News of last week's tornadoes have almost completely disappeared in the wake of the death of Usama bin Laden. However, during last week's coverage of the destruction across the South, I heard that Smithville, MS suffered severe damage. Since we attend church in Smithville, Ohio and our son attends school there, my curiosity got the best of me and I had to Google it. The damage sustained by this tiny town is stunning:
The Smithville Baptist Church was destroyed:
"They gathered Sunday in a white tent in the parking lot of the demolished church and sang praises to God. Some of them raised their hands high — toward the same heavens that spit out the killer tornado that destroyed the church and most of the town.
They called it 'Resurrection Sunday' at Smithville Baptist Church, which is now a pile of twisted debris in one of the hardest hit towns in Mississippi."
It turns out that demographically, Smithville, MS and Smithville, OH are very similar:
Smithville, OH 1357
Smithville, MS 857
Smithville, OH $40,168
Smithville, MS $33,814
Smithville, OH 1.23 sq. miles
Smithville, MS 1.46 sq. miles
Smithville, OH White 95.7%
Smithville, MS White 96%
When I checked out the town's website, I saw something heartbreaking on the page that listed the churches:
Smithville Area Churches
"White Churches" and "African American Churches"? What does that mean, exactly? Are white people not permitted to go to the African American churches? Are black people banned from the white churches? And where are the Hispanic, American Indian, Pacific Islander, Asian, and multi-racial individuals supposed to go? I admit, I'm a Yankee (NOT the baseball kind!!) by birth and attitude and may not understand some things about the South. But how is this acceptable in the year 2011?
I understand and accept that there are cultural and stylistic differences that exist among various churches and that it's OK for people to attend a church where they are comfortable. But advertising that you are a "white" church or an "African American" church creates instant, artificial, and unnecessary divisions between brothers and sisters in Christ. Any church that allows its name to be on such a list should be ashamed.
And yet, I say this as someone who lives in an almost 100% white Township and attends a church that is almost 100% white. We don't have signs that keep people segregated and I honestly don't know why, in this day and age, the area remains so...white. We choose to live here because of the beauty of the countryside and the space and fresh air. The principal of Smithville High School noted in a recent school newsletter that "We choose to live in a conservative community." And that's a part of it too. On the one hand, I wish it were more diverse, but on the other hand, I feel like wishing for diversity is falling into the trap of dividing us by color.
A couple years ago our family was blessed to visit the Creation Museum and I was challenged to think about the issue of race in a way I hadn't previously considered. The Bible tells us that we are all "One Blood" and have more in common than divides us. In his book Darwin's Plantation, Ken Ham and Charles Ware say this:
1. We came from one man.
“The first man [was] Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45).
We know from God’s Word that all people descended from one man, Adam. The Y-chromosome contains DNA that is passed directly from father to son. We would predict that Y-chromosome DNA would be similar in all men alive today. Scientific research on Y-chromosome DNA seems to bear this out.
2. We came from one woman.
“Eve . . . was the mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20).
We know from God’s Word that all people descended from one woman, Eve. Mitochondrial DNA is passed directly from mother to child. We would predict that mitochondrial DNA would be similar in all people alive today. Scientific research on mitochondrial DNA seems to bear this out."
3. We are fully human from conception.
All the genetic information to make an individual is present at conception, so right from the start a fertilized human egg cell is totally human. There is no biological basis for drawing any other lie for when we “become” human. Every human is fully human, from conception to the end of life.
4. There is only one race of humans.
All of us descended from the first two people — with a common ancestry, we are not different biological races. However, the Bible makes it clear there are two spiritual races (those who trust Christ and those who don’t).
May our churches someday live like we believe this!
While we pray for the recovery of Smithville, MS, let's also pray that the Church of Jesus Christ in Smithville, Mississippi, Smithville Ohio, and around the world will take to heart Paul's words to the Galatians:
"For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26-28).