Tag Archives: racism

Editorial: The Solution To Our Troubling Times (October, 2017) — Jon Mitchell, Editor

I write this editorial the week after the shooting at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee.  Last Sunday afternoon, I had gone to Wal-Mart after worship services to get my daughter a birthday cake for a birthday party we were having for her at church that night.  As I was standing in the checkout line, my smart phone lit up with a notification from Fox News that there was a church shooting.  As was the case when my phone notified me of the shooting that took place in 2015 at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, my first prayer was for the safety and health of all within that place of worship, followed by a prayer that this church was not a church of Christ and that my brothers and sisters in Christ were not the ones suffering through this tragedy.  Sadly, when I then opened up the notification to read the news story I discovered that it was in fact a church of Christ who was the victim of this particular atrocity.  Since then, my heart both rejoiced to learn that most of those wounded have stabilized and sank with sorrow at the news of the death of a single mother of two, Melanie Crow Smith, as well as the news of the critical condition of the minister of that congregation, Joey Spann, who was wounded in the chest and hand after shouting for everyone to run.  (I’ve since heard that he seems to be improving, for which I and others are thankful to God.)

This shooting is just the latest of a long line of tragedies and divisive actions which make the times in which we live very troubling indeed.  In the past decade alone, in addition to the shootings at Burnette Chapel last Sunday and the church in Charleston in 2015 we can recall the movie theater shooting in Colorado; the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut; the Washington Navy Yard massacre; the tragedy at Virginia Tech; the shooting in Arizona which killed a little girl and wounded others, including a congresswoman; the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin; the bloodshed at San Bernardino, California; the slayings at the Orlando night club last year; the tragedy in Dallas which also occurred last year and Charlottesville this year; many more incidents of violence could be cited.

There also seems to be much division and animosity drawn along lines of race and ethnicity in our society today.  The president of Lipscomb University recently made national news after inviting minority students to his home to discuss their experience at the university.  After hosting Hispanic students in his home and serving them tacos, he then invited African-American students to his home the following night and served them traditional “southern comfort” food such as collard greens and corn bread at a table decorated with a cotton stalk centerpiece.  The students were offended, some of them taking to social media to air their grievances after trying to express them to the president, Randy Lowry, who later publicly apologized for insensitivity.  This controversy took place days before the aforementioned Burnette Chapel shooting in which a black gunman of Sudanese background opened fire on an assembly of Christians of different races, causing some pundits and commentators to wonder if racism played a factor in the shooting as it had clearly done in the similar incident in Charleston in which a white gunman had opened fire on a predominately black congregation.  Also taking place on the same day as Burnette Chapel was another controversy in which National Football League athletes and coaches knelt instead of standing during the singing of the National Anthem.  This controversy had its roots last year in the actions of a quarterback who had knelt during the Anthem in protest to another controversy: alleged police brutality against African-Americans in recent years, something which gained and kept national attention after the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, following Michael Brown’s death and a grand jury declining to charge a police officer with wrongdoing.  Since Ferguson, more protests, riots, and incidents of proven and alleged discrimination against minorities and police officers have taken place.  Much more could be cited, but these serve to illustrate the troubles facing our country and culture these days.

It is my sincere and firm conviction that the love of God is the solution to our troubles.  As Carolina Messenger writer Lorraine Smith wrote in last month’s issue, love is “an overworked word with underfelt meaning.”  We tend to throw that word around a lot without really stopping to think about or put into practice its meaning.  Yet if both Christians and non-Christians would put the biblical meaning of God’s love into practice with all whom we come into contact, we would very readily find that love to be the solution to our troubling times.

Consider what 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says about the love God has for us and which He desires for us to have for each other.  The passage states that love is “patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.”  The kindness of godly love in itself would cause all acts of violence such as the aforementioned shootings to cease, since kindness demands that we would all treat each other the way we would want to be treated (Matt. 7:12).  Such universal adherence to the kindly conduct prescribed by the Golden Rule would also exterminate all racism, bigotry, and discrimination.  Applying the other tenets of godly love would only further solve the division amongst us if they were universally applied.

What if the patience, kindness, humility, and respect of godly love had been in place by all from the very beginning with the Lipscomb controversy?  Much if not all of the contention would have been avoided if both sides had shown patience with each other from the beginning.  From what has been reported, President Lowry by his own admission initially dismissed the students’ expressed concern about the cotton centerpiece, something for which he later acknowledged as wrong and apologized.  In turn, some of the students showed little patience with his dismissiveness, instead taking to social media to complain about it.  Having read their posts  and similar posts about the controversy, including the subsequent comments of many from all sides, much of which were extremely profane and insulting to all parties involved, it is clear that such unkind, boastful, arrogant, and rude communication only exacerbated the problem and resulted in even more division.  The patience and kindness of godly love, if shown from the beginning in love’s humility and civility by not only all initially involved but also by all who have since made observations, would have gone a long way towards solving the problem.

