Racial reconciliation is very much in the hearts and minds of people of goodwill around the country and around the world. The great evangelist, Billy Graham, said recently that he felt the greatest hindrance to effective evangelization around the world is racism that still exists in the Body of Christ. I don’t think it was an overstatement. I think it is one of the greatest hindrances.
I’m disturbed as a believer in Jesus Christ and as a pastor by recent information that Islam, the Muslim religion in this country, is now the second largest religion and has overtaken Judaism. Much of the proselytizing that is taking place in Islam is in the black community and in the jails and prisons where there is an ongoing disaffection between many blacks and people of color about racism in the society and in the church. But there is a ray of hope. I’ve had the privilege of being involved in a number of meetings and conferences where 25 years ago the issue of racism would not have been discussed at all. But now it is not only discussed; there has been an ongoing open declaration that racism is sin.
Recently at St. Stephen’s Church, I noticed that there was a brother of a lighter hue sitting in the back of the church. He came to the fellowship meeting after worship and said, “I need to make a statement.” He was 49 years of age. He was a successful businessman who had three grown sons and one daughter. I was amazed at what he had to say. He said, “I want to tell you that today is the first day of my life that I have not had hatred and prejudice toward black folk. My father taught me to hate blacks. His father taught him and I taught my three sons to hate blacks. But today, I don’t have any of that hatred anymore. It’s all gone. So, I’ve come to repent and confess and ask for forgiveness. Now I have to face my sons and daughter whom I’ve taught to hate black people and tell them that I was wrong.”
One man’s confession and repentance released a flood of forgiveness in our congregation. There was a great rejoicing as we experienced the liberating power of the Holy Spirit. I’m thankful that the church is saying, without any trepidation, without any apologies, the truth that “racism is sin.”
Evangelicals and the church everywhere need to deal with sin, not on the basis of sociological or anthropological insights or cultural dictate, but the church must deal with sin based on Scripture. Isn’t it interesting that if there’s adultery in the congregation, we deal with it on the basis of Scripture? If somebody is stealing the offering, we deal with it based on the law and the Scriptures. If there’s any other sin identified among the body of believers, we deal with it based on the Scriptures. For too long the church accepted racism and justified its existence in the church and society based on cultural norms. Just as the scripture exposes and condemns murder, adultery, and other sins so the scripture also exposes and condemns the sin of racism.
I have a working definition for racism. Racism is prejudice plus power. It is the institutionalized expression of a controlling group’s prejudices. Racism is sin and it is sin on several counts. It is a clear violation of God’s law of love. It has enslaved, impoverished, and oppressed people in the United States and around the world. Racism is idolatry because it teaches that salvation is by race rather than grace. It is sin. It is an act of rebellion against God’s revealed truth that all human life is created in God’s image. Humanity fully expresses God’s image in a wealth of diversity.
Racism is sin because it teaches that man’s dignity and worth are determined by skin color and not by man’s relatedness to God. Racism is sin because it places culture and customs above Scripture.
Racism is sin because it distorts the gospel. Racism is sin because it teaches that a person can be excluded from acceptance into the family of faith based on skin, when the gospel clearly teaches that the only basis of exclusion form the kingdom, from the family of faith, is sin, not skin.
— by Bishop George D. McKinney
Bishop McKinney is the founder and pastor of St. Stephen’s Cathedral COGIC in San Diego, which he founded in 1962 along with his late wife Dr. Jean C. McKinney. Learn more at www.ststephenscogic.org.