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When Race and Faith Collide

By William Knight

“Oreo!” The insult flew from one co-worker, grabbing my attention from a conversation with another co-worker. I peered over the shoulder-high cubicle in front of me to find a finger and angry eyes pointed at me. With close to a decade in my walk with the Lord, and having all sorts of insults hurled at me, that accusation was a new one. I let the insult pass without a response, thinking it better to bear the temporary reproach than redeem my reputation and hurl insults back. I looked back at my own life and remembered spewing “sell-out” at others. But that was back in the days before salvation, when I was engaged in pro-black activism to the point of idolatry. In that moment I pondered, “Now I’m the sell-out? God truly has a sense of humor.”

Not long after the “Oreo” incident, I get backlash from a family member about my political stance. I’m accused of favoring whites over blacks. Ouch! At that moment, I was able to pinpoint a recent change in behavior of my family toward me. Some changes I made because of God — such as no longer listening to music that exalts things that grieve God, holding a socially conservative worldview, and not participating in events (even family events) that don’t glorify Jesus — have left me exposed to accusations of abandonment and being a racial turncoat. However, to think that by making those changes I elevate white people over black people is a big misunderstanding.

I don’t prefer whites over blacks. I think the problem that some have toward me is that I don’t prefer black people over God or the things of God. The decisions I make because of a hunger to please God get misconstrued to mean something other than what is intended. For example, if a hypothetical question is asked such as, “If you could travel anywhere you wanted, where would it be?” I’d answer, “Israel, to get in touch with my spiritual roots.” I understand it could bother some that a young black man from the inner city is using “Israel” and personal “roots” in the same statement to describe a part of his identity. However, a balanced person is someone who celebrates his physical heritage as a gift from God, yet understands that his true identity is in knowing Christ. In embracing that deeper identity, I find spiritual kinship with Jesus to be thicker than the blood that is thicker than water. Please understand I absolutely want to visit Egypt and Western Africa. I identify with Africa as the place of my physical ancestry. But in as much as love for Jesus has taken over my life, I find myself desirous to walk where he walked and to see what he saw.

One of the main issues that strikes a nerve with others is my opposition to abortion. It seems that high-powered interest groups and the mainstream media have managed to put issues concerning black people in America and the rights of unborn babies on two sides of a great divide. While this in and of itself is wicked, the greater evil is that most blacks see the issue of abortion as a “White-Christian-right” issue rather than a moral issue. So to some, I’m brainwashed by the White Christian-right. Somebody help me understand how reversing the plight of unborn babies is to chaff against issues that concern black folk. If the answer is because it is not a staple of the liberal platform, then we need to examine whose brain has been washed. (Let me add that at the height of black unity and progression during the 1960’s and 70’s, the radical Black Panthers and the then social conservative Jesse Jackson preached that abortion was manifest eugenics against the African-American community.) If the answer has to do with the rights of women (which is indeed a just and godly cause), we need to consider the state of our humanity and come up with better solutions for women who feel trapped and condemned. The saddest dimension of the issue is that we all participate by condoning it, not just the often abandoned and confused women who find themselves tempted to take one life to secure their own comfort and success. My stance is not against women, but rather support for the life of a child. With this paradigm and the current political climate, I find myself on one side of the cultural divide and many of my own kind on the other. The most important motivator behind my stance is my conviction that murder grieves God. The God of the Bible sees abortion as spilling innocent blood.

At the root of it all is that God has proven Himself real to me and that He is fully committed to me in love. I fully intend to live out His plan and will for my life. Along the journey I’ve learned that this intention is the unique desire of those who truly love Him, not everyone who goes to church. So I don’t base my joy and approval on understanding from others any longer. I don’t mean that in an arrogant, disregarding, and elitist sense. However, there is a place of disregard in that I won’t sacrifice my commitment to God for the sake of the agreement or approval from other people. I’ve found recently that going hard after God in today’s society is a recipe for accusations, cursing, and being treated as an outcast. But then, to choose the other option, even for my own kind, would be to lose touch with my Lord.

So does God put aside issues of black folk? I say no, because there are some strong historical indicators that God has a plan and call for black people now and leading into the final days before His return. Like Joseph, the biblical patriarch, we’ve been through too much for this not to be a case of a compassionate “you meant it for evil but God meant it for good” situation. But we as black people make a mistake if we see ourselves as central to God’s grand scheme. We must understand that the worthy one, Jesus, is central to God’s plan, not us. Obviously, there is a place for loyalties to those whom we identify with culturally and ethnically, but never should that take precedence over our loyalty to God. We are never required to love people less or be less loyal, but to grow in greater measure of love and loyalty toward God than we have for family or our ethnic group.

William Knight serves as an intercessory missionary at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. His primary goal in life is to live in intimacy with God and then to serve others through prayer, helping hands, evangelism, and friendship.

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