DALLAS (BP) – Conflict in terms of race relations boils down to a pivotal question, Pastor Tony Evans of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship told those gathered at his church on July 21.
“Am I a reconciler, or am I a combatant? Am I contributing to what God has done for me, bringing harmony where there was conflict, or am I one who keeps the fire [of division] burning?” he asked. “The more we are engaged … in the ministry of reconciliation, the more God is going to be with us because we were reconciled to Him. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ.”
Oak Cliff isn’t a Southern Baptist church, but Evans holds widespread respect among Southern Baptists and was the featured speaker at the Send Conference held June 13 that preceded the SBC annual meeting. Oak Cliff’s “Summer Hot Topics” Wednesday night Bible studies, led by Evans, focused on Critical Race Theory July 14 and July 21.
Discussions about CRT among Southern Baptists began with the passage of a resolution “On Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality” at the 2019 annual meeting in Birmingham. That discussion hasn’t let up, with messengers most recently adopting a resolution “On the Sufficiency of Scripture for Race and Racial Reconciliation” in Nashville.
In his first address, Evans began by offering a definition of CRT as “a post-Civil Rights social construct that seeks to demonstrate how unjust laws have served as the embedded foundation and filter through which racist attitudes, behavior, policies and structures have been rooted throughout the fabric of American life and systems even after those laws have changed.”
CRT, in and of itself, can be useful in addressing the long-lasting effects of racist laws and cultural norms that continue to exist, he maintained. However, when attached to Black Lives Matter or the 1619 Project, it greatly impacts the definition held of CRT from one individual to the next.
The 1619 Project, first appearing in the August 2019 issue of The New York Times Magazine, maintained that America’s founding actually began the year that slaves first appeared on its shores from Africa. It would re-frame the American Revolution not as the colonies fighting for independence from Great Britain, Evans explained, but for their right to keep an economy predicated on slavery.
Black Lives Matter must be addressed both as a movement and an organization, he stated. “The movement says the lives of Black people matter in the same way all of us evangelicals say the lives of the unborn matter,” he said. The organization of the same name is unbiblical and actually advocates for the destruction of the Black family, Evans added.
In his July 21 address, Evans went into detail on a concept he introduced July 14—Kingdom Race Theology.
KRT, he explained is “the reconciled recognition, affirmation and celebration of the divinely created ethnic differences through which God displays His multifaceted glory as His people justly, righteously and responsibly function personally and corporately in unity under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”
He pointed to Paul’s admonition to the church in Ephesus for reconciliation among two groups who didn’t get along – Gentiles and Jews. Earlier, Evans had explained how a country’s Olympic athletes may be different, but they compete under the same flag. Another way of putting it is that they compete for the same kingdom.
“If you are a believer in Christ, then you are required to be a reconciler,” Evans said. “We are not to allow the divisions of society to create divisions in the kingdom. You operate under a different flag now.”
That process of becoming new in Christ doesn’t mean past injustices are ignored, but they also don’t determine who you are now. “Regardless of your social reality, you are not a victim,” he said. Such a position places you as one inferior, and if you’re inferior, he noted, it puts someone above you.
“The moment you come to Jesus Christ, He calls you an overcomer, more than a conqueror. You may be victimized, but you should never view yourself as a victim,” Evans said. “You must view yourself through the eyes of God and not through the eyes of culture. If you think you’re a victim, you start acting like one.”
Evans’ talk about CRT continually came back to the importance God places on unity. It’s a topic he also addressed at the Send Conference.
“God is not colorblind, but neither is He blinded by color,” he said. “We are of every tribe and nation, and God sees us. But the only subject of the Bible is the glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom. We are never to allow the politics of men to break up our togetherness, so stand together as the Lord sends you.”
At the close of his July 21 address, Evans was asked by an attendee if, considering all of America’s historic faults when it came to race, was it even possible to be patriotic?
Frederick Douglass, Evans responded, called the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution “freedom documents” that America has yet to live up to. “The documents are perfect,” he said. “The application is flawed.
“The magic of America,” Evans continued, “is in the Declaration of Independence because it recognizes that there have been immutable rights granted by God that the government has been established to protect.”