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This is a nice idea, but it isn’t really quite true. We need something stronger than nice sentiment.

Before we are born we are already learning the sounds of our mother’s tongue, and we are already developing preference for her voice, her music, and the voice likely of the father if he is around in her life.

The tweet implies that hatred is a function of some sort of informal education, that people are taught to hate. That isn’t really true either. Fear is natural, the biproduct of realized vulnerability.

The new-found courage by white-supremacists should force us to re-examine our naive assumptions about racism and how it is countered and contested. Shaming racists into silence doesn’t destroy racism, it just sends it underground. Killing racists doesn’t eliminate racism. You’d have to make sure you kill everyone who loved them, knew them, or even knew of them. The story of the flood (where God saves only the best man on earth and his family) should remind us that humanity can’t be fixed by “killing” or “segregating” the “bad people”.

If a root of racism is fear (it is not the only one, there are more) what does it take to address the fear? Anger certainly won’t do it.

If you look back at Dr. King and his tactics, his protests weren’t designed to raise the fear. “You cannot make me hate you” is a far better answer than “I’ll shame you into the closet.”

We must address what is in all of us. The first person to deal with when it comes to racism is yourself. The Heidelberg Catechism says “I have a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbor.”

How can you find the radical kind of security that allows someone to look beyond their fears, even the reasonable ones? I’d suggest looking at the resurrection of Jesus. Why would I say that? Wasn’t it he that told his disciples to love their enemies? Wasn’t it he that prayed that God forgive his killers and mockers? How does the resurrection fit into this story? Ponder that.


You're correct that we must all begin with ourselves.  But we must also lead others, both in the church and in society.  I'm very glad many find Obama's tweet helpful, and to be much more than just "nice sentiment." The original quote from Nelson Mandela was based on the harsh reality that many learn from a young age (sadly, often from parents and perhaps also their church contexts) to hate people of other races rather than to love them. Obama is pointing to Mandela's very hard work of forgiveness and reconciliation, personally and nationally. 

I very much agree that we indeed learn racism and that it is lamentably often intentionally taught and modeled. It is important to address it at that level. 

My main pushback on the quote is that it isn't merely taught. I believe it is developmentally ingrained in us even before birth by the mere fact of human formation. In other words via our confessions we are sinful from birth. Even in utero we are a petri dish for sin. It is also as many note spiritually created by the demonic. If this is the case then education, or activism, or anti-racism programs themselves will never be sufficient to banish it from each of our hearts. We are natural born racists. This points to a deeper redemption necessary for the anticipated purity of our communal presence before the throne. 

I will say more. I am planning a video on this. I think it's important. In the mean time Pastor T I think sheds light on what I want to say in this important conversation with Coates. 

Good thoughts Paul! Much appreciated. I would echo that we are all "born that way" to correctly use the commonly misused phrase. Not merely born, but even conceived in sin as a human being with a fallen, sinful nature. I also whole heartedly agree that the only hope for true change is the gospel. This has been a very present application to our sermon series in Galatians. This past Lord's Day we were on Gal 3:15-29 concerning both the Promise and the Law. The reality is that while the Law does have its purposes (see the Institutes) it can never change the heart! The same would apply to any form of reconciliation. Mandela's work of reconciliation will never become a reality. Peace cannot be accomplished by law nor by any other man-made (centered/initiated) focus, action or emotion. It will never change the heart. Only the gospel of Christ can change our very nature. Our weapon is the gospel! While others want to subdue, silene or defeat their enemies, we long to see our enemies become brothers and sisters. This can never be acheived by any other means. We are all one "in Christ," only.

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