A few months ago, on this site, I called for evangelicals from both the political Left and Right to come together and draft a Statement on race issues in America. The thorny issue of race relations is in desperate need of clear-headed and definitive teaching from evangelical leaders and pastors. And getting a clear head about this, I insisted, will require honest dialogue across party lines.
Earlier today, John MacArthur and some like-minded evangelicals released a "Statement on Social Justice." It was not what I had in mind. Instead of bringing all evangelicals together to oppose a misguided secular culture, MacArthur took aim at evangelicalism's Left-wing, especially those at The Gospel Coalition who have begun calling for a "woke church." By doing this, MacArthur threatens to deepen an already existing divide within the evangelical church itself.
I pray that our Left-leaning evangelical brothers and sisters will not be baited into an aggressive response to MacArthur. As one-sided as MacArthur's Statement is, it is a legitimate expression of what I have termed the "Francis-King" perspective on racial issues. This perspective is pervasive among Right-leaning evangelicals, and it deserves to be taken seriously.
Saint Francis was a pacifist who didn't involve himself in political crusades. Likewise, Right-leaning evangelicals are pacifist on the race issue, believing that Christians are called to individually abstain from active participation in the sin of racism. Saint Dominic, on the other hand, was a zealous crusader against the church's enemies. Likewise, Left-leaning evangelicals tend to see politics as a battlefield for the church and feel that they have a collective mission to fight racism.
Obviously this metaphor of mine doesn't capture everything about either side of the debate, but I hope it makes an important point: opposing political points of view can both be deeply Christian. Neither the Left nor the Right is intentionally opposing the cause of the gospel, nor are they intentionally enabling the continuance of racism. There is good faith disagreement, here, regarding the lessons that the church should have learned from a previous, bigoted era, and about the implications of those lessons for social action.
I hope both sides of this discussion can use MacArthur's statement as a jumping-off point for honest dialogue. I encourage The Gospel Coalition to produce a good-faith counter-statement, which details a biblical case for their viewpoint. Then, when both sides have made their case, perhaps we can break bread together, and possibly even draft a new Statement with which the entire evangelical church can fully agree.