The Bible also says that godly love “does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.”  Imagine if all sides of the National Anthem controversy put these tenets into practice.  What would happen if everyone who attended a football game and saw an athlete kneel instead of stand attentively during the National Anthem decided to NOT resent it or be irritated by it?  What if the athlete who considers kneeling in protest saw the uproar resulting from others doing it and, rather than insisting on doing what he wanted to do above all, decided to put others’ interests above his own (Phil. 2:3-4) and protest in a way less controversial?  Would a solution to the problem be more easily attainable?  Probably.

The passage goes on to say that love “does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.”  It seems to me that with every allegation of police wrongdoing and racism in recent years, there are many who do not care about first finding out whether the police officer in question is in fact guilty of the discrimination and bigotry of which he is charged.  Many assumptions of guilt are made, often based on appearance and in many cases not even that.  Such lack of concern about obtaining the truth only more intensely fans the flames of the chaotic anarchy of the riots plaguing our society in recent years.  These tumults in turn result in more “rejoic(ing) in wrongdoing,” as many take advantage of the strife to loot, assault, and rape.  Would the riots and protests that were the catalysts to even more criminal activity and loss of life and property have taken place if everyone in our society refused to “judge according to appearance,” but instead decided to “judge with right judgment” (John 7:24)?  How much better would our society be if everyone cared solely about punishing only those found beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law to be guilty of bigotry and criminal conduct, and rejoiced that the truth was found and upheld when such was done?

God’s Word ends its discourse on godly love by saying that love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  We all let each other down, disappoint each other, and hurt each other because we are all human and fallible.  What would happen if we all chose to bear with each other in all things, basically putting up with each other?  What if we all gave each other the benefit of the doubt instead of automatically assuming the worst about each other?  What if we all genuinely hoped for the best for each other and were all willing to endure each other’s mistakes and follies while actively working with each other to make our positive hopes for each other a reality?  How much better would our culture be?

Am I being naïve?  If I think that everyone will have God’s love for each other, of course (Matt. 7:13-14).  Yet, more people can be like this than we might think, Christians.  It depends on each of us to make it happen.  You see, only those who truly put the will of the Christian God first in their lives, continually striving to penitently grow in God’s love in every area of their hearts, with come to show God’s love to every person they see.  Yet that will never happen unless you — each of you — brings the gospel to them and lives it in front of them (Matt. 28:19-20).

Robert Engle, the Burnette Chapel usher who stopped the gunman last Sunday, refused to be called a hero, ascribing that honor to others and calling on everyone to pray not only for the victims but even for the shooter and his family.  That’s godly love.  Imagine if more were like that.            — Jon





Addressing Society’s Problems — Adam Carlson

Editor’s Note:  Brother Carlson’s article on recent societal problems mentions the tragedies in Dallas, TX, in July, 2016.  Since the completion and submission of his article for publication, other similar tragic events have taken place and made national news in Baton Rouge, LA, Tulsa, OK, and Charlotte, NC.  These calamities and the similar afflictions which have taken place repeatedly in recent times show the relevancy of brother Carlson’s thoughts from scripture as expressed in this article.  May we take these words to heart, and pray for our nation, the friends and families of all those tragically affected by these violent acts, and each other.


There are many sad and heavy hearts in light of the recent shooting deaths of two civilians at the hands of law enforcement and the murder of five police officers in Dallas, Texas.  When these tragedies happen there is much debate as to whether anger at law enforcement or abuse of authority by law enforcement is justified.  During these trying times, Christians must be proactive rather than reactive so we can bring about the positive change so many in the world desire.  The following six points for consideration will now be proposed so that each of us as followers of Christ may live in a godly manner in this ungodly society in which we find ourselves.  My prayer is that this may be of benefit to everyone who reads this article.

First, we must pray.  Prayer is a given…but when one finds themselves in afflictions such as the Dallas shootings, for what are we to pray?  We should pray that God comfort the loved ones of the victims (2 Co. 1:3-4).  We should also pray for those who perpetrate these acts because God’s desire as stated by Paul is that “all people…be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Ti. 2:4).

