Repentance and Racism

Straight-up, let me say that there is nothing that I can say to adequately address George Floyd’s death or lessen its pain and injustice, or that of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, or the countless others.  Every time I’ve tried to say something in the past few days on social media, it has been misunderstood, misconstrued or politicized. I own that as my fault, but I have my own stories about racial justice from my childhood. Those who know me, know the facts about Frank Arthur, Gerald Moseley, Randy Fields, and how many times Cindy and our children marched in Columbia to urge that the Confederate flag come down, and how as the Columbia District Superintendent I led our district clergy in communion at the African American Memorial, and then marched over in silent protest to where the flag stood.

Some of you know the story of how we were given a framed print depicting the last night that the Confederate flag flew over SC’s Statehouse. Cindy took it back to the gift shop where it came from, as noted by a label on the back. She handed it to the cashier who said, “I can’t give you a refund.” Whereupon Cindy said, “I don’t want one. It’s either give it to you, or toss it.” The woman said, “But, you’re a Southerner. This is your heritage.” Cindy’s reply is worth noting, “No, this is my history, not my heritage. History is something you learn from. Heritage is what you pass on to your children.” That same sentiment led me to use every parliamentary maneuver I could think of to bring a resolution to the floor of the 2000 United Methodist General Conference in Cleveland, Ohio so that United Methodists could go on the record as wanting the Confederate flag down. The resolution passed!

I could get very defensive about anyone who questions where I stand or whether I’m sensitive enough on racial matters. I served on the UMC General Commission on Religion and Race, but no matter. This isn’t about me, or who has better cred than someone else. It’s about systemic and personal racism. Racism has to stop so that no one gets stopped 9 times a year “driving a car while Black” like SC United States Senator Tim Scott. We don’t need any more Emanuel 9 massacres, or Walter Scott killings in South Carolina.

But, what can we do? That’s up to you, but do something! I know this is a watershed moment. We have tried to legislate solutions to our problems, and thank God for those efforts, but they didn’t go far enough. You cannot legislate a solution to a spiritual problem. Only God can truly change the human heart. Our problem is sin. Racism and slavery have been called America’s “Original Sin.” We can legislate all we want, and we should, but we mostly need God’s redemption to free us from this original and actual sin.

Racism and tribalism are a part of the original sin of the world. Ever since Adam and Eve we’ve been corrupted by an “us and them” pre-judging called racism. We can sing “Red, and yellow, black, and white, all are precious in His sight,” until we’re blue in the face, but unless there’s a heart change, it doesn’t matter. The human condition in its fallenness has embraced a bigoted biased one-upmanship that has pitted group against group since the beginning of time.

It is a universal crisis that many of us have witnessed if you’ve done any travel. I’ve been on mission trips and a couple of simple travel jaunts to lots of places: To the Philippines, Hong Kong, Canada, Bulgaria, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Ethiopia, Mozambique, South Africa, Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, Austria, Nicaragua, Mexico, and the impoverished west-end of Grand Bahama. The human condition of prejudice is EVERYWHERE.

In the Philippines the Lumad people are looked down on, and so are the Payatas. In Bulgaria the Roma (Gypsy) orphans are treated poorly. In Ireland it’s Catholics versus Protestants. In Scotland it’s Highlanders against the Lowlanders. In the Congo the main tribes of Mongo, Luba, Kongo, and Mangbetu-Azonde have difficulties with the Batwa, otherwise known by the derogatory term, “Pygmies.” Racism and tribalism are universal! It’s not just an American problem.

It’s an everywhere problem, and we need solutions that work in our personal context and worldwide. That solution isn’t just recognizing the Image of God in everybody. It is also recognizing that we are all guilty of the original and actual sin of racism. We need Jesus, the only cure. Sure, we can legislate, but we need a spiritual solution first and foremost. God had it right in becoming flesh in Jesus, a Jew from the Middle East – not African, not European, Not Asian – from right in the geographic middle of all humankind. Jesus ably represents all of us, died in our place to redeem us, and gave us the words to combat racism and bigotry in Matthew 7:12, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

So, pray with me if you want, “Forgive me, Lord Jesus, of all the ways that I have been an insensitive bigot, prejudging instead of pre-loving. I repent of my sin. Set me and our country free from the sin of denigrating whomever we count as the ‘other.’ Help us to embrace you as the only hope for forgiveness and justice, then help us to act like it. Change my heart and my life; in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

19 thoughts on “Repentance and Racism

  1. Thank you, Dr. Tim, for your essay on Repentance and Racism. Very beautifully expressed! There is no place in this world for racism and bigotry, and it’s time all people learn to love one another. My heart and soul feel broken over what has transpired recently and over many, many years.

  2. Thank you, Dr. Tim. I do pray your prayer and seek God’s forgiveness and healing. I ask God to let me be a bridge to love and forgiveness wherever possible.

  3. I AS A TRUE historian, find that you are swept with the modern history idiots who change history every chance they can. IN true history books written in the 1860’s Slavery was NOT even in the top 20 reasons of the South succeeding. Their were more states that had more slavers that didnot succeed and fought for the north. The reason of succession was STATES RIGHTS, a similar problem that is going on right now and one that is dividing this country NOW. History is in the eye of the winner. Read high school history books of the 1950’s SLAVERY is NEVER mentioned a a reason for the Civil War. Slavery DID NOT Become a reason until the late 1950’s and the civil rights movement.

    1. Bonner, I’m not even going to respond; not as a history major, nor as a former member of the Children of Confederacy, nor former member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, nor as one whose all 4 great grandfathers fought for the South, nor given the fact that my Great Grandfather Daniel Byrd McClendon was shot in the back of the head at the Battle of Monocacy July 9, 1864 and survived Point Lookout prison; nor as one who has actually read the SC Ordinance of Secession which clearly states slavery as the primary reason for secession.


  4. Dr. Tim,you, and Cindy continue to amaze us .Everytime we learn more about your experiences we appreciate you both even more. But the most important thing is God does too . Cindy you were quick on your feet when you explained the difference in History and Heritage. Can you send this the “Potter’s View” to Tim Scott . He could and should use it to further the cause for equal rights for all . As I write this I’m waiting on your very nice,kind young son to arrive and finish up some work for us. He has a kind spirit about him much like you both. Can’t wait for things to get back to normal. Love you both

    Wayne and 🦢

    1. Wayne, God bless you and Swanie! Thanks for your kind words, and appreciate your words about Caleb! tim

      Sent from my iPhone


  5. Is there a means to confirm that Floyd was a criminal and working for criminals that were laundering money and that he was suspected of taking some? Also, the policeman that killed him was being paid off by the same group. I am really tired of it all. When I was in high school we had one black girl on our bus and I saved her a seat every day. She was the only black In our entire school. Her father bought a place in the country and he finally moved back to the city. He was a physician so sad.

    1. Pat, Tip of the iceberg, and doesn’t really matter what particular facts are. A man died who didn’t need to die. It’s all so complex and yet so simple. Golden Rule. tim

      Sent from my iPhone


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