Two years ago Jürgen Moltmann was interviewed on his 80th birthday. The interviewer asked him if young people need to be given more evidence for belief in God. Looking back over the horrors of the earlier years of the twentieth century and then the amazing changes that came in the late 1980s and early 1990s, he said,
We’ve seen so many signs and wonders in our lifetime.
He referred to the peaceful end of apartheid in South Africa, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Velvet Revolution in Prague, and the end of oppressive regimes throughout Eastern Europe.
Forty years ago it was just a dream that people would be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. Now it is a reality.
Tomorrow we will inaugurate our first Hawaiian-born president. The nationality of his father and the complexion of his mother did not matter. People voted either for or against Barack Obama based on their perception of his leadership qualities and the political platform he espoused.
Of course, there were a few during the campaign who tried to appeal to the race card, those who appealed to base motives, those who promoted racist jokes and songs. There are still a few who always include his middle name–pronounced with a sneer. But they had no influence. The belong with the shrinking crowd of those who still deny that cigarette smoking causes cancer.
Philip Yancey’s book Soul Survivor tells how his faith survived in spite of the failings of the church of his youth, an openly racist church. The story is heart breaking. But he also tells how he was inspired by those churches that supported the civil rights movement, those churches and Christian leaders who formed the heart of the movement.
I was asked yesterday what the Bible says about racism. Racism, in the Nazi sense, was a twentieth-century mythology, a modern invention. But there have always been ethnic, cultural, religious, and nationalistic divisions among people. The Apostle Paul devoted his life to proclaiming the reconciling Gospel of Jesus Christ. One passage that sums it up is Colossians 3:11. Speaking of God’s intention to create a new humanity, he says,
Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all.
The day after the election, my daughter, who lives in Harlem, saw an African-American boy, about ten years old, who was beaming. “That means I can be president some day!”
It really is a miracle that I have seen the end of racism in my lifetime.