DALLAS (Christian Examiner) – If America's preachers were preaching biblical truth above tradition, the problem of racism in America would have been cured long ago, the Rev. Tony Evans – pastor of the 10,000 member Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas – said in a sermon July 17.
That sermon, "A Biblical Response on Race," is now lighting up social media. It has been viewed 135,000 times since it was posted.
Evans's church is predominantly black by virtue of its location in a predominantly black community. Evans does not see a congregation of mostly "black Christians," however. He sees one made up of many Christians who happen to be black.
That is true, he said, because he believes Christians are not defined by how they created – as black, white, yellow or red. They are instead defined by who created them, he said.
"Truth overrides tradition. Truth overrides color. Black is only beautiful when it's biblical," Evans told the congregation.
"You must be Christian first ... it doesn't take 240 years to fix this. It takes about two minutes and 40 seconds."
"If you have a mist in the pulpit, you've got a fog in the pew ... If our pulpits were right we would have solved this problem of racism a long time ago. Slavery would have been solved, Jim Crow would have been solved, segregation — all of this would have been solved," Evans said.
"But because the pulpits were anemic and allowed to take place this evil in America, we are still fighting that evil today. Because pulpits were silent biblically on this issue, maintaining a manifest destiny ideology that was in contrast to biblical theology. But that also explains why the Civil Rights movement was able to change it, because the church got out in front of it."
Evans began his sermon by speaking of the Olympics where athletes gather every four years to compete under the flag of their country. When they win, their country wins because they are not wrapped up in their individual identities, he said.
"It's not just about them," Evans said.
"God has a kingdom. It's made up of citizens ... some black, some white, some red, yellow, Spanish backgrounds. His intention was never that their individual uniqueness would cause them to lose sight of the flag flying over them."
He said the flag flying over Christians is the cross of the crucified Christ. It is under that banner that that people of God are able to discern from Scripture that all lives – because they are created by God – matter.
That doesn't mean that there aren't inequities to be addressed.
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"For example, the life of the unborn matters. And so there is this emphasis on injustice in the womb. But that injustice in the womb must be under the umbrella that all life matters. Black lives matter, as a subset of all lives matter. So any injustices to a particular group must be addressed specific to that group but under the banner that all life is created in the image of God," Evans said.
"Once you extract any specific scenario and remove it from the umbrella of God's creation, you create your own independent cause. There is no discussion of sociology that, at least from a Christian point of view, shouldn't be plugged into theology."
Evans preached from John 4 in which Jesus is described as ministering to a Samaritan woman – an act that broke through multiple cultural and societal barriers. Jesus, he said, reached out to another race to spread the gospel, but he didn't cease being a Jew to do it.
"In other words, Jesus didn't stop being who he was to reach somebody else. He didn't find out how to speak Samaritan and find out how they dress. He was able to maintain his racial and cultural identity, even though he didn't let it get in the way of doing what his Father called him to do. And that is to reach across the railroad tracks to reach someone who was different from him who the rest of his culture would not reach out to," Evans said.
He added that God expects Christians to reach out to others different than them, but to never see themselves as something other than how they were created. That doesn't mean according to their race, he said.
"It is technically incorrect, technically, to call yourself a 'black Christian,' or a 'white Christian,' or a 'Hispanic Christian.' Then you make your color or culture an adjective. It's the job of the adjective to modify the noun. If you put Christianity in the noun position and your color or culture in the adjectival position you have to keep shaping the noun so it looks like the adjective that describes it. So if your color stays in the adjectival position you got to keep shaping Christianity to look black or to look white or to look red," Evans said.
The truth of Scripture, Evans said, is the standard by which God's people must operate, instead of by the traditions of a cultural subset, a history or an ethnic background.
"The truth is an objective standard by which reality is measured; it's God's point of view on any subject. Just because you were raised a certain way. Once how you were raised disagrees with what God says, how you were raised was wrong," he said.
Evans told his congregation that the problem of race is not just in the white community. He told the story of a longtime church member who expressed discomfort at white people – "Anglos," the man called them – joining the church. He said the man told him the white people would try to take over.
"I could tell he had some bad experiences. I said, 'Then you better keep winning blacks to Christ so we outnumber them!"
The man then said, "Well, I don't know if can stay here."
Evans then said he told the man, "Bye."
"That didn't take long," the preacher said.