Unless you live under a rock, you have surely noticed the white supremacist movement of the past few months, specifically the events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia. These events are abhorrent. These “Neo-Nazis” have denied the dignity due to all humans and suggest genocide in some extreme cases. Because of this atrocity, their protests have kept me awake at night for various reasons, but there seems to be one that I cannot escape.
White supremacists are bold.
By bold, I mean that these people showed in Charlottesville unashamed of where they stand ideologically. Even though we don't agree with them, we have to admit that with the possible dangers of going public – without the white sheets over their heads – they stood courageously in their convictions.
This insomnia-based pondering brought to mind a story from 1 Kings 18 that I struggled through as a freshman in college several years ago. I couldn’t help but notice the parallel. I felt the same conviction a few days ago that I felt reading it as a young and growing Christian, especially in light of these recent events.
If you have any familiarity with the Old Testament, then I’m sure you’ve heard this story. Either way, I’ll give you the condensed version. In 1 Kings 18:20, the story starts with Elijah who calls out idol worshippers to choose whom they will serve. It’s clear that they try to serve both Yahweh and Baal, and as a display of God’s complete rule and reign, he challenges these 450 Baal worshippers to a duel. They would each bring a bull, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood as a sacrifice. But here’s the catch: none of the men were allowed to start the fire. The idol worshippers were to call out to Baal for fire and Elijah would do the same to Yahweh. The stipulations were made clear. Between Yahweh and Baal, whichever one answered and brought fire, this would be the one who was actually worthy of their worship. Long story short – Elijah wins, and the 450 receive a cold-hearted Stone Cold Stunner. But as a college freshman, my struggle came specifically in verses 26-29.
“[They] called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon... But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made... And [at noon] they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.” (ESV)
In this passage, these men worship and call out to a god who does not exist. They give of themselves – literally their own blood – in hopes that this god will answer them. And he never does, he never could, and he never will. This worship of Baal ultimately cost these men their lives (1 Kings 18:40). Yet, I did not feel any sort of victory after reading this story.
I felt disappointment for my lack of faith in God.
I serve a God who is worthy of all boldness from me. I have the gospel, which is the power of salvation to everyone who believes, and far too often, I shrink back in fear because of what others might think of me and my faith. I fear someone asking me what I do for work, what I study, or what my ambitions are because I know it will lead to conversations that are uncomfortable. It will lead to questions that cause arguments. It will lead to insufficient answers for lost people who do not understand how the gospel informs our doctrinal and ethical beliefs as Christians.
As I watched those white supremacists boldly marching for such an unworthy cause – risking much ridicule and embarrassment from those watching – I was reminded of the 450 worshippers of Baal, who served such an unworthy cause as well. They gave their lives for something of no value and so do the white supremacists. But the shame is in the fact that they, in many ways, show more faith in their beliefs than I do. It’s highly possible that this is true for many like-minded evangelicals. It’s okay to admit it. Let me encourage both you and me with good news.
Be sure of this. Evangelicals, for their biblical convictions that remain firm in an ever-changing world, will be the “next Alt-Right” in the eyes of the media (if we aren’t already). As we refuse to support the gay rights movement (which many have called the new civil rights movement), they will publically condemn us. As we fight for the rights of unborn children around this world, we will stand against the tide. As we hold to the exclusivity of the gospel for salvation, we will steadily be called bigots. But in the face of such ridicule, shame, persecution, and embarrassment, can we be bold?
We must let the truth of the gospel be our motivation in this. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, faced the ultimate form of public persecution and ridicule on the cross for our salvation. And he said to his disciples that they would share this with him in John 15:18-20: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you... If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”
As we hold fast to a never-changing God in a rapidly changing world, be encouraged that there is a reward waiting that is worth far more than avoiding the awkward conversation at a barbershop or facing the secular backlash in our schools and workplaces. I simply make the charge that we throw some water on the wood (1 King 18:33-35) and trust the one true God to hold us fast until the very end.
As someone with an inherently competitive nature, I say without any reserve: Please do not let the white supremacists outdo us. May we be bold!