Friday, June 09, 2006

Friday Challenge for the Church

Today begins what I hope will be a regular feature of PureChurch, Friday Challenge. Here I want to take a quote or question from a key figure or incident in church history and leave it in the blogosphere for us all to ponder over the weekend. The inaugural Friday Challenge comes from a hero in the faith for me, Dr. Frances J. Grimke, who served as pastor of 15th Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. ... get this!... for 55 faithful years! Dr. Grimke studied at Princeton College under Charles Hodge from 1875-1878, one of few African-Americans to do so up to that time. The following quote is taken from a sermon entitled "Christianity and Race Prejudice" preached June 5, 1910. How it continues to challenge the church even today! Read it... reflect on it... allow it to question and search you... then let me know what you think. Is Grimke's analysis in 1910 still pressing today?

I raise the question, and it is a question which the church itself ought to consider, Is it occupying the position which it ought to occupy in this matter? Is it standing where it ought to stand? Is it standing where Jesus Christ would have it stand? In other words, is its present attitude on the race question, right or wrong? To this question, in the light of what Christianity is, in the light of what Jesus Christ is, in spirit, in temper, in all that he said and did, there can be but one answer, a negative one. Its attitude is not what it ought to be; it is not standing where it ought to stand. It is recreant to its great trust, as the light of the world; the light within it, on this point, is darkness, is misleading.

One of two things therefore the church ought to do: (1.) It ought to disavow any connection whatever with Christianity, to repudiate it, to give it up entirely, to break absolutely with it, to say frankly: I believe in race prejudice, in these discriminations, I don’t want to worship with colored people, I don’t want to live on the same street with them; I don’t think they are entitled to the same treatment as white people are entitled to; I am not willing to receive them as brothers religiously or otherwise. At the same time I know that Christianity teaches the Fatherhood of God, and the brotherhood of man, teaches that we should love our neighbor as ourselves, that we should do by others as we would be done by; I know that race prejudice is not in accordance with the spirit of Jesus Christ. I am not going to give up race prejudice, however; I am not going to treat these people differently. If I can’t hold on to race prejudice, and also to Christianity at the same time, I will give up Christianity; I will not live a lie; I will not misrepresent it by continuing my connection with it. American Christianity is in honor bound to take that position, to cease to call itself Christian. Or,

(2.) It ought to repent; it ought to do differently; it ought to strive to bring its actual life in harmony with the great principles which it professes to accept, to believe in. There is need today for some John the Baptist to go out all over this land, in all of the white churches, among the millions of professing Christians in them, and cry aloud—Repent, repent, cease to be ruled by race prejudice, to make race, color, the condition of entrance into your religious activities, your organizations and gatherings, cease this anti-Christian race feeling, and let brotherly love prevail. “Let the wicked man forsake his ways, and the unrighteous man his thought” (Isaiah 55:7), is what God says; and that has reference to the man within the church as well as the man without it. If race prejudice is wrong, then the church must forsake it, must give it up. There is no option left to it. It must repent, it must do differently; it must change its course, if it is to remain Christian.

No comments: