In Pursuit of the New Jerusalem

( [email protected] ) Mar 08, 2004 12:22 PM EST

While on the isle of Patmos, the apostle John caught a vision of the New Jerusalem descending out of heaven. In his description of that great city, he said: "The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal" (Rev. 21:16). Although the text has a literal meaning, a legitimate allegorical application says the passage advocates the ideal society is not an unbalanced entity -- not a place where the presence of social and political inequities exists -- but a culture where every race is equally important.

"Prejudice," said Mark Twain, "is the ink with which all history is written." Indeed, racism, prejudice, and various forms of bigotry have plagued the course of human events throughout the centuries. Much of the world's greatest conflicts have been centered on the discrimination of one group of people over another.

Yaw Boateng, professor of education at Eastern Washington University, says its important to recall that at one time "African Americans and other people's of African descent were continually dehumanized and relegated to the position of non-citizens and often defined as fractions of humans. It is estimated that between 1890 and 1925, an African American was lynched every two and a half days." He adds, "African Americans were so dehumanized and their history so distorted in academia that 'slavery, peonage, segregation and lynching' were considered justifiable conditions. In fact, Professor John Burgess, the founder of Columbia University's graduate school of political science and an important figure in American scholarship, defined the African race as 'a race of men which has never created any civilization of any kind.'"

It was this kind of environment that inspired African American scholar, Carter Godwin Woodson, a Harvard-trained PhD, to spearhead the establishment of Negro History Week in 1926. Woodson's objective was to educate people about the significant contributions of the black race to humanity. Since then, the observance has expanded to encompass the entire month of February and is called Black History Month. Black History Month serves not only to heighten our understanding of the black experience, but also the consequences of overt discriminatory practices and the racial harassment of any persons.

America is deeply indebted to blacks for their leadership in seeking to usher in the New Jerusalem -- the city of God -- a society where racial equality and oneness prevail. Unfortunately, however, the holy pursuit for the New Jerusalem has often been desecrated.

Christians have dishonored it. When Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for the civil rights of blacks in the 1960s, very few white Christians stood with him. I can remember when certain white clergy erroneously contended the mark God put upon Cain was that he made him a black man. But now who bears Cain's mark of shame? It is the white evangelical who opposed or neglected the cause of racial equality.

Today the most segregated hour in the life of Christians is at church. A Gallup Poll found that "Seventy-three percent of whites ... attended mostly white or all-white churches, while 7 percent attended churches that were approximately half white and half black. Virtually no whites attended churches that were mostly or all black. Among blacks, 71 percent attended mostly or all-black churches, while 13 percent attended churches that were equally black and white, and 6 percent went to churches that were mostly or all white."

Even those who are always lauding the virtues of "diversity" have besmirched the quest for the New Jerusalem. For eight years, Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska, has given the "Distinguished African American Student Award" on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. But this year, when Trevor Richards -- who was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, and is white -- orchestrated a campaign that he be named the recipient, school officials disciplined him with two days suspension for allegedly belittling the award by his candidacy. Never mind that Trevor was more African and probably more knowledgeable of African culture than any of his black peers.

All the more disturbing is the fact that another student was disciplined after Trevor's suspension because he circulated a petition that criticized the practice of recognizing only a black student as eligible for the award. Is this the end to which Martin Luther King, Jr.'s bold dream of a colorblind society aspired? Hardly! Instead it is a corruption of that dream by the multiculturalism and political correctness of our day.

Homosexuals have also tarnished the hope of the New Jerusalem. They've done it by waging a campaign that associates their sexual behavior with the struggle of blacks in the civil rights movement. Many blacks who have won legitimate civil rights struggles are rightfully offended by this comparison. General Colin Powell, in his opposition to homosexuals in the military, said that, "Skin color is a benign, non-behavioral characteristic. Sexual orientation is perhaps the most profound of human behavioral characteristics. Comparison of the two is a convenient but invalid argument."

In 1997, Alveda Celeste King, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s niece, warned in a speech she gave on the steps of the U.S. Capitol that the equation of homosexuality to race would be a "death sentence" for the civil rights movement. "No one is enslaving homosexuals ... or making them sit in the back of the bus," she said. "Don't expect us or our children to approve of, promote or elevate sexual preference to civil rights status .... What's next, civil rights on the basis of prostitution and pedophilia?"

In his "I Have a Dream" speech, King said he dreamed of a day when everyone would be "judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Skin is morally neutral; but sexual behavior has everything to do with character and morality.

Thank God for John's vision of the New Jerusalem. It inspires us to also catch the vision and pursue the city of God until it comes down from heaven to us. But let's not forget that any debasing of this pursuit shall never make the New Jerusalem a reality -- for the Scripture says, "[T]here shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie…" (Rev. 21:27).


Rev. Mark H. Creech ([email protected]) is the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.