These acts of violence sadden and anger us but we must not let our anger blind us to God’s love (Ep. 4:26-27, 31-32).  It is easy to resort to calls for justice in these situations; certainly there does need to be consequences for those who commit acts of violence.  Yet we must not let that blind us to the fact that Christ died even for these individuals (Mk. 2:17).  We must remember that even we, before our conversion, were ungodly (Co. 3:5-7; Ti. 3:3-7).  God’s grace is for all (T. 2:11-14).  We must also remember the commandment of Jesus to love and pray for our enemies (Mt. 5:43-45).  These are not optional matters.  How can one proclaim the gospel but have animosity in their heart towards perpetrators of evil deeds?

Second, we must take action in a positive way.  “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.  For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.  But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (Ja. 1:23-25).

James calls Christians to put faith into action.  Listening is a good thing but one can listen to a sermon on loving our enemies and even agree with it…but it’s more challenging to put it into practice.  This is what must be done.  It goes beyond shouting slogans, hashtags, and updating profile pictures on social media.  This is a call to put our beliefs into practice by helping our fellow man.

Third, remember the real issue.  Violence against law enforcement or anyone for that matter is symptomatic of a larger issue.  It is easy to treat outward symptoms of a disease, but more difficult to treat the disease itself, said disease being how societal issues are manifested in the public arena.  Race or any issue which divides is used by Satan to his advantage.

We must heed Paul’s reminder to the Christians at Ephesus:  “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ep. 6:12).  How sad it is that these matters may be used even to divide brethren!  This is why it is imperative that we must be on guard and remember that Christ died for all…including the ungodly (Ro. 5:6).  Remember that it is because of our own selfish desires that strife arises among the body.  “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?  Is it not this that your passions are at war within you?”  (Ja. 4:1)

Fourth, remember that the world needs the blood of Christ.  We are redeemed by His blood (Ep. 1:7).  If one wants society to change for the better, this is the message which needs to be proclaimed.  Catchy slogans, demonstrations in the streets, politicians’ legislations and proposals…none of these will solve these issues.

Only the message of redemption through Christ will solve these problems.  As the song we commonly sing with children says:  Red and yellow, black and white, they’re all precious in His sight.  Regardless of our outward appearances, His blood covers all.  It is only through that avenue that true peace and equality will be achieved.  Only when we all realize that everyone has value in God’s eyes and it’s only by Christ that this is made possible (Ga. 3:26-28).

Fifth, take note of your conduct while you react.  There already has been and for the foreseeable future there will continue to be much debate regarding these matters.  Emotions and tempers will be running high.  This is why Christians who choose to engage in discussion on these matters must continually examine themselves and their conduct.  If one chooses to participate in debate, regardless of which side of the issue you may fall into, God expects you to conduct yourself in a way which glorifies Him (Co. 4:6).

We can expect ungodly behavior from those in the world.  It is for that reason we must be cautious to set a good example for them.  Hateful, divisive rhetoric is no excuse for a Christian to stoop to that level; we’re called to put away things such as that (Ep. 4:29, 31; Co. 3:8; 1 Pe. 2:1, 21-23).  It’s easy for one to be carried away by inflammatory statements made by others, but Christians should be careful that we don’t do the same thing.

Apply the “Philippians 4:8 Test” before speaking, especially on the Internet, and ask before one verbalizes or writes for the world to see if what you are about to say is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or worthy of praise.  If there is any doubt, then simply find another way to say it or discard it completely.  There’s a reason we’ve been given two ears and only one tongue (Pr. 14:29; 15:1; Ja. 1:19-20).  There is a right way and a wrong way to speak, and at times it is even best to be silent altogether (Ec. 3:7).

Sixth, learn to listen.  Another problem which arises is the refusal to open our ears and listen to others.  This is due to either pride or the stubborn desire to be right in what we believe.  Paul gives Timothy attributes which the Christian must possess:  “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.  God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Ti. 2:24-26).

We’re not always going to agree with thoughts or ideas put forth, but we must take the time to listen to other viewpoints.  This is not to say we must accept everything that’s said, but we should also not be quick to dismiss opposing viewpoints.

It’s easy to become angry and disillusioned when we see our society crumble before our very eyes at the sight of evil.  The prophet Habakkuk struggled with this very scenario as he questioned God about how ungodly Babylon could seem to get away with what they were doing:  “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?  Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save?  Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong?  Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise” (Hab. 1:2-3, emp. added).

Many today join him in struggling with this question.  In time the prophet learned to trust God and learned that God was using Babylon for His purpose:  “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.  God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places” (Hab. 3:17-19, emp. added).

As mere men we won’t always fully understand…yet we must trust.  Faith must be learned.  We must remember that God can and will use all things, regardless of how evil it is, for the purpose of His will.  Everything we do is to be done according to His will (Co. 3:17).  May everything which we do be done in a scriptural manner!


Adam preaches at the Valley Church of Christ in Kingsport, TN.