It has become increasingly evident that too many conservative evangelical Christians are actively engaged in a calamitous campaign of denial about the persistent nature of racism in our society. The recent mass murder of Asian women in the Atlanta area provides a tragic case study in missing the point.
After slaughtering eight people at three Asian massage parlors, the alleged murderer claimed his motivation was his sex addiction. As he told of his efforts to eliminate his temptations, a Georgia police spokesman callously explained that the killer was having “a bad day.”
Conservative pundits immediately declared the murderer’s initial statement proved that this mass murder had nothing to do with race and thus exonerated us all from having to examine racism as a factor. The right wing acted as if, by virtue of the simple-minded statement of an alleged mass murderer captured with his gun still smoking, we as a society can just ignore a whole bunch of issues.
Familiarity with greater Atlanta tells us that the killer’s approximately 50 mile drive between the business establishments he targeted took him past many non-Asian sex-industry establishments. How do you explain that without considering the role of race?
Even if we take his statement at face value, shouldn’t we examine what is broken about a society that objectifies and fetishizes Asian women to the point that these type of massage parlors (often fronts for a lot of bad stuff) blight so many of our communities. Shouldn’t we expose the global plague of the sex slave trafficking of Asian women and girls to feed the appetites of all these good church-going sex addicts? Don’t their lives matter too?
The conservative approach to this tragedy reminds me of a dysfunctional family dealing with its dark secrets — if you don’t talk about the issues they’ll somehow just go away. No wonder America has so many sin problems with sex, violence and race.
“Shouldn’t we expose the global plague of the sex slave trafficking of Asian women and girls to feed the appetites of all these good church-going sex addicts?”
There is good news to be found in shining the light of God’s love onto the shadows of our depravity. Why should we stand with our Asian sisters and brothers as they grieve these awful murders and navigate an America that too often fears, exploits and otherizes them? Because God loves and values us all. God is angered when any of God’s children are mistreated.
I fully believe God’s heart was broken not only by these gruesome murders but also by the complex causative factors surrounding them. I further believe that God empowers and expects God’s followers to address these factors with maximum attention and effort.
It should not be missed that the only biblical records of Jesus throwing violent temper tantrums were to defend the vulnerable people of his community from the exploitation of the religious power structure. And according to The Book, it happened at both the beginning and end of Jesus’ earthly public ministry. Upon describing the defining characteristic of his followers, Jesus tells of a manner of love that seeks to address the holistic needs of those who are often overlooked and stigmatized. Then he goes further by identifying personally with the vulnerable: “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.”
The body of Christ cannot afford to be fooled or influenced by those who would divide and distract us for their own profit. There is a lot of power and money to be gained by perpetuating a status quo that thrives off exploiting the vulnerable while manipulating our divisions. We should recognize and reject the enemy’s tricks and stand against them. After all, we know Jesus.
Making America great should never trump kingdom priorities.
Sid Smith III is a music ministry consultant and serves at Third Baptist Church of San Francisco.
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Don’t let the Atlanta shooter off the hook by claiming women drove him to addiction | Opinion by Kaleb Graves
Racists don’t get to define racism | Opinion by Jakob Topper