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Awakening to ethnic unity (one white grandpa’s view)

Stan Nussbaum

For most of my 73 years I have heard the gospel summarized as the blood of Jesus paying for our sins, opening the way to peace with God and eternal life. In my world this all too familiar version of God’s good news was thought to be universal because the sin problem is the same for black and white sinners, Chinese, African, Arab, and Israeli sinners, any sinners you want to name. And the solution to the problem is also the same regardless.

This way of playing down the importance of ethnicity isn’t good enough for the team of five unofficial “worship stewards” in charge of the platform during the Asbury awakening. According to an eyewitness post by Mark Swayze on February 16th, their four-word motto is: “Radical humility; ethnic unity.” He writes, “They hope to steward well one thing: a simple offering of song represented by every ethnicity.”

Where are they getting this big concern about ethnicity? Not from the tiny white town of Wilmore, Kentucky, where the Asbury campus sits. Not from the evangelistic tradition of frontier Methodism where it sits historically. Not from current mainstream evangelicalism where it sits theologically. And certainly not from any conspiracy to overthrow Asbury by theological liberals and representatives of Black Lives Matter.

Then where? From listening to the Spirit of God, who is correcting the way my world has been skimming over ethnicity as we summarize the gospel. The correction is taking the form of platform sharing, affirming people of all ethnicities as first-class co-worshipers. How then could they ever be second-class citizens in any sense? Not even expert hypocrites could keep such hypocrisy going for long.

What the Asbury worshipers are doing is shining the light, giving ethnicity its due, and leaving hypocrisy nowhere to hide. What is grabbing the world’s attention at Asbury is not organized power; it is stewarded glory, authentic light, and part of that glory is God uniting humanity across ethnic lines.

I’m trying to add what little fuel I can for more light from the ethnic unity fire with a very short story, “Uprooted”. At <> we look at the whole panorama of the biblical story from Genesis to Revelation with ethnicity as a central issue, directly linked to the whole sin problem and Christ’s death. No details here except to say that Abraham is a key figure.

Recover Abraham in our gospel summary and we recover ethnic unity as a central feature. It won’t be a mere footnote somewhere in our social ethics any more, and the whiteness of white people will no longer get a free pass in evangelicalism.

On the way to that new normal, I note the caution that Deborah Masten posted, “As a Black woman, my ancestors have lived through more than their fair share of ‘revivals.’ And have also witnessed miracles in the midst of darkness.” Let’s thank her for keeping an open mind about this revival, and let’s make her glad she did.

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