Donald Sterling is the owner (for now) of the NBA Los Angeles Clippers. This past week, a recording of a conversation between Sterling and his almost-50-years-younger mistress surfaced, setting news networks, the sports world, and social media ablaze. Sterling has never professed to be a model of morality. But no one expected to hear what he said on the recording.
The conversation was prompted by a photo of Sterling’s then-girlfriend, V. Stiviano, with NBA Hall of Famer, Earvin “Magic” Johnson. When Sterling saw the photo it struck a nerve, prompting him to confront his girlfriend. Here’s an excerpt from the conversation between Sterling and V. Stiviano:
Stiviano: I don’t understand, I don’t see your views. I wasn’t raised the way you were raised.
Sterling: Well then,….don’t come to my games. Don’t bring black people, and don’t come.
Stiviano: Do you know that you have a whole team that’s black, that plays for you?
The reason this is so shocking is not because the man is racist (racism is alive and well all over the world.) What’s shocking is that it comes from the owner of a team in the NBA – a league comprised of SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT African Americans.
The NBA waited patiently as NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, decided Sterling’s punishment. That punishment was handed down today (4/29). From Deadspin.com: “Clippers owner Donald Sterling has been BANNED FOR LIFE from associating with the Clippers and the NBA, and fined the maximum of $2.5 million. In addition, Commissioner Silver said he has asked the Board of Governors to force a sale of the Clippers.”
Sterling has never professed to be a Christian. So we shouldn’t expect him to live like one. However, this story brings up a good question: Does the poison of racism still live in Christian life today?
In his book, “Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church”, Philip Yancey writes about his days growing up in a church-going family in Georgia. Yancey, a white man, writes, “In the 1960’s, as black students sought to integrate Atlanta’s churches, our leadership mobilized lookout squads who took turns patrolling the entrances lest any black ‘troublemakers’ appear. I still have one of the cards they printed up to give to any civil rights demonstrators who might appear. The card stated: ‘Believing your motives to be foreign to God’s Word, we cannot extend a welcome to you and respectfully request you leave the premises quietly. Scripture does NOT teach ‘the brotherhood of man….”
Wow. Just wow. (I would’ve loved to have been the one to break the news to that church that Jesus wasn’t white.)
A half century has passed since that card was printed. But, today, the sad joke within church circles is, “The most segregated hour of the week in America is Sunday morning Worship.”
Racism is nothing new. (Think: Hebrew slaves in Ancient Egypt) Moreover, Jesus, a Jew, grew up in an extremely racist culture. “Jews do not associate with Samaritans,” the woman at the well told Him. (John 4)
I have to admit, I don’t remember a single sermon I’ve ever heard on the topic of racism – and I’ve been a Christian for almost 40 years. Like gluttony, gossip, and other “regionally acceptable sins”, it’s rarely even mentioned.
So, was the card printed by Philip Yancey’s church leadership true? Does God NOT teach ‘the brotherhood of man?” (Do I really have to ask that? :)) You be the judge.
Rev. 5:9-10 – And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from EVERY tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
Gal. 3:28 – There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Acts 10:34-35 – So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.
And this list doesn’t even include all the “whosoever” verses i.e. “Whosoever comes…” “Whosoever will…” “Whosoever believes…” (“Whosoever” meaning, “ALL are invited…”)
Imagine if God was racist, or bigoted. He sends His only begotten Son to die for mankind – with one caveat. He tells His Son: [When you come back to heaven], “Don’t bring white people.” Or, “Don’t bring idiots.” Or, “Don’t bring people with diabetes.” Or, “Don’t bring depressed people.” Instead, Jesus (God with skin on) stood up and shouted, “If ANYONE thirsts, let him come to me and drink!” (John 7:37)
Soli Deo Gloria, Nick