Just like so many others, I would like to feel better about America. I would like to believe that we as a nation are better than what we have revealed for ourselves to be. The truth is, however, we are not. We are exactly who we are — and who we are must be transparently assessed, acknowledged, and amended.
It is true that America has created laws that help people to prosper and progress. Many people point to that as “success.” I would argue that is not the ultimate measure of advancement — rather, it is a façade that provides a comfortable front to the sin that lies underneath. As a nation, America has not changed her heart toward people of color. Changing laws is not changing the heart. As much as I believe in reforms, it is not repentance.
The truth is, though the INCEPTION of our country may have been founded on freedom, the CONSTRUCTION of our country was founded on sin. That sin was the sin of slavery, racism, and exploitation. America was built on the backs of Black people and paid for with the blood of our Black ancestors. Let’s state the facts: a nation was built that claimed God but did not know God enough to recognize that ALL are created in the very image of God — to subjugate a people in slavery was an arrogant affront to the very character of God Himself.
The greater tragedy is that this nation persisted in this sin, thereby neglecting the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. To exacerbate such a state, they created a “Jesus” of their own desire, a Jesus that would accept them while overlooking their sin. I grew up with a picture of that White Jesus in my Waxahachie, Texas home. It was given to us by a white insurance salesman who had a Southern Baptist conservative background. Sadly, this “created Christ” has led many people of color away from true faith, having now been called “the White man’s God.” We have work to do!
It was necessary that Jesus be whitewashed, eradicated of His Middle Eastern features to become a God with flowing blonde hair, because even the backslidden Christian cannot tolerate spiritual schizophrenia. There is no way a person or country, then or now, could claim Christ and condone slavery and racism. This system dominated the colonies, so much that it was thought that enslaving others was a God-given right. The founders and plantation owners were the embodiment of Isaiah 29:13, “…they come near to Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.” Yes, they claimed God, but they completely overlooked their own sins in the creation of this country.
Having been a high school teacher and serving now as a lead pastor, I see firsthand the truth that the character of an organization follows the character of the founder/leader. If you have an excellent principal, you will eventually have an excellent school. An excellent pastor will grow an excellent church. Conversely, an incompetent pastor, or one who has not fully followed the leading of the Spirit, will inevitably produce an incompetent church. Such is the case for America. America was built on the Biblical definition of hamartia and devolved into anomia. America, and those who defended that system, glossed over the system of God.
Let’s tell the truth: America continues to reap the rewards of the seeds of sin sown in its inception. The founders of the country allowed for heinous sin to exist, and we now continue to follow in the character of sinful leadership. Therefore, what looks like progression is no such thing. Because whether it is slavery, Jim Crow, or systemic racism, sin is still sin. This isn’t about Critical Race Theory as much as it is about S-I-N and bowing to G-O-D.
Let’s tell the truth: America has never completely lived up to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence because America has never completely seen the Black man as a MAN, nor the Black woman as a WOMAN. We began as chattel, property, objects — and we graduated to become pawns in the power game of White aristocracy, even to this day. No party, Republican or Democrat, has liberation and equality as its core value. The goal of any political party is simply power and control, now, even as it was in 1776.
The country has not yet REPENTED — that is, we have not changed the national thought process regarding the sin of racism.
Until America repents as a nation, there will forever exist the signs and symptoms of discord and division. The things we march against (killings, brutality, redlining, etc…) are fruit. But the root still exists, and the root of all evil is the depraved heart of man.
Can we all just get along? I like the lyrics of Country music artist Garth Brooks:
Blame it all on my roots
I showed up in boots — and ruined your black-tie affair
The last one to know — the last one to show
I was the last one — you thought you’d see there
Today you see Black people in places you perhaps thought you’d never see. If I thought I’d never see a Black president or Black Vice President in my lifetime, I know you didn’t. This is why racism continues. No sane person can justify racism. No sane person can defend inequity and injustice. Yet, they persist. And they have done so for over four hundred years. This is not Christ-like — it is evil. No sane person can turn a blind eye to the character of this country regarding her citizens of color.
So, what does repentance look like? It looks like Zacchaeus of Luke 19. It looks like the Samaritan woman of John 4. This is what America must do. It is not enough to give lip service — true repentance is manifested through ensuing action. Zacchaeus restored the people he cheated. The mistress became a missionary, spreading the good news of Jesus to the men of the town. America must completely, wholly, totally restore those she has walked over, injured, and killed. Until the power in White America looks upon Black America and other ethnic minorities with the same ardent love as they hold for their own, America will forever be divided.
When evangelical America consistently holds rallies for justice as they hold multiple national rallies against abortion, repentance begins. When the leaders in government acknowledge the shortcomings of the country and do not hide behind pride in national symbols, repentance will begin. Only then can the blessing of God begin to flow.
America, as an entity, cherishes the flag and the national anthem. However, the lyrics of the anthem were not originally penned for the freedom of Black people (check that “mysterious third verse”). America must acknowledge this. The flag represents a country that proposes ideals that she does not live up to. This is the reason why so many felt compelled to kneel in protest at the anthem. It was not hatred against the country — it is hatred for the hypocrisy embedded in the soul of the country. It’s quite simple: America is beautiful but she does have blemishes.
There is good news. The good news is that God is — for all people — a God of lavish, abundant grace. The mother hymn of the church, Amazing Grace, gives hope to the lost. Amazing Grace has brought us thus far!
I love the positive ideals of this country’s potential. I am forever enamored with the potential of the people of God. Whether in government, on the college campus, or in the streets of the nation, we can indeed see the power of God at work in changing the heart of this country. Such change, however, only manifests when Godly repentance leads and the people of God love Him more than they love anything, any flag, or anyone else.
So I ask you, are you more interested in the symbols or the substance? If you have not spoken out against racism and injustice as loudly as you have spoken against kneeling at the anthem, repentance awaits you.
If your patriotism blinds you to the point where you believe anyone criticizing America needs to leave America, repentance awaits you. (And whatsoever you may do, please don’t tell Black people to go back where we came from. Y’all brought us here.)
I love my country, but I love my Christ more. I love my government, but I love my God more! One day we won’t be agitated on who doesn’t sing the national anthem. One day, we will rally around a HYMN that’s all about Him.
Oh, it is Jesus! Oh it is Jesus, it’s Jesus in my soul!
For I have touched the hem of His garment,
and His blood has made me whole.
Darron L. Edwards, Sr. is lead pastor of United Believers Community Church in Kansas City, MO.