Open Letter to Fundamentalist editor
The grandson of the late John R. Rice, the founder of the really conservative, fundamentalist newspaper, the Sword of the Lord, writes a book (same title as the magazine) on his upbringing in that environment. I find the review by a later editor, Robert L. Sumner, and decided to write him on some concerns I had about his defenses of an issue that was brought up in the book, that really does need to be addressed more. One of my main criticism of conservative Christianity is its treatment of the race issue. Not just ignoring it years ago, while focusing on every other “sin” in the land; but often condoning or excusing it, when brought up; often even turning it around so that the disenfranchised are the culprits, while the powerful are the victims (particularly in economic and moral issues).
Haven’t heard from him yet. (When I wrote the Sword years ago with essentially the prototype of what became my page on conservativism; I did get a rather gracious response, but that IIRC was likely the current editor, Dr. Shelton Smith, already).
I’ve recently begun hearing about the new book by [Andrew] Himes on Dr. Rice, and plan to get it soon. I had seen several blog and forum discussions on it, which mentioned a review by you, which I found here:
Rice’s main teaching on the issue is found in his booklet, Negro and White: Desegregation, which he described as “Principles and Problems Stated Moderately and Lovingly from the Bible Viewpoint.” He also called it “A Plea for Patience, for Moderation and for Less Agitation and Pressure While Good Men Work Out Problems.”
Because the situation in America was being ruined by agitators trying to move things too fast, Rice felt more time should be taken to accomplish the goals and get the desired results.
These are excuses. People weren’t trying to “work out the problem”; they were trying to prolong discrimination perpetually (their “desired result”), because (among other things) they believed blacks would ruin their nation (as could be found in much of the rhetoric, such as in Citizens Council literature). This had happened both as slavery ended, and again, as segregation was ending.
He pleaded, “We should not mistreat colored people because socialists and communists are interested in the desegregation fight” – and he obviously sincerely believed the latter were the ones behind it.
Rice’s conclusion was, “When I preach the Gospel and get somebody saved, I have done far more good than if I preached on race problems. When I hold a great revival and stir a community for God and get people to be converted and live right, I do far more than if I got a law passed.” And that is the primary difference between grandfather and grandson: one wanted preaching on the subject and laws passed, but the other saw a far greater value in lives changed through redemption in Christ.
And what is “murder” really? Just abortion? (That seems to be the only kind of murder conservatives focus on) No; according to Jesus’ own words (Matt. 5:21,22), much of what was done under racism would certainly fit “murder”, spiritually; and it often did cross the line into literal murder at that!
I see in a day where race had largely become irrelevant in day to day matters, yet the resentment is remaining in conservative circles, who feel something has been “taken” from them, by others, which they want back. Blame is placed on other groups of people, statistics cited, etc. yet then, the other side is accused of playing a “race card” on them!
These people, many of them “good Christians”, have probably never heard either the past, or their self-exalting jingoism preached against as sin that needs to be repented of. They know all about abortion and homosexuality, which others are guilty of, and stand on “the right side” on those, but still think themselves naturally or culturally “better” than others. No one sees the outright but subtle denial of the Gospel in that. (Most remain focused on others’ sins, and how everyone is out to get them).
Believe it or not, when Paul refers to “the flesh” in Romans and elsewhere, [forgot to add: it is not just lust or anger, but] he is addressing mainly people’s belief that their physical lineage was better than others. Racism started with believing that one’s literal “flesh” made them better, and then by extension, the “culture” of the people, especially when shaped by religion!
And this was what was going on in ancient Israel by Christ’s time. (They had swung from an idolatrous “liberalism” in Old testament times; a full 180° to a rabid conservativism and separatism). After all, they were the “chosen” nation; given the Law directly by God Himself (US or European Christians cannot even make that claim!) Surely that made them “superior” to all the “heathen”.
As stated above, it was based on one’s own sins versus others. That was the real standard.
And both the world and the contemporary Church knew this! They may have not been good at articulating an answer (Biblical or otherwise). So they went by general sentiments such as “feelings”, and “unity”. That is why they have rebelled against the so-called “old paths”. They may have been “old”, but they were not consistently biblical.