Imagery of Regent people and campus

Celebrating Black History Month at Chapel

By Amanda Morad | February 7, 2013

Vincent Bacote

"Is the dream just for the past?" asked Dr. Vincent Bacote, associate professor and director of the Center for Applied Christian Ethics at Wheaton College and guest speaker at Regent University's chapel service on Wednesday, Feb. 6. In honor of Black History Month, Bacote discussed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream and its relevance for today.

"Can't we all just be Christians together and not talk about issues of race?" he asked, suggesting that many Christians believe the solution to racism is ignoring race altogether, but the answer must be no, he said. "Black and white has framed the history of the conversation of race in the United States. Even when the Emancipation Proclamation was passed, the abolitionist view was a minority," he noted. "The problems of race remained."

And they still remain today, Bacote said: "Things are better, but we are delusional if we think it's over." Comparing the institution of slavery to an asteroid hitting the Chesapeake Bay, he pointed out that, even after the major waves of initial impact subside, waves would keep coming in a ripple effect for a long time.

"Part of the framework of the modern world is built upon the idea that white is normative humanity; anything else is slightly less than that," he said. "We can't just wish that away."

Bacote provided Biblical foundations for Christians to base their ideas of race upon, starting with Romans 12:2, which challenges Christians to "be transformed" instead of conforming to the world's standards. "Conformity only requires you to do nothing," Bacote explained. "Just exist and perpetuate the status quo. That's easy. But the Spirit helps us look at ourselves and realize we've been messed up since Genesis [chapter] 3."

The second principle came from Philippians 2:3, which admonishes Christians to consider others above themselves. "If you're dealing with race issues, it's not just about black and white, it's otherness in general," Bacote said. He encouraged dialogue between people who don't necessarily think the same way. "We need to have a holy patience about this," he suggested. "Risk frustration with each other because [race is] not going away.

"But we also need to have a holy impatience to never say, 'we've done enough. Things are good enough as they are,'" he added.

The final principle comes from Galatians 3:28, which dictates that race or place of origin are not limiting factors in the Kingdom of God. The concept is often misconstrued by Christians as pure "color blindness," Bacote explained, but that's not the heart of the verse nor the solution. "Color blindness is good intention that doesn't go far enough," he said. "It means 'I won't hold your race against you, but I'm choosing to ignore a big part of who you are.'"

Bacote concluded the service with the acknowledgement that race issues still exist, especially within the church, and they need to continue to be addressed. "The vision is that we all live together in Christ," he said.

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