Very grateful for the conversation tonight on race, “A Time to Speak,” at the Lorraine Motel and National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.
Late in the conversation, Bryan Loritts, offered up this challenge: “White evangelicals will attack the issue of abortion voraciously, systemically. I want to see that same passion for issues of racial injustice. I want to see that same passion. It’s disingenuous to attack abortion systemically and all of the sudden go mute when it comes to issues of racial injustice.”
A few minutes later, moderator Ed Stetzer turned the conversation to John Piper, saying, “All the polls point that we’re in a time of racial polarization, that we’ve made less racial progress, or we’ve lost ground even. Most polls say this, even with President Obama being the first African American president. But I haven’t seen this much talk about this [race] maybe since Promise Keepers. So John, I wonder, as an Anglo pastor, in a predominately Anglo church, are you encouraged about the tone and tenor of racial reconciliation conversations now?”
Which set up Piper’s closing response:
It’s mixed. There’s discouraging things to see, and there’s encouraging things to see. This [panel] is encouraging. I told a brother I was having lunch with today that the number of young, black, theologically-rich, socially-aware, men feels fresh to me. It feels new to me — didn’t see it a generation ago. That feels really hopeful.
I think the last thing I’d want to say is to speak to pastors, if I could, for just one minute.
Bryan, I wish there were more pastors passionate and courageous about abortion. You make it sound like it’s a lot, and perhaps comparatively it is. But there are cowards in the pulpit, cowards in the pulpit who are looking at their pocketbooks and looking at their membership lists, who won’t touch that issue with a 10–foot pole — abortion they won’t touch, and how much less racism. So my first plea for pastors is, be bold. “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).
Second, I would say: Preempt the issues on abortion, on racism, and others, biblically. Go there first, and capture the vocabulary. Otherwise you’ll inherit all the Fox News vocabulary or another a-theological vocabulary if you haven’t provided your people with a biblical vocabulary to talk about the issues.
Third, and last, I would say, don’t think of this as dealing with a crisis for the moment, that will soon be gone and over. Think of it as marriage. Nobody who has been married 30, 40, 50 years, has a blowup and says, “Ah, a golden moment for fixing it!” Nobody thinks that way. You work it through and hope you make a few increments of progress, and you go on and take whatever joys you can get.
And that’s the way it’s going to be until Jesus comes.
So I don’t want pastors to walk away from this. I want them to stay at the table and just keep hammering away. If they get clobbered for doing it wrong, come back and do it better.