I'm not going to comment on who is guilty, whether Michael Brown or Darren Wilson, in Ferguson. What piqued me during this event has been the consideration of whether evangelicalism needs involvement in changing social structure or infrastructure for successful integration of blacks into their congregations. Put another way and in the form of a question, will evangelical white leaders fail at reaching blacks with the gospel if they don't work in a very public way at making society more fair for black people? A few ideas sent my thoughts in this direction.
From my vantage point, the most well known black conservative evangelical is Thabiti Anyabwile, and I read what he wrote about the Ferguson situation (here 1, here 2, here 3, here 4). By the way, I don't think people understand the plight of black America without knowing the division at the turn of the 20th century between Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Dubois. This would require reading Washington's book, Up From Slavery, but even further over twenty years ago I scoured the writings or works of Washington in print that included all of his Sunday evening talks (example) at Tuskegee. It would also be worthwhile to read the theology of Martin Luther King, Jr. in his writings and the black liberation theologian, James Cone. I have read all those out of a curiosity and desire to interpret and discuss the issues rightly.
African Americans made a plain choice to follow the path or ways or instruction of W. E. B. Dubois related to Washington dying at a young age without a successor. A convenient, albeit unsuccessful, "solution" was chosen, which was to rely on government. Since then, the same mistake has been repeated again and again, reminding me of the adage about insanity: "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Old Testament principles about government could be applied successfully, if followed, but those are being rejected for something less sure than a full court heave.
In addition, I had preached in the last few months for five or six weeks mid-week about marriage, including 1 Peter 3 and 1 Corinthians 7, which reminded me of the New Testament approach to societal structures. If God was amillennial or post-millennial, could Peter or Paul each talk like he does in those epistles? No way. Christianity is not designed to change social structure. I would say that New Testament, biblical, Christianity is ambivalent or agnostic to social structure, and even further than that. The New Testament takes a more extreme view than even ambivalence.
Calvinist amillennialists or post-millenialists interest me, because of what appears to be an obvious contradiction. If you think that salvation is totally dependent on God, you're monergistic, how can you connect changing societal structures to reaching a particular segment of the population with the gospel? And this is where the Calvinist evangelicals are. They employ rap. They start food pantries. They encourage dressing down. They talk a lot about racial reconciliation. And contextualization. This includes the Tim Keller way in New York City with his professorial talks, evening jazz "worship," and no mention of same sex perversion, all key in getting it done there. They speak and act like all these are necessities to help the gospel along. Be Calvinist if you're Calvinist!
Amillennialists and post-millennialists see the current age as the kingdom of God and so recognize the reign of Christ not just in the hearts of believers today, but impacting societal structure change. They brainstorm the dawn of the kingdom (which relates to Augustine and bifurcation of truth that I wrote about), allowing for mission creep. It's now not just about the gospel, but commencing functional structures of the kingdom. Amillennialism and post-millennialism trigger the weird cousin of liberation theology, dominionism or reconstructionism.
I believe the position of Anyabwile and those like him in fact hinders the gospel. Often the same Calvinists who argue that cultural issues, i.e. "non-essentials," which are merely obedience to the Bible or sanctification, the practice of New Testament Christianity, serve to undermine the gospel, hone in on this cultural issue. They essentially argue that the gospel will fail without the accompanying support of societal structure change. This is more than a strain of evangelicalism. It is mainstream. It does sabotage the gospel, akin to the new measures of Finney.
1 Peter 3, the whole epistle, and then 1 Corinthians 7:17-24 both weigh in on the relationship of Christians to social structures. In 1 Peter 3, Peter could tell masters to sell their slaves or propose they run. Paul could have done the same with Philemon. But no, to those under oppressive government, he says, "Submit." To slaves under masters, he says, "Submit." To women under unsaved husbands, he says, "Be subject." He elevates conversion of those in government, of the master, and of the husband. Peter says, we're strangers and pilgrims in this world, and this is how you act like it. You don't attempt to change social structure, because that just confuses people as to where your loyalties lie.
