Coming as it was from one of the most well-known pastors in the world, I could not have been more disappointed with what I was listening to. To actually hear the (no doubt very well-meaning) words “As a white pastor, I am part of the problem” from the pulpit, ostensibly as part of a Biblical sermon, was bewildering.

I would assume that most readers of my column are aware of my background, but please allow me to clear one thing up right at the outset for those who perhaps are not. I am not “some white guy indignant at being confronted with my inherent sin.” I am actually a “brownish” guy, half Puerto Rican, one quarter Lebanese, one quarter French. So kindly spare me any white guilt lectures; my tanned tribe of one took a vote and isn’t interested in hearing it.

No, it is not my skin color that makes me so sick at what I listened to; it is my loyalty to Christ and my belief in the transformative power of salvation and Scripture that does that when confronted by such tripe.

When I was a young boy I heard a great many preachers, almost all of them white. Some of them were solid, Biblical men. Some, though, were unabashedly racist. They taught that black people were inferior and even inherently wicked because of the color of their skin. They even went so far as to say that there was no use even taking them the gospel, because God could never change them. Now at fifty years of age I awaken to find that the exact same racist heresy is still very much alive and well, only with white substituted for black. That isn’t progress; it is wickedness. And as to the preachers saying it, if they simply stood and said “I am a racist,” I would not have an issue with them; they know themselves better than anyone. But they invariably quickly move away from “I” to “we” and then settle in for the long term at “you.” If that were not, in fact, the real focus, then the pastor would simply resign without even finishing the message and thereby immediately eliminate the self-identified “problem.”

One of the things that bothers me about all of the angst and white guilt being displayed by a few luminaries is that it is excellent proof of how much focus they have on themselves and how little attention they actually pay to others. It is as if they themselves are finally for the first time ever discovering how wrong it was to view blacks in such a poor light, and not even beginning to realize how many people are already decades ahead of them. I have watched with keen interest a radical, God-powered transformation of churches all across the southern United States over the past five decades. I now literally do not know of a single formerly white only church anywhere that is not sincerely welcoming to a person of any race. I am sure they are probably still out there, but if so they are hidden as well as Waldo himself. The battle was fought and won on the basis of Scripture, and people moved on. The devil lost at maintaining that racial hatred toward blacks, and now has turned his attention to stirring up hatred toward whites, which will accomplish the exact same work of causing a schism in the body of Christ.

But the thing that bothers me even more about all of it is that it is an insult to both the blood and the Book. When black people get saved, they become “new creatures in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17) which is also exactly what happens to white people when they get saved. “Old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new,” the verse goes on to say. When anything is somehow removed from that umbrella and taken into the pulpit to “fix a sin so innate that the gospel cannot change it,” it is both pride and blasphemy, not a sign of introspection and humility. Furthermore, when Christ has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), forgiven us all trespasses (Colossians 2:13), and imputed his own righteousness to our account (Romans 4:24), how dare anyone “lay anything to the charge of God’s elect”? (Romans 8:23).

I have spent my lifetime preaching about how very wicked racism is. I mean that literally; I started preaching at twelve years old, and that has been one of my most consistent messages. I (apparently very naively) thought that people had gotten the message by now. How mortifying, then, to find it achieving mainstream acceptance once more, just with a different target.

Preachers, preach fervently and consistently that racism is wrong, no matter who engages in it, and no matter to whom it is directed. But also preach that we are all of one blood (Acts 17:26) and that God made every person the color he made them because it pleased him to do so (Revelation 4:11). Tell white people to hold their heads up high and view themselves as “fearfully and wonderfully made,” (Psalm 139:14) just like black people. Tell black people to hold their heads up high and view themselves as being “made in God’s image” just like white people (Genesis 1:26). And tell everyone of every race that they are neither responsible for the sins of their forefathers, nor somehow genetically bound to follow in those footsteps due to the amount of melanin in their skin; each person makes his own choices and will give an account of himself to God, period (Romans 14:12).

Lastly, rather than teaching people to hold onto grudges past, teach everyone to forgive others as Christ has forgiven them (Ephesians 4:32). No one can undo a single wrong from generations past; and that is what makes forgiveness the world’s most powerful eraser. People should not be encouraged to maintain grievances, they should be directed toward the liberty that only comes from saying “Christ freely forgave me all of my wrongs when I had no way to pay, and I will just as freely forgive everyone else all of theirs.”

Well-meaning racism is still heresy, even when it has fancy stage lighting, smoke machines, and cutting edge graphics to make it look good, and a low-melanin target to make it palatable to a new generation.

Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Mooresboro, N.C. He is a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books. He can be reached by email at 2knowhim@cbc-web.org.

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