Celebrating the Bad Guys

Like most people, I often unwind in the evening by watching TV; among the shows I like to have on (whether or not I am truly watching is another matter) is Hogan’s Heroes. Why, because it is mild lowbrow humor and I know in watching it I will not be too invested. One thing I have recently noticed about the show is that though Hogan and his “heroes” are meant to be the “good guys” they often are not. What do I mean? Well, Hogan is always complaining the Germans need to uphold the “Geneva Convention” and tying their hands, while he and his men flagrantly disregard the same document. Morally upright people are the ones whose hands are tied by doing the right thing; it is the bad guys who disregard what is right. You might be tempted to respond that this was a silly show that does not truly matter. You might also respond that we were fighting the Nazis and so unethical conduct was justified. But here is the problem, we are condoning the unethical or at least we are not grieved by the injustice we let loose on the world. This is a problem rampant in American Christianity and it needs to stop. Christians are falling into the temptation to call our the injustice and immorality in the world around us while giving a pass to those who “are on our side”.

A mere 21 years ago today Bob Jones III announced Bob Jones University would end its ban on interracial dating. I can remember a Baptist pastor I knew promoting that school when I was looking at colleges. I do not remember being told that interracial relationships were forbidden, and I hope that pastor was simply ignorant of the rule. But, BJU was promoted as a school which provided a solid Christian education. The fact that racism was encoded into the system was not even raised, rather they called themselves Christian, had chapel services, and gave Bible degrees therefore they must be the good guys. Since BJU was seen as a Christian institution, Christians did not want to challenge a clearly un-Christian teaching.

What I find especially sad about this event is that Bob Jones seems to have lifted the ban only because his stance was hindering his chosen presidential candidate and not because it was the right thing to do. Had George W. Bush not suffered in the polls BJU might still have a restriction against interracial dating. Here are some quotes Mr. Jones made on the subject.

“I just want everyone to understand that the liberals were all wrong when they said we were racist, they were all wrong when they looked at our rule and drew a conclusion about us that was so unflattering and so untrue,”

“I just wanted to, you know, take this club out of their hand. That’s the only thing I wanted to do.”

“We have a broader testimony, and if all that anybody can see is this rule, which we never talk about or preach, which most of our students couldn’t even tell you what it is–it’s that unimportant to us–I said to our administration, ‘You know, guys, this thing is of such insignificance to us, it’s so significant to the world at large–the media, particularly–why should we have this here as an obstacle?’

“It hurts our graduates; we love our graduates greatly. It hurts, maybe, the church as well, and I don’t want to hurt the church of Jesus Christ.”

Bob Jones III

As Christians, we should be outraged that Mr. Jones felt a rule which creates a distinction between whites and blacks was somehow “not racist” and (worse yet) was in line with what a Christian institution should be teaching. How can we not be offended that he felt a rule separating students by skin color was “insignificant”? Mr. Jones was clearly promoting injustice and Christians tolerated it because he was one of the “good guys”. This was not a onetime event; we are teaching ourselves to support institutions like this because they carry the name”Christian”, rather than asking if they carry the name of Christ well. How many Christians supported Liberty University despite the behavior of Jerry Falwell jr.? And I know I took flak from Christians for calling out Franklin Graham last June when he supported President Trump’s use of force to clear away peaceful protestors. The Church in America needs to look around us and call out the injustice in our midst. In all of these cases Christians justified support for injustice on the grounds they were fighting “The Left”; and since The Left is evil we must wholeheartedly support those who oppose it. [I chose these three illustrations because they are easily connected and I wanted to include BJU, but I easily could have called out the other side of the Christian community who support more liberal ideals with equally uncritical eyes.]

We must be willing to call out injustice in the world particularly when we are connected to the injustice. Injustice is the result of sin, and if we are not calling out injustice, we are not rooting sin out of our lives and world. I applaud organizations like RZIM for rooting out the injustice in their own ranks [at least as far as I have followed the story they have done what is right, read the letter here.] We cannot nonchalantly say injustices are “maybe” hurting the Church; Christians must recognize that all injustice is definitely harming the Church, whether or not we are participating in it. The injustice done by pagans and atheists hurts the Church because it negatively impacts the world God is trying to establish, how much worse when the injustice finds a home in our doors. When we have had a hand in causing injustice, regardless of how blind we are to our participation, we must lament and grieve over the reality of sin in the world. We should recognize that today marks only the 21st anniversary of BJU ending this racist policy with some grief.

The calling of God is one of continual repentance. A continual repentance means to constantly look at myself and my Church to acknowledge where our sin is negatively impacting the world. A life of repentance is not merely regretting the bad things we have done, repentance is about change, it is about intentionally doing right and actively removing the effects of sin from our world. Instead of calling out how everyone outside the Church is behaving we must be asking ourselves if we are holding the standards God has set for us. We must be the heroes willing to do what is right and call out what is evil even the evil in ourselves.

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