated by the government.  Does the same-sex decision impact our lives?  Yes.  Does it dictate our lives?  Absolutely not.  Our emotions should be steadied with the knowledge that God is as sovereign today as He was three weeks ago.  Circumstances change; God does not change.  Societal standards of marriage change but God does not change.  If this is true, our emotions should remain calm.  Our posture towards the future should remain hopeful.  Our faith should remain resolute.  The mission of Christ was not derailed by Pilate’s decision to execute him (in fact it accelerated it).  Nor does the mission of the church get squashed by a change in law.  If anything, it highlights its urgency.

Lastly, our love should grow bolder.  It is in moments such as this that our love should be radical and unconditional.  We should be accepting without being accommodating.  Our lives should boldly proclaim that it is possible to hold to a different view of sexuality than many people while fully accepting them as persons.  We should be ok with honest debates with coworkers, family members, and neighbors without feeling threatened.  It is in these moments that we can show a quiet faith that embraces transcendent truths in a spirit of love.

Christ stated that this is not our home.   Recent events remind me of this truth.  Yet, as long as I am in this body, I am to be part of this world without being like the world.  I am to engage in society – fully, honestly, and lovingly, yet in a way that reflects the convictions and character of someone simply passing through.