Last week I noted that one thing that seems to have become more evident in the wake of this very unique election cycle is an increase in the amount and tone of prejudiced and racist language and actions. I gave a personal example of this last week, and this week another member of our church family shared how her extended family had experienced this phenomenon as well. This child had racial slurs directed towards him, physical abuse, and threats of lynching. Sadly, this child is not the only one, nor is the African-American population in our nation the only ones towards whom this hate is directed. Again, I mentioned how I’m hearing from friends who are non-Anglo pastors about these kinds of events happening to those in their congregations, as well as the fear these actions engender in others.
You know that I grew up in Southern Appalachia, but what you may not realize is that the county I grew up in (Towns County, Georgia) was what you might call “lily white” – that is to say, there were very, very few people of an ethnic minority who lived in the county. Most of those who did were Native American. Of the 6, 754 residents in the 1990 census, 6,734 were white. That’s 99.7% of the population. Yet I can tell you in no uncertain terms that prejudice and racism were alive and thriving there, mostly among people who themselves had never even met someone of a different ethnicity, let alone built relationships with them. As a kid and a teenager, I cannot express to you how disgusted and, at times, infuriated I was at these attitudes and comments. (As an aside, things are changing in my old home county: in the 2010 census, it is now only 96.8% white, which, not surprisingly, causes a fair degree of consternation among some there.)
Some have sought to lay the blame for these actions at the feet of either President-elect Trump or President Obama, but as believers with a Biblical worldview, we must understand that these views are not the result of any one particular candidate. Indeed, if we were to look hard enough, I am sure that we could discover examples of rhetoric used by all sides that could rile up these kinds of latent feelings in people. But that is precisely my point: these attitudes already exist in individuals. The words being spoken and the actions being taken are merely the overflow of what exists in the person’s heart (cf. Luke 6:45). On one side, I have heard people say that Trump has provided, at the very least, a platform for those who hold these views to express them. On the other side, I have heard that racism was almost dead before Obama took office. Both of these positions discount the reality of the prejudice that exists in the human heart against those who we deem to be “them.”
Perhaps the saddest aspect of all of this has been the deflection on the part of those who want to accuse others of holding to prejudiced views while refusing to examine their own hearts for the same. This usually takes the form of, “Well, the other side is guilty of similar things, so…” If this line of reasoning doesn’t work on the playground, it certainly should not be deployed by adults – especially believers. When we are confronted with our sin, our first response should not be to point to the sins of others as a rationalization, but rather we ought to take time to prayerfully examine our own hearts, allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal those areas where sanctification needs to occur. Just something to think about…