Thursday, February 16, 2006

The South Shall Rise Again?

As is often the case, Durable Data would like to draw your attention to the most recent entry of Dennis McFadden's (We discussed the substance of the entry over a working brunch at Denny's. God bless Denny's; California has a long a bizarre love affair with the place.)

The southern expat concept idea is confirmed in the former W&A pastor of FBC Granville, Ohio, who was also a white southern liberal whose interactive worldview was forged in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. When I pastored in Ohio (1991-1996), I had a long series of correspondances with him (back when had to send real letters!) that bore out the the accuracy of the southern expat experience.

My observation to my friends on the theo-left: with all the dear love of a brother, I say, the world does not turn on race. I say that as preacher of the gospel in a church that's 60% white, 20% Asian, 15% Hispanic and 5% African-American. Last Sunday was a typical new member seminar for me: 2 Asians, 1 Hispanic and 2 whites.

Acts 13:1 refers to the ethnically diverse nature of the early church:

In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.

Barnabas was a Levitcal Jew; Saul was a Benjamite Jew. Manaen (the Greek form of the Hebrew name Menachem) was also a Jew. Simeon is a Jewish name, but is also called, interestingly, Niger (Black). Lucius was a common enough name to be either Greek or Jewish, but he's from Cyrene, in North Africa. And they are all doing ministry in (Syrian) Antioch. (Sounds like life in Los Angeles to me.)

The witness of the New Testament is that race is not and cannot be the central defining element in our worldview. One of the grand themes of the Gospel is the teaching that in Christ the work of God has exploded beyond the confines of one little nation the size of the Big Island of Hawaii to all the nations. In a world in which circumcision was the mark of ethnic inclusion, Paul writes in Galatians 6:12-16:

12 Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh. 14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.

...and in this context it's clear that the "Israel of God" is not ethnic Israel, but the spiritual Israel.

Pardon the discursus on race and the New Testament, but I think this must be the forge of our thinking in this matter, not the (noble and historic, I grant you) American Civil Rights movement. God bless the memory of Rosa Parks and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; but our roots for dealing with race well precede the American experience. They are found in the Scriptures.

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