Thabiti Anyabwile writes a solid article at The Gospel Coalition about Donald Trump calling Haiti, Africa and other nations a “shithole.” While I disagree with the 9 Marks pastor in so many areas, on the issue of racism I deeply agree with him. This quick post is about Thabiti’s immigrant family.
“This is unacceptable. It is wrong. It is evil. It denigrates our citizens and our country. It does not make us great. It cannot be tolerated in our church and should not be tolerated in our society.”
“The denial of racism is a form of racism itself.”
34 Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism.35 In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right.
Acts 10:34-35 NLT
The Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, D.C.
I was on Twitter poking around when I saw Warren Throckmorton re-tweet Thabiti Anyabwile’s article at The Gospel Coalition. I quickly read it and Thabiti wrote an article that I deeply respected that addresses President Trump’s comments about Haiti, El Salvador and Africa being a “shithole.” I have a few things I want to say, but before I get there let’s cover some common ground first and communicate myself clearly.
What Troubles Me About Neo-Calvinism
I am not an apologist for the Neo-Calvinist movement. Remember this blog, The Wondering Eagle, was born out of an incident of spiritual abuse by someone who was trying to get my involved in Jordan Kauflin and Eric Simmons Redeemer Arlington. Remember I learned why rape and sexual assault is a problem in the military though a false accusation. This blog regularly writes and critiques about issues in the Neo-Calvinist movement. I have written critical articles about 9 Marks, Capitol Hill Baptist and other 9 Marks churches in the Washington, D.C. area. I have pounded the issue and problems wit C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace. I have written about Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill. I have written about the growth of Neo-Calvinism inside the Evangelical Free Church of America. I have discussed the problems with The Gospel Coalition and D.A. Carson. And I have written quite a bit about Acts 29. From Redeemer Arlington, to Matt Chandler’s The Village Church to John Bryson’s Fellowship Memphis The Wondering Eagle has covered all those topics. This brief paragraph doesn’t really go into all the issues with with the Neo-Calvinists. Yet I write this because some are going to question my credentials for what I am about to say. It needs to be said, and I am a guy who is committed to truth and being fair.
Thabiti’s My Immigrant Family
Today at The Gospel Coalition Thabiti Anyabwible wrote an article that is called, “My Immigrant Family.” For those of you who do not know Thabiti leads a 9 Marks church in SE Washington, D.C. called Anacostia River Church. The article talks about the diversity and strength of the church, especially when it consists of people from Africa, Asia, South America, the Caribbean and more. Here is how Thabiti describes it in the first several paragraphs.
Last night our church family held one of its members’ meetings. We began by hearing the baptism testimony of a Rwandan woman who as a young girl survived that country’s genocide and refugee camps to eventually be adopted by an aunt living in the United States. Jesus used the faith of her mother to keep her through the arrest, torture, and murder of her father and grandfather until that faith would become her own.
We followed the baptism with a report from our first short-term mission team, sent to minister to the largely Muslim population of Mombasa, Kenya. They shared with us the transformative work of the gospel in their lives and in the lives of Kenyans literally living in smoking, fly-infested trash heaps.
As I think about the faces I saw in the room last night, I’m transported around the world. There’s the regal older Nigerian couple sitting directly in front of me. He immigrated to the States first and for more than a decade they lived apart, keeping covenant with one another, until they could be together in their new home building a new life. They are older representatives of a growing part of our church family with connections to Nigeria.
There’s the young Hispanic man, Mexican, I think, who loves the Chicago of his birth as fiercely as any American loves any city. He sits with his wife and their precocious 4-year-old daughter.
Behind them is an African-American woman. She’s married to a Zimbabwean man, a Rhodes scholar, whose intelligence is far surpassed by his humility, gentleness, and genuine affection for people. They have three sons learning to embrace the two heritages their parents represent.
At one point we attempted a presentation on our new church membership software. A young Nigerian man partnered with a young Ethiopian woman to make the presentation.
