My thirteen-year-old son, Taylor, is a midfielder on a traveling soccer team and we share a love for soccer. Anticipating the World Cup beginning this Friday, we watched an ESPN special on racism among European football fans.
In 2004, Spain's World Cup coach, Luis Aragons, was fined after making racial remarks about Arsenal superstar, Thierry Henry. Things started to come to a head last year when Messina's Ivory Coast defender, Marc Zoro, was reduced to tears by Inter Milan fans hurling racial epithets at him. Having been abused beyond his ability to endure, Zoro picked up the game ball to hand it to a referee, and tried to walk off the field. Some of Inter Milan's quite-sportsmanlike players did their best to silence the abuse. They put their arms around Zoro and convinced him to keep playing. Racial epithets and bananas are thrown at black players on the field, but they're expected to shrug it off and keep playing.
This past March, in the Brazilian league, defender Antonoi Carlos was suspended for 120 days plus four matches after he shouted at a black opponent, calling him "monkey." Then, on April 3, Spiegel Online ran a story about FC Sachsen Leipzig's star Nigerian midfielder, Adebowale Ogungbure, being tormented after a game by fans who ran up and spit on him, calling him "Dirty N-gger," "Sh-t N-gger," and "Ape" as he walked off the pitch.
Racism threatens to tarnish the World Cup and there's a lot of talk about what FIFA officials are and aren't going to do about it. When the ESPN special was over, neither Taylor nor I had much to say to each other. This aspect of the beautiful game is ugly.
Then, this morning, I followed a link to our blog posted on another blog that is racist to the core, and also obscene, sacrilegious, and blasphemous. In the past, David and I have tried to get these wicked men not to link to us, but to no avail. They told us they'd link to anyone they wanted to and we couldn't stop them. They're right.
These men claim to be followers of Christ but it would be hard to find a more perfect example of what men would look and sound like who had been given over to the Evil One after knowing something of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. You may be wondering why I don't provide a link to their sites, but if you're a Christian who's read the book of Proverbs, you'll understand.
Racism isn't the worst sin--and yes, there are lesser and greater evils--but it's impact on the Body of Christ in America is as poisonous as it's been in every other place and time. Those who think it's been dealt the fatal blow in these United States are living in a dream world.
The racist blog I've referred to is unquestionably written by men who are members in good standing of a reformed church here in the U.S.--and likely a congregation of my own Presbyterian Church in America given the vitriol they reserve for us.
I ask myself how any pastor or session could have such men in their congregation without knowing of their wickedness, to which the pastor and elders might respond, "But these men write everything anonymously! How are we supposed to know who they are?"
But isn't it a distinguishing mark of true shepherds that they know their sheep?
You may judge me uncharitable in this judgment, but if these racist blogs were shown to have been written by men within our congregation, all of us serving on Church of the Good Shepherd's session would see ourselves as having utterly failed in our pastoral calling. In our day-to-day family life, we would believe we ought to have seen the telltale signs of their racism and exhorted them to repent, disciplining them if they refused.
But even if--and yes, it's a stretch--even if we had not seen any telltale signs, our lives, teaching, preaching, and fellowship should have been so heinous to them that our godliness would either have driven them to repentance or rooted them out.
Put aside all other discussions of immigration and race in America today, the Body of Christ should be leading the way in excommunicating these men who, in the Name and House of our Lord, turn the Christian faith into an instrument of cultural and racial hegemony while impudently denying their sin.
Let such men be cast out of the Household of Faith, and let men who connive at such brothers be rebuked to their face, in the presence of the whole congregation.