In the dining room of a nearby Christian camp and retreat center, an unlikely pairing of two different groups—a youth group consisting of several dozen African American teenagers and 60 mostly-white elementary-aged children from local American Heritage Girl troops (a Christian version of the Girl Scouts)—were united in Christ instead of being divided by the color of their skin or by cultural differences.
The energetic youth group looked surprised when those with less melanin, including numerous parents, joined in on their spontaneous, spirit-filled moment of singing a cappella style. Some clapped hands, others drummed against the table, and all smiled while singing, “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High.” As we worshipped together for another song, our voices became one in the Lord.
“Why don’t we have our church service with them?” I turned to ask another parent, feeling sad that our time with them had so quickly come to a close. They were leaving to go home, but that question remained in my mind the rest of the day.
It’s been said that the eleven o’clock hour on Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour of the week in our nation. Sadly, that is still a reality, said Dr. Charles Ware, a frequent speaker at Answers in Genesis conferences and Executive Director of Grace Relations and Special Assistant to the President of The College of Biblical Studies.
“Some people say they are tired of hearing that,” Ware, also a popular speaker on racial reconciliation, said in a telephone interview. “Well, the only thing we can do is change it. When it’s not true anymore, then they can’t say it anymore.”
Sometimes, it’s just one spark that can draw many to an issue and bring about change, Ware pointed out.
And that is exactly what Rosa Parks did in 1955 when she refused to surrender her bus seat to a white man. Her single act created a spark that inspired an entire civil rights movement. Her defiance to segregation in the public transportation system brought about monumental change and set an example for generations to follow.
Although Rosa Parks left this earthly life on October 24 of this year, the spark she created 50 years ago continues to live on. The passing of this civil rights icon and devoted Christian provides an opportunity to reflect on the past, present and future progress of racial reconciliation.
We can all learn a lesson or two from this remarkable woman, who, in a November 5 World magazine article, attributed her understanding that people should stand up for what is right to her upbringing and Scripture.
One example we can take from Rosa Parks is her willingness to go against the tide of a culture in order to stand for what is right, said Ware.
“Another lesson to learn from her is how the courage of one can inspire multitudes that have a similar feeling for freedom, respect or righteousness, but who lack a leader,” Ware added.
So what can Christians in today’s culture do to bring about racial reconciliation?
Teaching Christians, including pastors and church leaders, what the Bible says about “race” is one thing that Christians can do, said Ware. As a Bible-proclaiming ministry, Answers in Genesis is committed to equipping Christians in this area as well, through its partnership with Dr. Ware on a number of conferences and through providing numerous resources on the topic. (See Ken Ham warmly received at racial reconciliation conference!)
As Ware explains in his powerful DVD Reconciliation: Rooted in Redemption and Guided by Revelation, when the world says, “How can we be reconciled if we were never together to begin with?” the Bible says that we were all together in Adam but were separated by sin.
“We were created as one, divided by sin, and reunited by One—Jesus Christ who makes peace between us,” Ware says in the DVD.
In discussing how believers are one family, Ware explains that “we have a common father named Adam, we’ve got a common problem named sin, and we’ve got a common solution—His name is Jesus Christ.”
“It’s because of His blood that we have access—equal access to the Father,” Ware proclaims in his DVD.
Ware said sadly, there are some pastors who continue to pass along false teachings on race, including the belief that the skin color of black people is a result of a curse on Ham and his descendants as explained in the following web article: Are black people the result of a curse on Ham?
A second thing that Christians can do to work towards reconciliation, according to Ware, is to examine organizational structures and institutions to see if there’s any latent racism in them.
“Some [organizations] were started by people who held those beliefs that, biblically, God wanted us separated,” Ware explained. “While the philosophy may have changed, the structure is still in place that was built on that erroneous philosophy.”
Thirdly, Ware suggested that Christians meet and fellowship across racial ethnic lines.
“We have some different cultural views depending upon how we came up in society—and it’s still difficult to talk about them. Ultimately, we want to model a reconciled body across ethnic and racial lines where people can see that model,” Ware said.
One such model is The College of Biblical Studies where Dr. Ware serves as Executive Director of Grace Relations and Special Assistant to the President. With a racially integrated board, administration, faculty, staff, and student body, the college is a national leader in modeling and promoting multiethnic ministry.
On a smaller scale, that Sunday morning I saw this type of modeling when the leader of our AHG group joined in conversation with the leaders of the youth group. It encouraged others in our group to do the same—to break across those ethnic and racial lines.
Later that day when our group had worship time on the wooden benches near our campsites, we sang that same song, “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High.” Only this time, something seemed to be missing. I think it was that spontaneous spark that reminded me of having equal access to the Father—our Father.