If you are a Christian with a Twitter account, then you probably saw the commotion over the recent meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. If you feel out-of-the-loop, it went down kind of fast. Here’s some background info for this post.
When the proposed resolution to openly condemn the “alt-right” movement initially failed to pass, quite a few black brothers and sisters in Christ began sharing their experiences with racism on social media. Of the hundred-ish people I saw pleading with the SBC and expressing frustration, none were vulgar or mean-spirited. Just hurt.
Occasionally, an alt-right proponent would respond to these posts. My interaction with the alt-right has been limited to death threats on twitter and getting called a “cuckservative” in the comment section of my blog. Seeing their prejudiced, obscene contributions to the conversation were pretty much what I expected, and served as a real-time exhibit of why so many people were frustrated with the SBC in the first place.
There’s a lot I could say about racism, reconciliation and the church, but I feel like others have expressed themselves more eloquently than I could. Instead, this post is less about the controversy surrounding the resolution and more about a specific reaction I witnessed. Oh, and about definitions.
In between critiques of the SBC and alt-right trolling, I saw several Christians exclaiming how “divisive” it was to even discuss the issue at hand, or question the SBC. How it was an attack on Christian unity for black Christians to express their hurt and frustration when the resolution was initially rejected.
I’ll admit, I had to take a chill pill before writing this. It would have been a very different post if it had gone up yesterday. I’m exasperated by what I feel is an incorrect definition of the word “unity”. More than once, I have seen the accusation of “divisiveness” used on lamenting people like a muzzle. The implication is this; “by bringing attention to a problem, YOU are the problem! We can’t be unified unless you stop talking!”
The concept of Christian unity is frequently discussed in the New Testament. Here we find the body of Christ, both local and worldwide, likened to a family. Children live together as adopted heirs of the Father’s kingdom, building up the church body from the inside and carrying out the great commission on the outside. Practically speaking, this unity looks like brothers and sisters serving and teaching one another, loving one another, bearing one another’s burdens, hearing one another out when there has been an offense, then repenting for and forgiving offenses.
If Christian unity looks like being a family, then consider this; have you ever come across a healthy family that refused to talk about serious problems? Does a unified family stick their fingers in their ears when a brother or sister says “I’m hurt” or tell them to sit down when they raise a sincere critique?
Because that doesn’t sound like a unified family to me. That sounds like dysfunction.
Acknowledging an uncomfortable truth is not the enemy of unity. The only reason that I can call the body of Christ my family is because at some point in time I acknowledged that I was a bad person who deserved to go to Hell. That was a “divisive” idea which left me rattled and deeply defensive the first time I heard it, but it was the cold, hard truth that I needed to eventually experience union with Christ and become a part of the family of God.
Individually, I couldn’t have gotten from sin to repentance without addressing a painful reality about who I was and what I had done. The same is true for us collectively. It is not divisive to shine light on sin, and it is not disunity to give grieving people a voice. That might actually be the best shot we have at the very thing we are trying to achieve.