What If Jesus Were Black?
By Rusty Wright
Have you ever felt nauseous about an impending ministry opportunity? If so, maybe you can identify with what I was feeling.
I found a college course on African-American history both academically and personally challenging. Our professor was African-American. He seemed to feel that white Christians caused just about every problem African Americans had suffered throughout history.
I agreed that so-called Christians too often had terrible track records in race relations. The Ku Klux Klan was infamous for using biblical symbols and burning crosses. Some pastors even wrote books justifying slavery. All of this offended me because it went against my sense of racial equality and justice. Racism made my blood boil.
Two years earlier, a friend had brought an African-American student to a church I attended near our campus in North Carolina. The next Sunday, the pastor announced that because of last week’s racial incident (the attendance of an African American), church leaders had voted to maintain their longstanding policy of racial segregation. Thereafter, any African Americans attending would be handed a note explaining the policy and would be asked not to return. I was outraged and left the church.
In our African-American history class, from my front-row seat beside my roommate, I tried to communicate that racist Christians were not really following Christ. They might be church members who had never come to personal faith, hypocritical believers who chose not to follow Jesus, or dedicated believers who were blind to racial insensitivities in their words or actions. Class discussions were lively.
One morning late in the term the professor was being particularly pointed in his remarks about white Christians. As he enumerated various problems in African-American history that were due to the influence of white Christians, he would gesture toward me.
His intentions were obvious. I prayed silently; then raised my hand. “Professor,” I addressed him politely, “I fear that once again you are not criticizing true Christianity, but rather a caricature of it. Would you be willing to let me take a class period to present a biblical perspective on racism?”
“Oh, so you want equal time, do you?” he replied somewhat snidely.
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