Racial distinctions should not be rejected, but embraced. After all, God created the races with their distinctive backgrounds and cultures for a reason — so argues one Texas megachurch pastor who has spoken out for years about bridging race-related divisions.
Dr. Tony Evans, pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Church in Dallas, Texas, told The Christian Post in a recent interview that any talk of racial reconciliation should begin with "God's view of race."
"God created the races. He created different backgrounds and cultures. But He created them all to operate under His authority," Evans said.
The pastor and prolific author is one of at least 13 guests scheduled to speak at the 2015 Leadership Summit hosted by The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy branch of the Southern Baptist Convention. The theme for the March 26-27 meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, is "The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation."
Evans, who was the first African-American to earn a doctorate in Theology from the SBC-affiliated Dallas Theological Seminary, has written about 75 books, including the 2011 title Oneness Embraced: Through the Eyes of Tony Evans. In Oneness, the Texas minister discusses "black/white relations in the culture at large and in the church in particular," and insists that such strained relations "continue to be a stain on America's respectable reputation."
He also briefly touches on the subject in his most recent book, America: Turning a Nation to God, in which he asserts that Christians need to repent and stop unwittingly or intentionally conspiring with the culture to marginalize God. Read a previous interview with Dr. Evans about the subject of that book here: 'God and His Rule Is America's Only Hope,' Says Pastor Tony Evans as He Calls Christians to Repentance.
In the transcript below, Pastor Evans comments on his upcoming appearance at "The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation" ERLC event and on the suggestion that racism is simply a spiritual issue. He also explains the concept he describes as the Kingdom Agenda. The transcript has been edited for clarity.
CP: You will be one of the speakers at the 2015 ERLC Leadership Summit in March where the theme is "The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation." What are your thoughts going into that summit, and what do you think society as a whole needs to hear on that subject amid the tensions we're currently experiencing?
Evans: First of all, we need God's view of race. Racial distinctions should not be rejected, they should be embraced. God created the races. He created different backgrounds and cultures. But He created them all to operate under His authority. When we talk about America and the racial divide, the one thing we have in common is we're all Americans. So we have to [clearly define ] what it means to be American and then bring our distinctions under that umbrella, because the more you go back to your distinction then you lose your commonality. When you lose your commonality, then you fray at the edges. So we need to have a unified understanding of our national heritage without losing our personal distinctives. The closer that national heritage is to the rule of God, the more ordered our relationships will become in society.
CP: I have observed some discussions among Christians who are critical, or at least wary of looking at the racial divide as a solely spiritual issue. Any thoughts on that?
Evans: It's spiritual at its root but its fruit comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors. It's solely spiritual at its root. It's not solely spiritual in its fruit. Unless you make that distinction, then you'll be getting rid of the root and you'll be spending years and decades discussing fruit.
CP: The suggestion has been made that society as a whole, American Christians as a whole, need to acknowledge and grieve over past corporate sins like slavery and Jim Crow before trying to move forward on reconciliation. What are you thoughts?
Evans: Absolutely, that's what the solemn assembly is all about. Solemn assembly is recognizing where we failed and repenting of it. Repentance means to turn the other way. So that means, where those failures are clearly seen, have we turned, are we doing the opposite to what we did when those failures or when our current failures [are] the continuation of those historical failures? You repent of those, that is you turn the other way. When you've done that, now you've begun to operate on God's standards. And when you repent and operate on God's standards, now you have restoration and reconciliation.
CP: How long have you been in the pastorate?
Evans: This is my 39th year as pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship. Then my national ministry, The Urban Alternative where we do all this national stuff, is about 30 years old.
CP: Reflecting on your decades in ministry, are there any stand-out moments in terms of how your congregation has changed, society has changed, etc.?
Evans: I'm kind of excited in one way. Hebrews 12 talks about when God disrupts things, He's creating something new. I'm looking at all of this chaos and while all of it's bad, it provides an awesome opportunity for God to do something new and special. And the new and special thing He's doing is related to His kingdom.
So our whole ministry is tied to the concept we call the Kingdom Agenda, the visible demonstration of the comprehensive rule of God over area of life. I'm excited when I see our people showing the rule of Christ over their lives, as individuals over their lives, in their families. A man becomes a kingdom man. A woman becomes a kingdom woman. How they function in their work places, because now they're not just doing a job but representing the King in the doing of their job. Then in society, so affecting our whole community for well-being economically, socially, academically. I'm very excited to see the transformation taking place in people's lives when they understand this kingdom discipleship concept.
Dr. Evans and his wife, Lois Evans, founded Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in 1976 with 10 people in their home. The Dallas church is now home to more than 10,000 members and has over 100 ministries. Evans is also president of The Urban Alternative, described as "a national ministry dedicated to restoring hope in personal lives, families, churches and communities."