As someone who gets paid to express his opinions online, I’m used to being mocked, dismissed, and unjustly maligned. My wife, on the other hand, has a much harder time dealing with slights directed at me. Likewise, I tend to become defensive if I believe my wife is being treated with less respect than she deserves. I am 100 percent confident that my wife and I are not unique in this regard, not by a longshot. If sinners who are prone to self-centeredness become defensive when people mistreat their spouse, imagine how Jesus, who is utterly selfless, feels at the amount of slander that gets heaped on his bride, the Church.
Thoughts about Jesus’ reaction to those who attack his bride were going through my mind as I read Serisha Iyar’s essay titled “Confronting White Supremacy In Christianity As a Christian South Asian.”
As she wraps up her essay, Iyar complains that “to list every single issue with white supremacy in modern Christianity would take far too long. … In 2016, 81% of white, evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump in the American election which in my opinion, pretty much sums up the existence of white supremacy within the North American context.”
Iyar’s picture of systemic racism and a culture of white supremacy in the American church is a generalization in the grossest of terms. Of course, racism is present in the Church. As is gluttony. As is adultery. As is *fill-in-the-blank* with the sin you most love to rail against. The Church is made up of sinners who are still waiting for the day of our completion. Until Jesus returns, sin will still be present among Christ’s bride.
Throughout her essay, Iyar relies mostly on anecdotes to make her point — with the noted exception of the stat about evangelicals voting for Trump, which, for the record, she uses to make a racist generalization. Claiming that everyone who voted for Trump is a racist is as nonsensical as it is unjust and racist. While it is poor argumentation to begin with, using anecdotes to slander the Church is dangerous business.
One of my pet peeves is the self-righteous accusations from progressive “christians” that conservative Christianity, specifically evangelicalism, is rife with greed and characterized by lack of love for outsiders. Very few things are less true than that oft-repeated canard.
Here is a smattering of statistics that overwhelmingly disprove the notion that conservative Christians are unloving racists:
According to a Barna Group survey, Christians are twice as likely as nonbelievers to adopt.
Regular church attendees give more to charity.
The Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief is the third-largest disaster relief program in the country.
On social justice issues, Christians have historically taken the lead. Besides starting hospitals, here and abroad, Christians finance and staff soup kitchens and crisis pregnancy centers.
Racism is an area where Christianity has historically pushed back against society’s sin. Most people are aware of William Wilberforce and the role he played in ending the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Sadly, many people have bought the lie that Christianity undergirded the chattel slavery of the American South. Christianity, in fact, was the one system that, in the main, stood against chattel slavery.
However, the larger problem with Serisha Iyar’s essay isn’t her mischaracterization of American Christianity; it’s that Iyar mischaracterizes Christianity to begin with. Iyar writes,
This idea that maintaining a connection to my ethnic background meant that I was committing a sin has consistently challenged me to this day. Why could I not sing songs of praise to Jesus and also find a different sort of comfort in hearing the Gayatri Mantra play in the background of some random Indian film? Was it really such a big deal that some people had both Hindu and Christian wedding ceremonies? How does one just ignore their entire culture based on the Western classification of what ‘religion’ is? Further, it perplexed me that people who were not Indian decided that I essentially needed to be whitewashed and dismiss the very things that God bestowed upon me Himself. Even now, whenever I meet white Christians – regardless of denomination – there is a never-ending attempt to convert because to them my brown skin screams Hindu, Muslim, or Sikh. If I walk into a new church they always assume I’ve never even heard of Jesus before instead of treating me like they would any normal visitor whereas, Christians of color have never confronted me with such racist assumptions.
My history with conservative Christianity is varied and complex, but I can say without reservation that not a single Christian fundamentalist institution nor church that I was involved in (either willingly or unwillingly) asked anyone to deny their ethnicity or their ethnicity’s specific behavioral and cultural cues. And they definitely didn’t label expressions of ethnicity as a sin. The thing is, Iyar’s biggest complaints are not connected to her ethnicity but to false religions.
Her stated beliefs in the above-quoted section and throughout her essay take her outside the boundaries of historic, orthodox Christianity.
The reason it’s a big deal to have a Hindu and a Christian wedding is the same reason that it would be a big deal to have a pagan and a Christian wedding. Christianity is a religion that makes exclusive claims about inclusion. Jesus told us that the only way to God the Father is through faith in him. And Jesus expects his followers to leave behind all other religious expressions and beliefs. You can’t be both a pagan and a Christian. Likewise, you can’t be both a Hindu and a Christian. Iyar believes otherwise, rejecting the most fundamental claims of Christianity.
The Bible teaches that Jesus is creating a new nation out of all ethnicities. This means that God’s Kingdom is a colorful tapestry of cultural expressions. Christianity doesn’t ask Iyar to discard her Indian heritage, but it does, by definition, ask her to reject Hinduism. Demanding that Christianity allow her to hold onto conflicting religious teachings demonstrates that Serisha Iyar wants to rule over her own life instead of submitting to Jesus. This is probably why she’s so comfortable slandering Jesus’ Bride in public.
Iyar constructed a pluralistic religion of her own making and then hijacked the name of Christianity for her own purposes. Unless she repents and places her faith in Jesus, finding her full and total identity in him, she will one day discover that standing before her Creator brings with it judgment. On that day, she will discover the terrible truth that Christianity is quite exclusive. All those who cling to false religions will be formally sentenced to an eternity in hell.