I’m reminded of our deacon of budget, an accomplished educator and “policy guy” whose parents are Japanese and Hispanic immigrants. His parents worked hard to send him to Stanford, then graduate school at Oxford or Cambridge, where he heard the gospel and believed. He’s married to a second-generation Haitian woman, and together they have two sons younger than 5. Her mother, a first-generation Haitian immigrant, also belongs to our family.
A Guyanese man leans into his African-American wife as they listen to the reports and updates. His mother, also a member, is away celebrating her birthday but would normally be right there with us. She’s growing like a weed and has become a real mother to the entire church.
A young mother sits near the rear taking care of her infant son. They’ve come to brave the long meeting, ruining sleep routines I’m sure. She comes from a Jewish family. She loves the nations.
One member of our short-term mission team to Kenya hails from Cameroon. She’s 28 and thinking of leaving her career to serve the Lord full-time on the mission field.
We prayed for one of our former elders. I asked the wife of another elder to lead in prayer. Soft-spoken, spiritual, zealous yet soothing, she is Hmong. Her people have no country to call their own.
During the meeting we welcomed some new members. In addition to the Rwandan woman was another woman, an attorney, whose family immigrated from Dominica when she was young. There was also the young aspiring politician completing a graduate program at Georgetown University whose family is from an African country that escapes me right now. Weber must be a German name; he joins the membership too.
This is my immigrant family, my true brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. We have been a diverse family from the start, from the time we were sent from a larger diverse congregation of brothers and sisters. I look out on embodied, relational evidence of the reconciling power and reality of Jesus Christ.
The Importance of Speaking Up
Thabiti in the second half of his article speaks up about how important it is to speak out and challenge what has been said. He speaks about why people should speak out and reject the racial comments that have been made. He also goes on and discusses the importance of protecting immigrants and how it is dangerous to leave such comments unanswered. Thabiti writes several paragraphs and as one reads them you can feel the passion that is being communicated by the senior pastor of Anacsotia River Church. The strongest paragraph is written below and I think speaks volumes
I find it not only irresponsible but dangerous to leave the President’s comments unchallenged and to pretend the resulting policy direction is free from racist bias. I find it unconscionable and unloving to carry on the important immigration debate of our country as if the decisions made at the policy level will not have dramatic life-altering and, in some cases, life-destroying consequences for those affected. It is necessary that we heed our God’s command to never wrong or oppress but to protect the aliens and sojourners in our midst—in the midst of our families called “churches.”
The Neo-Calvinists and Racism
As I said before I am not an apologist for Neo-Calvinism. I explained up above the issues I have written about with the movement. And consider I have not even addressed the authoritarian issues, membership covenants, obsession with church discipline, and theological issues, such as how Neo-Calvinism can make the problem of evil worse. While the movement has its flaws there are some strong attributes that it does exceedingly well. One of them is in addressing the issues of racism. The Neo-Calvinists study the issues in their Sunday schools. I understand that the have addressed this in classes at Capitol Hill Baptist. The Gospel Coalition and John Piper have spoken out about racism. Remember when Russell Moore took heat for taking on Donald Trump, Moore has been fierce about this issue over at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. At the last SBC meeting The senior pastor of Del Rey Baptist Garrett Kell challenged the SBC on the alt-right. I can give example after example but the Neo-Calvinists are correct on racism.
Those outside the Neo-Calvinists movement tend to be the traditional culture warriors. They have embraced the culture wars and many are silent on this issue of racism. Just this evening the Washington Post is reporting that the SBC’s Robert Jeffries agreed with Donald Trump’s perspective. He wouldn’t have called Haiti and other African countries a “shithole,” but states Trump is correct in his perspective. On this side of evangelicalism there appears to be cognitive dissonance on issues such as this. And yes I agree that child sex abuse is major and that it should be written about and reported. Yes I agree C.J. Mahaney should be held accountable for the problems inside Sovereign Grace. But while child sex abuse is a major issue it is not the only issue going on right now, Please hear me out, I am not saying it should not be discussed or written about. I am saying that tunnel vision on many issues can be counter-productive in many ways. At some point in the future I plan to do a post about about what I appreciate from the Neo-Calvinists. It will be brief, but there are some things I do appreciate. Speaking out and addressing racism is one of those many issues.