Staff & Sling

Joseph E. Hébert, Ph.D.

98119 N 3745 Rd
Okemah, OK  74859
918 623 3078

Racial Reconciliation Sunday

Sunday, February 8th, anno Domini 2009, is officially declared Racial Reconciliation Sunday by the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO). It's a lofty and noble decree. Some have even been so emboldened by the election of America's first black president as to declare the era of racism over.

Is it possible? Could it be? Have we, has America finally realized the dream? Do we now, after all these years, finally live in an America where all people are judged by content of character instead of color?

No. I'm afraid not.

The sad truth is that the BGCO declares one Sunday in every February (Black History Month) Racial Reconciliation Sunday, but no one ever does any actual reconciling. And I for one am growing weary of the disingenuousness. I am tired of the sophomoric platitudes and philosophies of liberalism that infest the issue. I am tired of the mandates of political correctness that incessantly thwart the quest.

If America is ever to realize the dream, if we are ever to live out our great creed, that all men are created equal, we must first understand that the words "racism," " prejudice" and "bigotry" are not interchangeable. They are three separate words with three distinct meanings. To plagiarize a line from an old Simpson's episode, that's why they are spelled and pronounced differently.

Bigotry is hate. It's as simple as that. Prejudice is precisely what it implies, pre-judging, or judging without sufficient factual knowledge. Finally, racism is the human manifestation of the same behavior we observe in the animal kingdom and describe with the phrase, "Birds of a feather flock together."

In and of itself, there is nothing hateful about racism. It isn't a hatred of anyone. Instead, racism is the natural tendency of all people to be most comfortable around others they perceive to be like themselves. And that is why it is so insidious, not because it is manifest in hate-mongers and bigots, but because it is manifest in good and decent people. You see, left unchecked racism inevitably gives rise to racial prejudices, which in turn give way to bigotry with equal certainty. This is why it is as certain as the law of gravity that there can be no separate and equal.

Ironically, nowhere in America is racism more manifest than in our churches, our Christian churches. We, good Christian people, all want to go to our own churches, most comfortable surrounded by others like ourselves. But by doing so we foster the very racism that inevitably and inexorably gives rise to hate.

Think about it for just a moment. If we see each other first as black and white, then we do not see each other first as Christians. That, by definition, makes us respecters of persons, which is sin.

Knowing this, that our racism by definition is sin, and that it can only end in hate, and knowing that love for each other is the whole of the mandate of God's law, do we really want to continue deciding who our neighbors are by the color of their skin? Do we really want to condemn ourselves and our posterity to a world devoid of God's law, which is to say love for one another, a world of hate?

So we, Americans, are at a place where we must choose. We must choose to see all Americans, not as black-Americans or white-Americans, not as African- or European- or any other hyphenated Americans, but as fellow Americans. If we do not, then we choose to abandon the dream.

And if we, Christians, will not choose to close our eyes to color, if we will not choose to worship and fellowship together, then we choose by default a world of inevitable enmity. We must choose to forge ahead in a new world of our deliberate making, a world wherein God is feared and righteousness is valued. Otherwise we choose to continue in, complacently accepting, a world where lawlessness indeed abounds, and the love of many does grow cold.