Let us define racism as an ideology of superiority in which a person, due to a biological or physiological or cultural condition, which are tagged as inherent to the person, is systemically considered inferior, leading both to ideas and policies of exclusion. Thus, as is found in Emerson and Smith’s influential book, Divided by Faith, “a racialized society is a society wherein race matters profoundly for differences in life experiences, life opportunities, and social relationships” (7). In the USA, they demonstrate, this means low intermarriage rates, de facto segregation, socioeconomic inequality, and personal identities and social networks that are racially distinctive (154).
Now let us posit that there are at least four salient New Testament themes that undercut so radically such an ideology that it ought to bring the Church shame even to participate in such things indirectly, and it ought to cause the Church intense remorse and repentance not to end such an ideology from its midst.
First, the kingdom vision of Jesus that begins with Zechariah’s brilliant song, The Benedictus, moves on to Mary’s song, The Magnificat, and finds brilliant exposition in Jesus’ own inaugural sermon at Nazareth in Luke 4 and the Beatitudes in Luke 6 and the comments to John (Matthew 11).
Second, the fundamental role Pentecost plays (or is supposed to play) in recreating humans into the people of God through the dynamic power of the Spirit as seen at Pentecost, Acts 2, and in the egalitarian and reconstituted community of Acts 2–4.
Third, the theme of justification, which while being a fictive relationship with God in that there is a verdict given by God that is not fully manifest in human life, is also clearly and importantly (brought to light in the New Perspective of Jimmy Dunn and Tom Wright) the act of God in which he simply “makes things right,” including racial relations. That’s right, in the New Perspective justification has a racial component (a social axis, if you will).
Fourth, the Spirit-inspired dynamic found in Pauls’ magna carta of Galatians 3:28: in Christ (and this, my friends, is not just a spiritual thing) there is neither Jew nor Greek — a clear and unambiguous assault on ethnic pride and division.
With Anthony Smith, I will ask, are we practicing Pentecost? Are we performing Kingdom? Are we “making things right”? Are we living “in Christ”? Are we, as he says, denying Eucharist in racial divisions that foster tapas ecclesiology, or melting pot ecclesiology or jambalaya ecclesiology?
Now let us ask, will it be tapas, a crock pot soup, a salad bowl, or a jambalaya?
A purple ecclesiology is a salad bowl ecclesiology.