From 1 Corinthians 7, we see Paul's message that Christianity was never designed to disrupt social relationships. Folks at the Corinthian church used their Christianity to justify all manner of social change. Paul corrects that. The essence of vv. 17-24 is don't turn Christianity into changing social structure; instead, make sure that everybody understands that spiritual regeneration can exist in any societal situation. The Bible reveals a right understanding of government and of history, but the New Testament is single in its focus of what Christians should be and do.
We can die a thousand different ways, including that brain eating amoeba in shallow warm fresh water, which most often kills young children. But Paul had a desire to depart. Jesus took away the sting of death. Everyone -- blacks, whites, reds, yellows -- needs to heed what Jesus said: "Be not afraid." Fear God, yes. But unscriptural fear fuels bad decisions and then philosophies for so many people. Anyabwile validates a particular behavior motivated by fear. When someone trusts the sovereignty and providence of God, like Jeremiah in Lamentations, the mercies of God are new every morning, great is His faithfulness. That's the message people need to hear. Not anxiety.
The gospel defeats fear. Fear of death is a tool of Satan. And the fear of man brings a snare, one common for evangelicals. It should be repudiated, but there is a fear of the charge of racism.
Changing social structure merely rearranges the deck chairs on the Titanic. You might have the best arrangement, but it's a waste. Instead, we should be manning the rescue boats. We're strangers here. When Jesus comes, He Himself will change the social structure. Until then, that practice might seem tempting, but don't go there. Instead, let's act like we don't belong here.
As an aside.
For the most part, America rejects, shall we call it, the Honey Boo-Boo subculture, whose appeal is not acceptance, but felt superiority. The culture at large (white culture?) scorns that subculture, mocks it, deservedly so. Booker T. Washington also proposed the repudiation of the inferior -- you read that in his 'Sunday evening talks' at Tuskegee.
In this case, black America should join in the disavowal of its own Honey Boo-Boo, rather than embrace and defend. Evangelicals should stop pandering to this destructive practice with their Christian rap and hip-hop and Jesus Junk and so much more other "Christian" Honey Boo-Boo (this is how they say you get multi-ethnic; not the gospel). Think of what Peter revealed about conversion in 2 Peter 1:3-4:
[H]is divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: hereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
Salvation elevates us. We become partakers of the divine nature. Jesus came to bring us to Him not lower Himself to our level. He became a man, yes, but a perfect man. He has called us to glory and virtue, not the corruption that is in the world through lust.
Booker T. Washington said "build a better brick." Build a more beautiful brick. But first admit the ugliness. Turn it down. Shun the Honey Boo-Boo.
The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Yes. Buuuuuuuuuut. Your church might shrink from a lack of diverse worship styles. Those styles are not the power of God unto salvation, just the power unto shrinking your church size. Of course, those are genuinely saved people that are leaving, that you could keep with worship styles. The gospel has saved them, but they've got to have their way on a few things, and you've got to make sure they can have it. There is nothing wrong with what they don't like, but they've got to have what they want as saved people by the power of the gospel.
Worship styles are said to be non-essentials (worship styles are the kind of non-essentials you need a 75% rule for). This is the one area that Paul didn't know there could be disunity (1 Cor 1:10). It is essential that they are non-essential. You could lose people if you don't have diverse non-essential styles. It is essential you try to keep those saved people in your church, who will leave over those non-essentials. The power of the worship style is greater than the power of the gospel. Salvation perseveres except in the impossible-to-overcome trial of not getting the worship style you want. They themselves say that worship styles are non-essential, which is why they'll leave if they don't get what they want. On the other hand, the people who believe there is sacred music, who don't think styles are non-essential, since they are worship, it is essential they see worship styles as non-essential. They are factious if they will not allow for multiple, diverse styles, because they don't care if supporters of diversity will leave the church. They must see worship styles as non-essential
The 47% need government programs and hand-outs to stay in one party, so there will be programs that redistribute wealth and there will be hand-outs. You can be very upset at that, because of what it does to the country. A large percentage of church attenders need their worship style to keep coming, to stay in the church, so there will be diverse worship styles. The former is pandering, because that is government, but the second you've got to act like it isn't, because that is only church.
When I recently watched a chunk of the Strange Fire Conference, a couple of speakers said that the entrance to the Charismatic movement was the music style. That received "Amen"s. But worship styles are non-essential. They are only an entrance to the Charismatic movement, even though they are amoral. Get it?