What happened to my America? This past week the underbelly of America took center stage; our original sin of racism. As I read history books I often wonder how can the human heart justify, participate and benefit from the whip of slavery and bondage.
How can one stand in the crowd to view the lynching of countless black people without a trial, due process or even an explanation? How can we watch the excessive senseless killings of unarmed black people at the hands of men who promise to protect and serve? What motivates a person to allow it to occur and yet say nothing?
How did Hitler convince more than half of his nation that people of Jewish ancestry of all ages should be exterminated?
I witnessed just how that mindset of subtle hatred begins with the horrific chants of “Send Them Back!” at the North Carolina rally this past week. I totally gasped at the scene. And yet I am mystified that some white American Christian pastors are silent while they hungrily court people of color to join their churches as their congregations dwindle. Where is the moral leadership? Is the “Send them back” chant something that Jesus would say?
We are living in the first unchurched generation in America and this pattern of divisive speech is dangerous in a culture that is more and more God-less. The Civil Rights Movement proved successful because it appealed to the hearts of Christian believers of all hues. We must not allow our leaders to make us forget our faith or trade it in for a silver dollar.
For Christians, we must not forget our cross and barter it for an emboldened American flag. Racists told Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth and Martin Luther King to “Go Back to Africa!” So common was the slogan that the Klu Klux Klan used it regularly to intimidate people of color. It was a racist tactic to demean or make native-born Americans feel like they were un-American, unpatriotic and unwanted.
The slogan goes back to the early years of American history when the question of citizenship for African Americans was fiercely debated but yet finally accepted with the addition of the 14th Amendment. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on July 9, 1868, and granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” which included former slaves recently freed.
If the Christian pulpit remains silent on this issue of racism, I believe the blood will be on their hands and a Christian revival will not take place where hate, apathy and indifference resides. Racism is sinful. So while some unchurched, non-believing Americans are spreading hate, people of faith must draw a line and use this opportunity to bring peace, love and understanding.
Christian scripture says “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). We must not lose our witness or testimony in a world that needs the message of the Cross more than ever.