God created racial differences in the church as a vehicle to establish His purposes, says pastor and author Tony Evans. But Christians of all races have descended into racial conflict and need a recovery of “Kingdom race theology.”
“We were missing this comprehensive view, so now we got stuck with CRT (Critical Race Theory), Black Lives Matter, the 1619 Project and the 1776 Unite response,” Evans said in a livestream conversation, hosted by the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Kingdom race theology
Kingdom race theology is “the reconciled recognition, appreciation and celebration of the ethnic differences … established by God, through which He manifests His Kingdom purposes.”
Evans, pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas discussed Kingdom race theology and his forthcoming book of that title with NAAF president Frank Williams, pastor of Wake-Eden Community Baptist Church in New York. The online event was the first in NAAF’s “Kingdom Conversations,” a series of discussions bringing a biblical perspective to issues facing today’s Church.
Evans’ interest in the intersection of theology and race dates back decades. His doctoral dissertation at Dallas Theological Seminary dealt with James Cone, an early advocate of black liberation theology. In the years since, Evans often has brought scripture to bear on the topics of race and ethnicity — but 2020 brought the issue to a head.
The death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police is among those tragedies that have brought racial reconciliation to America’s cultural foreground and spurred Evans to ask whether there is a better way to address racial tension than the world has offered.
His answer is an emphatic, “Yes.”
Racism and idolatry
It starts with addressing the errors whites and blacks have made in speaking about race.
“Anglo Christians have wrapped the faith in the American flag and have developed a Christian nationalism that is foreign to scripture,” Evans explained during the Oct. 28 livestream event. Black Christians tend “to wrap our faith in black culture, so that if it’s black and we feel it, it must be biblical.”
Neither is correct, Evans asserts.
Racism stems from idolatry — regarding anything other than God as the source of our identity, he said.
“Not taking the whole counsel of God and being more culturally oriented than biblically oriented has opened up the door for this catastrophe.”
Yet the solution to racial strife is within reach, Evans encouraged. The Civil Rights Movement of the mid-20th century beat back racial injustice because it adopted a biblical worldview, recognizing invisible spiritual realities behind visible problems. Evans encouraged Christians to recapture that approach.
“The thing that was so awesome about the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. [Martin Luther] King was that he rooted the cry to justice from a biblical/spiritual framework,” Evans explained. “And when he did that with the right methodology, even though there was trauma in the process, God took that” and “laws were changed. The problem is, to a large degree we have not kept that framework dominant.”
Keys to overcoming racial division
The key to overcoming racial division today, Evans said, is for Christians of all races to:
- Ask God to reveal His path to reconciliation;
- Speak about race with one unified voice; and
- Do good works together, like adopting public schools, police precincts and homeless families to help in Jesus’ name.
Each of those depends on agape love, Evans noted.
“Love is not a suggestion or request. It’s a commandment,” he declared. “That means it doesn’t start with your emotions. It starts with your decisions” to “seek the wellbeing of another.”
Being salt and light
Love is especially important during seasons of political activity, Evans added, when white and black Christians tend to vote differently despite their agreement on many political issues.
“The white church focuses on life in the womb — pro-life. The black church focuses on justice to the tomb — fair housing, fair job opportunities … poverty,” he explained. Even if “whites vote for Republicans ‘because we’re white’ and blacks vote Democrat ‘because it’s justice,’ when we come out of the voting booth, we’re going to work [together] for whole life because it’s the biblical stand.”
Don’t shudder or shy from addressing race, Evans counseled Christians. The Bible speaks to it clearly, and the Church has an opportunity to be salt and light.
“This is the greatest opportunity for the church in the history of America,” he said. Challenges abound, and “the culture has no answers.”