Convocation 11/10/17: Benjamin Watson and race

Today’s convocation attempted to tackle a controversial and culturally relevant topic: race. When I first heard that race would be the topic of convo, I was quite worried. Could convo discuss such a topic in a way that is both respectful and meaningful? The vines center hasn’t exactly seen a lot of nuance or complex discourse in the last year (especially as it comes to subjects that are not purely religious in nature). However, I was pleasantly surprised by how well they managed to approach and discuss this topic.

A large reason that Friday’s convo was so good was the speaker, Benjamin Watson. Watson, a tight end for the Baltimore Ravens, shared his thoughts on the race problems that we are currently experiencing in America and how he believes we can deal with them. He believes that a solution to racism in our society must come from within the church, not from without. His message was followed by a round table discussion with Watson, Nasser, Falwell, and several members of the center for multicultural enrichment. They discussed some of the efforts the school had made to address racial and cultural issues on campus and some of the speakers experiences with racism and prejudice. Convo concluded with a challenge to students to look at our own assumptions regarding race and ethnicity.

Today’s convocation did a whole lot right. It avoided taking a black-and-white view of race (no pun intended) and instead acknowledged that it is a complex problem with no easy answers. It also hit on some points that I felt were quite important.

One fact that I am glad was brought up is the prevalence of segregation within the local church. The Bible tells us in Revelations 9:7 that people “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages…” will be present in heaven (ESV). However, if one looks at most local churches in America, this diversity is nowhere to be seen. Most members of a church tend to be similar racially, economically, and in education. While this is often a voluntary segregation (people naturally tend towards similar people), in other cases it is an intentional decision of church planning. The Bible warns against this kind of intentional segregation in Galatians 2:11-21. In these verses,  Paul condemns Peter for refusing to eat with Gentiles and accuses him of not “acting in line with the truth of the gospel” (NIV). If we wish to emulate Christ and demonstrate the gospel through our lives, we must embrace the diversity of the Church and its body of believers.

Another interesting point that was brought up was the concept of cultural assimilation. Cultural assimilation is not a new topic to convo, Laura Ingraham labeled it a necessity during her message. During the round table, one of the students from the Center for Multicultural Enrichment brought up how many people attempt to be inclusive but refuse to accept or take anything from other cultures. Instead, they want other cultures to assimilate or be absorbed into the dominant culture of a region or country. This is often a form of ethnocentrism, the belief that one’s own culture is superior. Ethnocentrism is completely contrary to scripture and the example of Jesus. The Bible tells us that we are all made in the image of God and that all people, and by extension their culture, are equally fallen. Paul tells us in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (NIV). Before Christ, all cultures and races are equal. To live out this principle in our lives, we must reject ethnocentrism and cultural assimilation, and instead embrace people and their cultures.

While I really liked much of what was said in today’s convo, I disagree with the sentiment that a solution to the race problem must start in the Church. Historically, the church in America has been a proponent of the status quo. Christianity was used to justify slavery in the 18th and 19th century. If fact, the church was one of the most ardent defenders of slavery in the South (less so in the north). In the 20th century, the church was a leading proponent of segregation and Jim Crow. Following Brown V. Board desegregating public schools in 1954, many church’s opened private schools called “segregation academies” as private schools did not have to be integrated. In both these cases, the Church was not the agent of racial change, but rather the opponent of it. Instead, federal action (the 13th amendment and the civil rights act) and civil protest were responsible for ending these injustices. We should remember that society is not a reflection of the church, the church reflects society. That is where it’s members are born, educated, and live. Christians should be on the front lines of racial justice, but we should not believe that we can change the outside world by ignoring it or by simply changing ourselves.

Lightning Round

  • Jerry has the uncanny ability to bring his political views into every topic. Even when he is supposed to be discussing positive actions for racial change, he manages to bring them up.
  • Also is Matthew 22:21 the only verse that Jerry knows? Every time he goes on stage he quotes it, and every time he either prooftexts it or ignores the historical differences (often both). That verse really doesn’t mean what he thinks it means.
  • I kinda want more convocations about culture and societal issues. Can we get a round table on sexism or gender?
  • It looks like they are really going to put in metal detectors. I don’t know what they hope to find, we are a concealed carry campus. We are allowed to bring weapons into convo if we wish (and are licensed). Regardless, be prepared for long lines.

Bible verses quoted: 2

Bible verses quoted all semester: 65

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Liberty University leadership or administration in any way. This post is solely a matter of personal opinion. The opinions expressed here are solely my own and should be not be taken as the opinion of the University, its staff, or the student body.

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