Prevailing Winds "For the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom . . ." 2 Cor. 3:17, TNIV

December 18, 2008

The Gospel of Christ Isn’t The Gospel of The Neo-Confederates

Filed under: Uncategorized — keelyem @ 4:44 pm

This will, at least for now, be my final post on Neo-Confederacy. This has taken quite a bit out of me, which confirms that it’s what I need to do. I’ve found, over a quarter-century of walking with Christ, that obedience to one’s calling isn’t always easy. In fact, it’s sometimes heart-breaking and gut-wrenching. But the Gospel is at stake when dealing with Christians whose ideology is demonstrably antithetical to the message of Christ, and if I say I love the Lord enough to suffer for him, then I don’t get to back down when called to do so.

That said, I’m aware, as I’ve written before, that the neo-Confederates in Moscow and in the South don’t care what I have to say, although one of them, Michael Tuggle of the League of the South, continues his gracious debate with me, for which I’m grateful. I don’t need to be reminded of the disdain in which our merry men of Anselm House hold me; I’m far more concerned about their disdain for the reconciliatory Gospel of Christ. Me? I’m just a voice, albeit a lonelier one on the Palouse than I’d like. I’m not expecting Christmas cookies from the Wilsons.

I believe that the neo-Confederate movement departs from that Gospel in two significant ways, and these departures strike at the very core of New Testament teaching in ways that obliterate any possibility of co-existence with true Christian theology and conduct. The racism, separatism, bigotry and divisiveness of the NC’s is only a part, a necessary part, of a theology that is contrary at its very core to the unity of believers and the believer’s citizenship in another Kingdom.

Where the Gospel proclaims the obliteration of all ethnic, social, cultural, racial and sexual boundaries between believers and their pursuit of fellowship with God in Christ, the neo-Confederates teach racial separation, promote a pseudo-ethnic/racial “culture” elevated to grotesque importance in society, and ignore the liberating work of the Savior and instead call for the maintaining and strengthening of shackles that cripple not only the society in which we live, but the Church of the One whose work on the cross set captives free. I have read not only the book by Sebesta, et al, but also NC websites and books, and for two or three years, not just since last week, I’ve digested the words of “Southern patriots.” Not once have I seen an assertion that believers of every race and culture share an identity in Christ that supersedes every possible social divisor. I don’t see the NC’s expending any effort to rejoice in the unity promised by Christ between Southern Black Christians and Southern white believers; not once have I read any evidence that one of the many horrors of slavery in the antebellum South was the continued hierarchical, not to mention exploitive and violent, relationship between Black Christian slaves and their putatively Christian masters. There is no call in any NC literature that I’ve read for the selfless laying aside of one’s “rights” for the betterment of others whose race, language, skin color or gender is different from the NC white, male, “Anglo-Celtic” heritage. That silence speaks volumes.

The Church that rejoices in the community of Spirit-led believers and gladly frees itself in Christ from the chains of bigotry, and seeks to reconcile with those who’ve suffered from that bigotry, is not the church of the neo-Confederates. Christ came to set the captives free and to reconcile captives with their captors. The Gospel of Christ has its genesis in the God who isn’t “male” or “female,” who seeks and speaks to all who search for him, and who gave us a Savior-God whose very conception struck down sinful ideas of social and ethnic division. The Christian faith does not “belong to” or require endorsement from the Dutch Reformers, the Pentecostal Church in Latin America, the men who populate the airwaves in Christ’s name, or the Godly abolitionists so hated by the neo-Confederates. That anyone can claim to be a follower of Christ while acting in a manner that belies his message is a simple, unfortunate truth for the ages. It doesn’t confer legitimacy simply by its proclamation. The Spirit knows who belongs to Christ. If the fruit demonstrated reeks of hate, it’s safe to presume, in all humility, that the Spirit isn’t known by the proclaimer. The only thing that can join the unknowing one to the Knower is acceptance of the gracious work of Christ. The brackish waters of bigotry and separatism can’t flow from the font of life.

A message that seeks to isolate any group of Christians from any other group, particularly based on the ugly sinfulness of racial/cultural “superiority,” is not a message whose origin is the Cross. NC’s believe that a “godly” society is, by design and necessity, one composed of superiors, equals, and lessers. Christ says otherwise. Assertions that Biblical Christianity is the religion of those who long for and defend a culture of race-based slaveholding, lynching, rape, familial destruction, violence, economic and political exploitation, and grotesque embracing of an ancient, white “warrior culture” as the basis for separating from those not so culturally blessed not only ring hollow, but produce a chorus of hatred for the Spirit of Christ Jesus. That that chorus hails from a church building and is sung with gusto by “Christian people” isn’t just ironic, odd, or sad. It’s blasphemous, as ugly as ugly gets. That chorus isn’t as loud in Moscow as it is in the South, perhaps, but only for lack of numbers. The “tolerant” liberals and the unconvinced, or unconcerned, Church on the Palouse have given our local NC’s a platform, largely unquestioned. The evangelical Church that should guard and defend Gospel truth has been silent, and ought not be surprised at the polluting cacophany that nonbelievers tragically mistake for hymns of Christian devotion to God.

