Sunday, November 16, 2008

First cast out the beam.

This morning I visited a church here in the west suburbs and heard a sermon that really jarred me. The preacher spoke on original sin, from Romans 5:12-14.

He pointed out that when we are confronted with the evilness of human nature, we tend to shy away from it. We don’t want to be confronted with it. It makes us uncomfortable. We even attack people who bring it to our attention. When victims of atrocities come forward, they are often shunned for making accusations—we don’t want to hear these things, they don’t concern us. Either we blame the victim, or we try to distance ourselves from the situation (They’re the perpetrators—I have nothing to do with this!). Neither of these reactions admits the basic flaw that philosophy has suffered from for centuries (since Genesis 3?): We are evil. Not they, not our surroundings. We.

And I recognized something. I’ve been involved in an effort to draft a letter to my alma mater in support of a statement that their policies and (more importantly) their teachings on race were wrong. God has blessed this effort. Through prayer and contemplation, and a lot of input from many different people, a letter was drafted that I really believe reflects the sincere support, gratitude, and conviction we wanted to convey. Almost 500 students and alumni have signed it.

While I’ve been involved in this effort, I have had a lot of occasions to be confronted with evil. Some of the words and actions that evidenced racism at the university were truly hateful and hard to reconcile with respect for another being created in the image of God. While some of the people who have written us to oppose this letter on various grounds are sincere and kind, others have attacked us with a viciousness that surprised me. Some believe the university was right in its stand against integration. Others just label us “worldly liberals,” or assume we are disrespectful punks looking for trouble. And among those who both oppose and support the letter, I have seen heartbreaking ignorance, bitterness, anger, and fear.

In each of these scenarios, my reaction has been to either blame the victim, or to distance myself from the evil. They are racist. They taught error. They have an axe to grind. They are proud. They fear man more than God. Can you hear the self-righteousness?

At Notre Dame we had this cheer we would do at football games: The whole stadium would chant over and over in unison, “WE ARE ND!” You know what? We are Bob Jones University. All of us who are there, went there, taught there, worked there. When people ask me how I could go to a school that stands for something so repugnant as racism, and I answer, “I didn’t know. It wasn’t a big deal. I never saw it,” that’s a cop-out. I am BJU. I was a part of what went on there. I didn’t speak out, I didn’t even see it, even though it was happening to people I knew. I was afraid. I was ignorant. I was angry. It didn’t concern me. When I sign that letter, asking for a statement that BJU was wrong, I am asking for a statement that I was wrong. Well, here it is:

I was wrong.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I applaud you... Id like to respond to your blog as I did to a freind's post of the BJU petition: "This is disheartening. How in the world is one to know what it truly is to be a christian when there is no consistent followthrough? How could one possibly understand what being a christian means? The unbeliever who does not yet know God, is forced to choose from different versions of what should be absolute. And because of this we then in coming towards christ, must be guided somewhat by my own ideals and standards- does their ideas of what is "right", match my own? Does it sound good to me? God becomes whatever I choose for Him to be, which is so divorced from the rederick of how all christians say He should be in our lives. perhaps within the journey to christ it doesnt matter HOW we come to christ- believing that God wants for us to maintain racist ideals, or Unite as one people. The differences illustrate so clearly to me that there is too much "man" in christianity, and not enough God. Christians have become so relative, rather than absolute to the unbeliever. It doesn't matter what they say they are, because it is not consistent. And to trudge through the complications of how christians justify contradicting views of what God would have for us- creates a self-centered agenda to where being a "christian" no longer matters divided from having a relationship with God. This is true of all people, which I believe "post-modernism" was born from. Post modern ideals are not a way to reject God as a structure to conform ones lifestyle: Post modernism is a recondition and response within ALL subcultures, religious or not, of how we are already leading our lives despite our claimed identities. Whats right for me, whats right for you...now attatch God's name to it and suddenly you have HIS word? Nothing is universal in the way we behave. Though interpretation and meanings of the bible varies: Lets keep it straight, live our lives according to a universal constant which is unchanging, this God that you Christians keep glorifying. How terrible that there is such disagreement on who God is between his believers. I have such great respect to the christians who have carried me throughout my journey, and would hope for them that their genuine love and desire for God remains transparent. Though I may not understand the innards of it, the simple message, and example of fellowship I have been shown is a light for me to not disqualify God based on my own worldly justifications. "

The Savage said...

Well written Becca.
We were wrong. God have mercy!!

Becca said...

Isn't it beautiful that the Kyrie is followed by the Agnus Dei?

Kristen said...

am sorry, but i think that a public apology for past wrongs is as pointless as the "reparations" that thankfully never happened. The school is no longer racist, and the racism has nothing to do with current students, so just get over it. If anything, BJU is trying to OVERCOMPENSATE for the past racism by having people of various races, no matter how much they might be the minority at the school, spashed all over magazines and featured in plays and made part of the student body leaders. So please just leave this issue be and pursue issues of greater importance.

Becca said...

Kristen, if after reading through all the materials at http://www.please-reconcile.org/, and after reading through all the notes people have attached to their signatures, you can still say with conviction that no issue currently exists, then I really don't think we will ever see eye to eye on this.

Kristen said...

Well it is not important to me that we see eye to eye on anything. I just know that there are way more important, more problematic, more disturbing issues going on at BJU than the race issues. Sorry.

sardonic beholder said...

Kristen, I think you should consider the responsibility that christians have to denounce sin, and consider the importance that early puritans put on confessing their faults to one another. There was a clear public wrong done here to fellow christians, and as a public wrong was done, a public apology is necessary. Let us always err on the side of humbling ourselves when it comes to unity with our fellow believers.

Kristen said...

Oh my. Did you really just suggest that we base our behavior based on the way the Puritan Christians handled things? Wow. I do not even know if your comment is worth a reply, but here goes anyway. If BJU were required to make a public apology to everyone they have wronged, they would have to close down the school and spend the next decade doing so!!! So explain if you can, the reason that people are so up in arms about the "race issue", when there are so many others who have been wronged far worse? Why are the just people of different the only ones entitled to a public apology and all this uproar? I believe they should just let it go and get on with life like the rest of us have done!!

Anonymous said...

RE: "When I sign that letter, asking for a statement that BJU was wrong, I am asking for a statement that I was wrong." If I was a victim of racist comments while a student at BJU, does this mean I should sign the petition and admit that I was wrong?

Becca said...

Anonymous, you are free to state whatever is on your conscience, but it would appear that an address to the university to that effect won't be necessary now: http://www.bju.edu/about/race.html

Soli Deo gloria!

God is good said...

Well, God is good.

(I think it is important for us to continue to look outside ourselves so that we can understand what other people go through. The only way we can do this is if we practice looking outside ourselves to the One that can save us.)

But again, God is good.

Kristen said...

clearly. because the only ones who suffer in this world are non-whites. what bored people decided to start this whole whine-fest anyway? obviously people from way up north who have no idea how white people down here are treated by the "poor oppressed people of color." for those of you to whom i am referring...IT GOES BOTH WAYS!!

Anonymous said...

Dear Becca, I don't believe a seminary graduate, theologian, professor, or ordained clergyman, could have written a statement 'better' than you wrote your's. Amazing how sensitive, gifted, bright, and insightful the non clergy ( laity ) christians can be and are, when they resist and renounce 'the fear of man',are 'outside' of the repressive 'religigious mobsters environments' and express from their sincere hearts and thoughtful minds about such important matters. Don't know when I've read a better written item on the web. B.Q.