Red and Yellow, Black and White

A few weeks ago events took place in Washington that, set in juxtaposition, give one of the most powerful social commentaries of our day. The first event took place in a conference room at the plush Mayflower Hotel. The president’s 24-member advisory board on race sat around for an hour. But, as the Washington Post put it, "no one seemed quite sure what to say or do." The president showed up and said a few words. A few board members discussed what they’d seen in their travels. And then, the Post relates, "after 45 minutes, when no one else spoke up, Clinton departed." The commission has been given a year to come up with a grand plan to bring about racial healing. It has a large staff, office space, and millions of dollars. But four months have gone by—and the board has done next to nothing. According to the Post, the president wants the board to get moving—but the board is afraid to make a move without "a lot of guidance from the White House." It’s comical, because this is what government committees so often do. But it’s also ironic, because the real solution to racial conflict was taking place right under the president’s nose. If the president had looked out of his window that weekend, he would have seen racial healing breaking out all over the national mall, the grassy park stretching from the capitol building to the Washington monument. He would have seen a million men of all races gathered for the Promise Keepers rally, embracing each other and confessing the sin of racism. Native American Christians in full headdress, Jewish Christians wearing yarmulkes, and black Christians sporting Kente cloth. You can’t help but draw comparisons between bureaucratic government solutions and spiritual ones. On the one side, you have a big staff and plenty of money, and our leaders still can’t come up with a solution to racism. And then in come the Christians—no worldly power, no board, no money, not asking for anything. They swarm all over the national mall and do what no government agency can do. It brings to mind a story of an old friend, legendary Washington lawyer Edward Bennet Williams. For 30 years, Williams was one of the most influential power brokers in the capital. When he lay dying of cancer a few years ago, an associate said to him, "Ed, you’ve wielded enormous power in this city. Washington won’t be the same without you." Ed, who was a devout Christian, responded: "This city knows nothing of power. I’m about to see real power." Feminist groups have been muttering darkly about the so-called secret political agenda of Promise Keepers. My question is, why would Promise Keepers have any interest in mere political power when they’re already plugged into the real power of the universe? Government power looks puny by comparison. Government answers, you see, are procedural—which is why they so often don’t work. But spiritual answers go to the heart. Government teaches racism is wrong because it violates the law. But Christianity says racism is wrong because it’s a violation of God’s law and of the dignity of every man and woman made in God’s image. This is the message that the men on the national mall heard on October 4 during the Promise Keepers rally, as they listened to Christian leaders who were black, white, Jewish, Asian, and Native American—and that’s why it was so effective. The president’s race commission is still twiddling its collective thumbs, trying to figure out how to solve the problems of racial conflict. But Promise Keepers has shown the way—in a grand witness. The only real solution to racial conflict is a life transformed through Jesus Christ.


Chuck Colson



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