I read a lot of Christian writers and a lot of Christian commentaries on the culture. Without question, there has been a marked increase in the amount of focus placed on so-called “social justice” issues within Christendom over the last several years. Sadly the voices that are often promoted and celebrated in that regard are the ones who seem inclined to echo the world more than the Gospel.
And that is why, for my money, no one is speaking Christian truth to these issues of race, racism, discrimination, prejudice, and justice from a black man’s perspective more effectively and with more fidelity to Scriptural truth than a writer and thinker named Darrell B. Harrison.
Harrison’s recent piece entitled, “Is the Gospel No Longer Enough for Black Christians?” surely angered and agitated a great many that have come to believe the point of the Gospel of Christ is social equity, racial reconciliation, gender equality, and equal opportunity. But those of us – black or white or any shade in between – who recognize the real mandate in the Gospel of Christ is to preach Christ crucified, should not only applaud Harrison’s work, but should do all we can to spread and promote it.
Harrison sees something dangerous happening thanks to this vigorous expression of social justice Christianity. Communities that have long found contentment in terrible circumstances because of the abiding promise of life in Jesus, are being deceived into replacing the real Jesus with a social activist version who promises not eternal riches through faithfulness but temporal “justice” through political activism. It is unsurprising that the embrace of a new, false Jesus would cause these communities to exude far less joy and far more resentment than their ancestors exhibited despite far worse earthly conditions.
[M]any black Christians have begun to advocate a purely activist theology borne of a soteriology that proffers the idea that the preeminent, if not sole, mandate of the gospel is the pursuit of “social justice”, the manifestation of which is evidenced primarily by the bringing about of such realities as socio-ethno egalitarianism and the eradication of all human suffering and oppression, particularly of those whose melanin happens to be of a black or brown hue.
There are many black Christians today who, believe it or not, would assert that, collectively, the plight of black people in 21st century America is tantamount to that of Jupiter Hammon in the 18th century. This, I believe, is because words like slavery and oppression are applied so flippantly and, dare I say, ignorantly today as to divest them of their historical significance with regard to legitimate injustices that were perpetrated against God’s black and brown-skinned image-bearers (Gen. 1:27; Acts 17:26).
The truth is there is no gospel and, conversely, no church – regardless of ethnic composition or denominational affiliation – apart from the life-changing message that ‘Jesus Saves.’ It is that message which, I fear, is being lost as increasing numbers of black Christians become convinced that their primary loyalty is to an ecclesiastical legacy rooted in a socio-ethno missiology that emphasizes societal reformation apart from spiritual transformation.
This is brilliant writing and profound thinking, to be sure. But it’s much more than that. It’s Christian writing and thinking. That is, it is Christ-centered, not issues-centered. It is focused on Kingdom-building, not political ends. It’s what I (and every believer) should strive to do, and Darrell Harrison does it so well:
To believe that an innately sinful society inherently possesses either the capacity, or the ability, to bring about the kind of equity so zealously desired by social justice advocates is both unrealistic and naive.
Yet that is what the “social gospel” – preached so often these days from “culturally relevant” pulpits, misguided and misled Christian campuses, as well as vocal “Christian” commentators – assumes.