We’ve been uncomfortably reminded over the last few years and especially the last few weeks that the United States still has a long way to go when it comes to race relations. Simmering racial anger and division came out with renewed force during the recent racist comments made by Donald Sterling.
Donald Sterling, the eighty-year-old owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, said despicable things about black men to his racially mixed girlfriend. I am going to say that Sterling deserved every bit of the lifetime ban from the NBA that he received.
As Christians, we should see racism in any form as sin. It is an assault on the fundamental dignity of people who are made in God’s image. After all, God created each one of us and we are all equally His children. Sadly, though, I don’t think this issue is going away anytime soon.
Many people will say that Donald Sterling doesn’t accurately reflect the rest of America. After all, most of us just get along, don’t we? Well, certainly most of us do, but not all racism is as blatant as Sterling’s was. Dehumanization comes in many various shapes and sizes.
Let’s take Shaquille O’Neal for example. Despite his very harsh and public words for Donald Sterling, Shaq recently took to Twitter to mock the appearance of Jahmel Binion, who suffers from a rare disorder called ectodermal dysplasia. Thousands called out his obvious hypocrisy in condemning Sterling’s racism while mocking a disability. Shaq personally call Jahmel to apologize, so good for him for at least doing that.
But Shaq’s story reveals just what is behind the hatred, hypocrisy, and discrimination of all kinds. We are. G.K. Chesterton reportedly wrote in response to a newspaper editorial question: “Dear Sir, In response to your question what’s wrong with the world, I am. Yours truly, G.K. Chesterton.” I think he hit it right on the head.
Discrimination and hate that exists in our hearts, though not as crass and public as Sterling’s, it is still sinful. It comes out in our jokes, avoided conversations, and anytime we’re unwilling to stand up for someone being wrongfully treated.
As followers of Christ, we have an incredibly important opportunity in front of us to propose the Gospel to this problem that plagues our society. Secularism always dehumanizes by superficially reducing people down to their sexual inclinations, or color, or socioeconomic status, or looks, or some other arbitrary category. Secularism simply does not possess the resources to confront person-to-person discrimination in al of its forms. But Christianity does.
The Gospel begins with the inherent, not acquired, dignity of all people. It calls men and women for every “tribe, language, people, and nation.” The Gospel is centered on Jesus Christ, who is restoring all things including broken relationships caused by discrimination and racism.
I get that many of us are tired about talking about race. I know that I am. I get that. But this country is growing more racially diverse by the day. As Christians, we can’t just stick our heads in the sand when it comes to this. The Church needs to be at the front of the conversation because the gospel demands that we offer reconciliation of all kinds, as a good gift to the world. That means that Donald Sterling needs to be given the chance for reconciliation as well.