I took some ribbing last night from someone I am certain loves me and has my best interest at heart, which makes all the difference when you're being teased. In the middle of the feigned attacks and my mock protests a serious question was asked. "Why did what Bryan Loritts say get under your skin any more than the hundreds of thousands of other stupid things that are posted on the net?" (You can read my previous rant here.)
It was a fair question and one I had to do something thinking about. I went to bed thinking about it and woke up thinking about it. Here are my conclusions.
Racism is a tender issue for me because I grew up in the East Bay Area during the 60s and 70s. My father was, for most of his life, a bigot. Not the sort of bigot that yelled the dreaded "n" word from the comfort and safety of his car. He was an amiable sort of bigot. He got along with most people but made sure I used my grandmother's address in El Sobrante so I could go to a predominantly white school instead of going to Richmond High which was predominantly black. Of course the world was changing then and I rode A/C Transit from a few blocks away from Richmond High to get to De Anza. It took an hour or more. While I waited for the A/C bus there were hundreds of young men and women boarding school buses and heading in the same direction. I don't know if he was aware that those black kids he wanted me to avoid were being bused into the same school he had me attend or not, but back then I thought it was funny as heck.
My dad and step-mom could have given me any of a thousand reasons to make me give up going to junior high and high school in the district I lived in; better scholastic record, better graduation record, better safety record, but they didn't even try. In fairness to them the 60s and early 70s were a tumultuous time in the San Francisco Bay Area. Riots, People's Park, Black Panthers, free love, drugs and on the nightly news protesters on school grounds; all families were trying to make the best decisions for their kids. My parents' decision on my behalf had two profound impacts on my life. The first being that I wanted to know and befriend anyone who wasn't like me. I became fascinated with cultural differences and history. When you read history you begin to see patterns. There is always a key moment before some horrific event where someone could have and should have said, "No!" to something evil and "Yes!" to something good. I determined to do my best to recognize those moments in my life and make the appropriate choices, even if it cost me something.
The second way their decision impacted me was not having any friends in my neighborhood. Having no one to hang out with I turned to books and music. Providentially one of those books was Evidence that Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell. That book led to reading more and more books on Christianity and thus began my path from "Non-practicing Roman Catholic" to "Saved by grace through faith Reformed Christian." It was a journey fraught with spiritual danger and frustration as I was bounced around by bad doctrine and false gospels. I had lots of scars and bruises most of which were my own fault. I was influenced more by books about faith and what other people had to say about faith than I was influenced by the Word of God.
My childhood and young adulthood were easy on me. I approached middle age with a fairly significant chip on my shoulder, angry with God as I knew Him. A kind and benevolent giver of good gifts who, by my accounts, hadn't been kind or benevolent to me at all with the possible exception of saving me from hell. I had no idea what hell was, what I had really been saved from nor what I was saved to. I only knew Jesus loved me and I got to go to the good place when I died. I tried desperately to make myself like God and have warm fuzzies for Jesus like the "Jesus Freaks" and other Christians I knew. I figured if I could make God like me, that would be the first step in really liking Him and then He would give me all those warm and blissful feelings. I was a tortured soul who had an idea of the framework of the gospel but no doctrine to support me. Then I began to read my bible for myself. Whoa.
I now found myself with an entirely new set of problems. Most of the stuff I had heard from the pulpit was not congruent with what I was reading in the bible. More searching brought me in touch with reformed theology. I despised it but I could not refute it biblically. God's sovereignty offended me I stewed over it for a long time and then suddenly there was a new venue for me to vent my displeasure; the internet. Again, providentially a pastor on the internet was instrumental in my coming to terms with my sinfulness and God's sovereignty in all matters, including my salvation, sanctification and horrible childhood. That clever, economical and sneaky God! Imagine using the internet for such purposes. This pastor had me give answers for what I believe and support those beliefs from Scripture. Oh my but I hated him for doing that to me. He had me read books and I would dutifully buy them and read them, certain all the while that I would be able to refute the authors. When I could not I would throw the book across the room. In the process I found myself going from Arminian and not knowing it; knowing it and embracing it; being challenged to defend my Arminian theology; being unable to do the same; finding myself an unwilling Calvinist- begging anyone to show me a biblical way out- and finally coming to embrace the doctrines of grace wholeheartedly. Finally! Hope was more than a four letter word and peace was being able to lay my head down at night knowing it is well with my soul!
Having that background now let me make these points on why what Bryan Loritts said hit so many of my buttons and pushed me over the edge:
1) If I ignore racism anytime anywhere- I miss a "No!" or "Yes!" moment. I am bound by my conscience to not to knowingly ignore such events.
2) I spent too many miserable years because of bad theology. Years God says He will redeem and I believe Him. However, I remember the misery and torment quite vividly. If I can help anyone avoid similar years, I want to. If I can help anyone find biblical peace for their soul, count me in. I do not wish my agonies on anyone.
3) A false gospel does not save. To sum up criticism of a man holding to a false gospel as nothing more than an unbecoming form of racism is to give ascent to this false gospel. If by hearing Jakes' words and actions I am wrong about him being a profit seeking, prosperity mongering modalist, prove it to me with evidence. If your brothers and sisters in Christ cannot criticize Jakes and the folks who seemed by all accounts to embrace him as a brother, (meaning they see him as a partaker of the true gospel, for which I have no evidence based on his words or theirs) without being labeled as racists and you cannot see the peril in that action, then I may have just cause to question you. You give me cause to question your knowledge of sound doctrine at the very least and quite possibly your adherence to the true gospel if you are blind and cannot identify a false gospel. I am hopeful what I heard was some immaturity and ill conceived notions, those things are remedied easily enough.
I Corinthians 2:1-5
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. ESV