Proclaiming, then, a gospel of racial/ethnic division and social isolation, the neo-Confederates long for a “Christian” Southern homeland, a separate state comprised of those “patriots” who represent a white Anglo-Celtic ancestry and culture, as well as those non-whites who willingly subsume their culture, race, language and ethnicity to that of the majority. The neo-Confederate obsession with not just a hallowed, separatist white culture, but the secession from the United States that would establish and enshrine it, is utterly at odds with the Christian understanding, from Scripture, of a distinct people of God, longing for a distinct, actual Kingdom not of this world. This “distinct people of God” has at its very core the joyful inclusion of all who call on the Lord Jesus Christ, and our God has enthusiastically called people from every nation, every race, every language, culture, ethnicity and station in life to join with one another in working for, and longing for, the believer’s true home. The Church varies in its interpretation of what and where Heaven is, just as it embraces differing understandings of the millennium and the exact nature of the Kingdom of God — but all Christians believe that it is their position in Christ that defines their existence as a people group, and the only “home” we have as sojourners on this Earth is the hope we have for the Kingdom. A sweet home in Alabama isn’t it.

Believers rejoice in family ties and national heritage; there’s no sin in rooting for Mexico in the World Cup, dancing in Italian Heritage festivals, organizing a Juneteenth party, or enthusiastically participating in Highland Games. There is great sin in believing one’s race to be superior and seeking a “homeland” that enshrines it as an example of “true, Biblical Christianity” — particularly when a primary feature of that homeland is racial violence and bigotry. But calls for “White Heritage” aren’t innocent expressions of ethnic pride. “White” here means “not-Black (or Asian, Hispanic, or anything else), and dressing it up as “European American” or “Anglo-Celtic” appreciation does nothing to negate or conceal the separatist, supremacist ideology behind it. My mother’s family is from Arkansas, and I doubt very much that my cousins are descended from a race of ancient Celts, particularly since my maternal ancestors were from Poland. If my aunts embrace their heritage as descendants of Sophie and Nicholas Lucasciewicz, I hope they invite me — but I’d rather have in common with them a devotion to Christ and standing as part of a people of believers, billions strong, from every nation on Earth. My citizenship, the Scriptures say, is in Heaven. Neo-Confederates who devote themselves to the establishment of a Southern homeland, and do so regardless of the offense to the Gospel their message requires, may indeed someday find themselves there. Whether or not they’ll find themselves in the ultimate Kingdom of God is another question.

The Scriptures teach that where our treasure is, our heart is; the home we long for is the home we’ll find. I pray that the neo-Confederates begin to lay aside whatever grievances they have, whatever rights and privileges they believe are theirs, and live instead in this world, demonstrating with joy the submission called for in Christ and embracing all that he requires of us. The “aliens and strangers” the Bible describes are not those who are culturally and racially different from me. We, the Church of Christ, are the aliens and strangers, and God asks of us only that we seek reconciliation with all people in his name so that the fullness of the Kingdom will be realized. That Kingdom is “already” and “not yet,” but it is our home. I am a citizen of the United States; I enjoy tremendous privilege and a great many rights because of it. But time on this Earth is short, and my work is to preach and to live the Gospel, and laying aside my rights and privileges — many of which are not, incidentally, God-given but Fall-driven, tragic evidence of a world gone wrong that favors white people for no reason other than birth into a world choking with bigotry. I have benefited from racism that I have not practiced; millions suffer from racism and prejudice that is no less real in its stench to our God.

Work for a white, Southern “Christian” homeland, separated from the world around it and marked with division and superiority, is the work of the enemies of the Cross. A continued embrace of the social, racial, sexual and linguistic differences obliterated by the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ is the fruit of the Fall. The neo-Confederates will very likely continue in their quest for both. An honest examination of both heart and Scripture — the kind of “morbid self-examination” Doug Wilson decries in believers — will reveal profound sin that not even the most elegantly draped Confederate flag can cover.

May God have mercy on us all, and may he use my words here to begin a Spirit-led change of heart. We are, in this world, aliens and strangers, yet one in the Spirit. I pray that those who proclaim his name would rejoice in the reconciliation and unity of all believers and seek a true home in peaceful, just, loving fellowship together.

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