I asked the question about racism because no matter how much we talk about it, I don’t think we quite grasp the absolute evilness of it. As I said in the comments section yesterday, what is so wrong about racism is that is misrepresents God’s intentions to man. It alienates man from God by telling him that the color of his skin is a factor in determining just how much God values and loves him.
In South Africa, for decades the Dutch Reformed Church had as part of its doctrine (I apologize to theologians if this is a oversimplification, but it is in effect accurate) that black people were cursed because of the situation with Ham and Noah (you can study that later!). In other words, the religious leaders, who were supposed to represent God, told an entire continent that it was “less than” others.
Apartheid had a profound effect on my husband’s family, in ways that I can’t even get into here. Suffice it to say they suffered discrimination, had acres of rich wine land (and therefore legacy) confiscated because someone dared to cross the color barrier… And so much more.
On a personal level he had to get special permission to go to white university because the “coloured” university didn’t offer the engineering courses he wanted. The “coloured” schools were inferior, the students had to pay for their own supplies (unlike the white students in the white schools). He saw friends arrested and in fact himself protested through street theatre. His was the generation of the township riots. When he first came to the States, he had a physical reaction of fear even at a traffic stop.
And here is a salient point – he was classified “coloured” not “black.” Mixed race people were considered coloured. What the black people suffered was far more extreme than what he and his family suffered.
And this system was propped up by religious leaders.
Why do I tell the story (and partially and poorly at that)?
South Africa did not dissolve into civil war because of people of faith. What never made it into the news in the States or around the world, is that for years before the dissolution of apartheid, Christians gathered in ground-breaking multiracial prayer meetings to pray for peace. In Cape Town, believers gathered faithfully, week after week, at Table Mountain to pray for justice and peace in the nation. Churches opened in public places, like malls, so all races could attend. All that while, Nelson Mandela sat in prison on Robben Island, reading his Bible and growing in wisdom and strength. God changed his heart from violence to forgiveness. And his ability to forgive, based on the understanding of God’s unconditional love for him, led a nation to a peaceful transfer of power. It was the power of prayer and the testimony of people of faith that started the transformation.
It is up to people of faith to communicate to the world that God’s love is the same for every people group and race. Which brings me to Barack Obama. Whether or not you, or I, voted for him is irrelevant. As I watched him at the concert on Sunday yesterday, it became evident to me that he already is carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. That is a figure of speech, true, but it is almost literally true, because it is the weight of the world’s expectations. His responsibility is massive, and to me unimaginable, as the leader of the free world. Make no mistake about it, there is still a “free world” and an oppressed world, yearning to be free.
To bring this full circle to my original point, today there is a statement being made – to a people that were told they were “less than” because of the color of their skin. Try, please, to lay ideology aside to hear my heart. There are little boys in Africa, much like my Peter many years ago, running in the streets barefoot, who will find a new power within to rise above their circumstances. It is no small thing to awaken a continent to its potential.
And we, people of faith, must rise to our potential. We must work night and day to make it clear that our God not only loves people of every skin color, but gives each and every one the opportunity to succeed or to fail, to lead or to follow. Our God is an equal opportunity God… let us be equal opportunity people.