Geoff Brown

Geoff Brown

The Appalling Silence of the Good People

In my last installment, I dealt with the question,

“Is racism dead or alive?”

The answer should be obvious, but for many, sadly, it’s not. We saw that racism has been with us since the fall of man. So if racism still exists, how can we as evangelicals be a part of the solution? Before we answer that, we need to look to the past to see how American evangelicals dealt with racism in our history. Yet how far back should we go? We could travel back to the days of slavery, yet the Civil Rights Movement (1950’s-1960’s) is closest to our own time frame, and therefore most relatable to us, so we begin here…

How did white evangelicals deal with racism in this time period? Were they part of the solution or the problem?

How did American white evangelicals deal with Civil Rights—a movement that sought to ensure African-Americans had the same rights as other ethnicities as guaranteed by the Constitution? By observing three primary groups (whom I name in order to better qualify them), we get a more accurate picture as to what their response was:

  1. The Contenders. This group loved their black brothers and suffered side-by-side with them. They contended well for the Christian faith, not just in doctrine, but in action as well (Jude 3). Sadly they were the smallest group.
  2. The Vitriolic Racists. This group despised integration, hating the possibility of miscegenation (race mixing), and some say “evangelical” in name only.
  3. The Silent Majority. As the name proposes, this group is the one that most represented evangelicals. They were apathetic. They neither fought for civil rights, nor did they burn crosses like the KKK. They were silent; yet many times voting against integration, refusing to love their brothers.

It is this group of which Martin Luther King frustratingly wrote, ““We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.” Yet history reveals that these evangelicals were surprisingly not silent about evangelism. Unlike many evangelicals today, they fervently embraced witnessing to the lost. Their bold witness was observed in their public evangelistic crusades with Billy Graham as well as their personal evangelism in their cities and towns.

Yet, why did their desire to evangelize not transfer to helping minorities have the same freedoms they themselves enjoyed? Answer: they truncated the gospel. “Truncate” means “to shorten (something) by cutting off the top or the end.” The concept becomes concrete when one thinks of cutting the tip of a beautiful magnolia leaf, leaving behind an awkward-looking vegetative stump. With this in mind the question now is, “How did they truncate the gospel?” By failing to love. When one cares for a person’s soul, yet does not go further and care about a person’s physical needs, it is a truncation of the gospel. The gospel must always have hands and feet (Jam. 2:26)! Mistakenly, they failed to live out the Great Commandment whilst hiding behind the Great Commission.  In the next installment I will line out concrete ways whereby evangelicals can “make the best use of our time” (Eph. 5:16) as we seek to live out the gospel in word and deed to the world. As you celebrate the Christmas season, remember your Savior who came into the world to show love to others vastly different than Him.

For God so loved the world…

One Comment to The Appalling Silence of the Good People

  1. David Cline says:

    There is the Gospel, which is the person and work of Christ,and the implications of the Gospel. They are not the same thing but should distinquished. However, they should never be separated. Faith without works is dead. The best to love a neighbor of whatever race is to preach the Gospel. I quote Jesse Patterson, a black pastor in Los Angeles, “When I was growing up in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the black church rightly emphasized God and salvation, as well as rebuilding the family with stress on the man as the head of this marriage-based, two-parent family. But today, it seems that many black churches talk less about God, and more about race and politics, and the need for activistic government.”

    Today, 72% of black babies are born out of wedlock not to mention millions of aborted black babies. The black family, at least in the ghetto, is broken with single mothers supported by more and more government welfare produce fatherless boys who turn to gangs. Where is the black church, let alone the white church? The black church is powerless because it exchanged the Biblical Gospel for a false social justice gospel. How did Al Sharpton become the face and leader of the blach ministry?

    It breaks my heart! I grew up in the federal housing projects in Richmond, California. It was one of the most gang and drug infested areas in the state and is still considered the most dangerous city in California. What did I need? What is still needed? The biblical Gospel straight with no pussyfooting about it! Civil rights are important. We fought the American Revolution over that issue. There are implications to the Gospel yes! But, the revolution didn’t bring paradise and neither did the civil rights movement and the politiians. Civil rights as much as I value them, are not eternal life. Blacks got their civil rights and I was all for it then and am for it now, but the sad fact is, that along the line, for the most part, they lost the Gospel.

    In the late 19th & early 20th centuries, the church was concerned to reach the poor in the cities. They exchanged the true Gospel for the social gospel and became liberals. In the 1960s the black church, with a legitimate concern for civil rights,won their rights and lost the Gospel somewhere in the process. Now there is an increasing number of “evangelicals” (Jim Wallis, Rick Warren, Tim Keller, etc.)confusing the true Gospel with social justice. We need to learn from the past and our mistakes both racially & politically. Stick to the Gospel! We all (black and otherwise)need justification by grace alone through faith alone. Justice as an implication of the true Gospel we want. But, the social justice gospel is another gospel and no gospel at all.

    John MacArthur, when asked about racism & the Black Lives Matters,gave this response (and I agree 1000% – the extra zero is not a mistake). The link:

    May we be reconciled first to God in Christ and then live out the implications of that in being reconciled to one another in Christ regardless of race.Woe unto us if we preach not the Gospel!

    with love, David Cline

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