Tuesday, March 25, 2008

John Perkins' Gospel Response to Racism

Barack Obama excused the racism and black separationism of his pastor and spiritual mentor, Jeremiah Wright, on the basis of what Wright had observed and suffered in an earlier, segregationist, and overtly oppressive age. But one cannot invoke this excuse without adopting the whole victim culture that is preventing the black community and the Democratic party from embracing social remedies that hold out greater hope for reconciliation, prosperity and all manner of liberty.

The tragedy for our nation is that a gifted man like Barack Obama fell in with a character like Jeremiah Wright instead of with a truly great Christian leader and black leader like John Perkins.

I heard John Perkins speak at a Reformation and Revival Conference in 2003. It was an honor just to be in the same room with him. No stewing in victimization. No recriminations. And, let me add because it is spiritually telling, no culturally excused vulgarity. What I heard in his testimony and what has been confirmed in his life was suffering and a gracious, Biblical, Christ-like response to suffering.

His brother died in his arms, shot by a deputy marshall. He was beaten and tortured by the sheriff and state police. But through it all he returned good for evil, love for hate, progress for prejudice and brought hope to black and white alike. The story of John Perkins is no ordinary story. Rather, it is a gripping portrayal of what happens when faith [i.e. Christ] thrusts a person into the midst of a struggle against racism, oppression and injustice. It is about the costs of discipleship the jailings, the floggings, the despair, the sacrifice. And it is about the transforming work of faith [i.e. Christ] that allowed John to respond to such overwhelming indignities with miraculous compassion, vision and hope [editorial additions mine]. (Amazon.com)

If you see all religion as at best just "religion" and at worst either self-delusion or mass deceit, mark this difference: In Jeremiah Wright, you see the religion of man. In John Perkins, you see the religion of the risen Christ. In Jeremiah Wright, you see the flesh. In John Perkins, you see the Spirit. In Jeremiah Wright, you see the religion that comes up from a sinful heart. In John Perkins, you see the religion that comes down from heaven and graciously transforms a sinful heart. In Jeremiah Wright you see a social gospel and a political religion. John Perkins's gospel is the gospel of the Biblical, risen Christ. It is the gospel of new birth to people hopelessly dead in sin. As such, it is profoundly more comprehensive and world transforming than a merely social gospel or political religion could ever hope to be.

The Acton Institute summarizes Perkins' 3-R approach to community development (relocation, reconciliation, redistribution [non-governmental]). These are the principles underlying the John M. Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation and Development.

He is best known for his book, Let Justice Roll Down, for Voice of Calvary Ministries, and for the Christian Community Development Association.

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