Could the tower of institutionalized racism be on the verge of collapse?
The next move could be the last. This is the thinking of the players of Jenga as the pressure mounts. For those of you who have never played Jenga, it is a tower of blocks. Players take turns carefully removing a block from the tower and placing it on the top of the tower. Overtime the tower begins to have gaps and exposures that make it vulnerable to collapse. The inevitable collapse could come from a block being removed or a block being relocated. As the tower becomes increasingly unstable, each player ponders if his/her next move could be the last that leads to the tower’s collapse.
I wonder if we are at the point where the next move could cause a collapse. In this case, a desired collapse. “A collapse of what?” you might ask: The Tower of Institutionalized Racism.
From Disconnected to Reconnected
The Tower of Babel was humanity’s failed attempt to build a vertical city in Shinar in defiance of God’s command to populate the ends of the earth (Gen. 11:1-9). God’s judgment upon them was to change their common language into multiple languages. Their inability to understand each other forced them to migrate and settle in different parts of the known world of their day, resulting in multiple cultures and ethnicities.
On the day of Pentecost, the curse of Babel was reversed as people from different parts of the world heard Galileans speaking in their native languages (Acts 2:1-12). While the church has grown into a multi-ethnic, multicultural family that now spans the globe, we have struggled to live as the blended family intended by God (Eph. 2:11-22). Revelation 7:9-12 is clear that God’s family will ultimately worship Him as one unified people, but it does not absolve us of how we live as family before unbelievers today.
From Regionalism to Globalism
Since the time of Scripture, we have seen regionalism at work – Assyria, Babylon, and Persia were the powers of their day and connected their regions politically, economically, and militarily. Greece connected its vast empire by language and culture, and Rome gave us roads and Roman law (which is the law that governs Western nations to this day).
Colonialism laid the groundwork for globalism, two World Wars united the globe in a quest for enduring peace, free trade agreements removed political barriers to the free exchange of good and services globally, and the World Wide Web digitally connected every continent through the Internet.
Today, we can visit and communicate with people anywhere in the world. We can literally access anyone and anything through modern technology, mechanical or digital. Ironically, the two flashpoints that have precipitated the global disruption we are experiencing are a combination of the mechanical and digital drivers of globalism. The coronavirus spread across the world through global travel, while the protests for racial justice spread through social media. The world has become one global Shinar.
Signs of Hope
We are experiencing a wave of global instability initiated by the coronavirus pandemic and exacerbated by the graphic death of George Floyd. The coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, and spread across the globe. The protests of the death of George Floyd originated in Minneapolis, MN, and spread across the world.
Two separate events – one medical, the other social – finding their intersection in space and time history. With tensions in America already high due to decades of brutality and death at the hands of law enforcement officers and three months of staying-at-home, the murder of George Floyd was the spark that ignited the powder keg of social unrest. The result was an explosion of suppressed pain, exasperation, and exhaustion from African Americans not being treated like their white counterparts – let alone treated like divine image bearers.
To further complicate the matter, several non-black pastors have attempted to walk a tightrope of not offending their racially-challenged congregations and yet showing some compassion for their black siblings, although ineffectively. Others have continued to remain silent – like the priest and Levite who walked by the nameless robbery victim in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). And a few have brazenly dug in their heels, maintaining their allegiance to a political figure or party above their own spiritual family, the body of Christ.
However, there have also been signs of hope. Some white evangelicals have acknowledged their need to see life through the lens of the black experience and not their limited worldview. Denominations, like the Southern Baptist Convention, have repented for their past sins of endorsing slavery and failing to speak out against clear injustices. Sincere dialogue is happening across racial lines and, in many cases, being facilitated by white evangelical pastors and leaders.
Historically, the church has been at the forefront of every significant move to collapse the Tower of Racism in America. It was the church that led the fight against slavery and Jim Crow and for abolition and Civil Rights. So the church has come together at critical moments to remove blocks and make the tower more unstable. The question is: Will this moment be the one that causes the tower to collapse? I believe it could be because it feels like the right time.
Activating the Children of Issachar
The sons of Issachar were “men who were skilled in understanding the times to know what Israel should do” (1 Chr. 12:32 LEB). A dive into the meaning of this text reveals that the leaders of Issachar used the information before them to discern that David was God’s anointed king, and they placed their support behind him (vv. 38-40). They were skilled at sensing the move of God and responding accordingly.
In this season of COVID and chaos, we need sons and daughters of Issachar to hear what the Spirit is saying and respond accordingly. Make no mistake about it, this season we are in is bigger than the pandemic and pandemonium spreading across the globe. We are in the midst of a potential spiritual tipping point, but it won’t happen unless the church responds accordingly.
So what should we do?
1. Take a heavens-eye view of the landscape
The first thing we need to do is stop looking with our human eyes and start looking with our spiritual eyes. I have spoken to people with apostolic gifts of prophecy and intercession and all of them are seeking to discern exactly what God is doing in this season. The general consensus, at this point, is that God had to still us to get our attention.
Because we sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, we may live on earth, but we have a privileged position that ordinary humans don’t. Our dual citizenship gives us the ability to see with our natural eyes and our spiritual eyes. We must not look from earth’s perspective but from heaven’s; and a heavens-eye view follows the model of the sons of Issachar by looking at the facts on the ground and the sound in the air (the heavens).
2. Pray for the Spirit to reveal to us what we don’t see
After we examine the landscape before us, we must pray to the Lord for “the spirit of wisdom and revelation” to open the eyes of our understanding (Eph. 1:17-18). Elisha had to pray this prayer for his assistant who saw the large number of troops gathered against him but not the larger spiritual army gathered for him (2 Kgs. 6:15-17).
Somewhere in the midst of this global turbulence is the voice of God speaking to His creation. He doesn’t have to be the cause of the chaos to speak in the chaos. For Elijah witnessed a series of chaotic activity that God was not in: God’s voice spoke to him in the stillness (1 Kgs. 19:9-12). If God has stilled us, maybe we should listen for his voice away from the pandemic and pandemonium. Let the world look at the wind, earthquake, and fire; and let us listen for the still, small voice. The voice that calls the church to, “Arise, shine! For your light has come” (Isa. 60:1).
3. Develop a strategy to respond accordingly
Finally, like the sons of Issachar, we must take the information we have gathered – from our heavens-eye view and God’s still small voice – and discern what we should do next. Our strategy should be based on spiritual revelation and not solely our natural situation.
My prayer is that God will activate the spirit of Issachar in our day to discern what the Spirit is saying to the church and sound a prophetic call as to how we should respond.
One thing I sense the Lord saying in this season is that the church must lay aside all racial, political, and national allegiances and be the one family He has chosen and called us to be. We are at the tipping point of an unprecedented move of God. Could it be the collapse of the Tower of Institutionalized Racism that many have been awaiting? I don’t know. But what I do know is the next move is on us. Will the tower continue to stand or will it come crashing down?
Rev. Isaac Hayes is the president of Healing of the Soul Ministries. He is also an Assistant Pastor at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, IL, and a doctoral student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. Follow Rev. Hayes on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @RevIsaacHayes.