The title of this post is not an ode to a cult classic movie about a serial killer who immortalized the name Clarice (for those that remember the film).
The title is about something much deeper. It’s about, what I believe to be, the main reason why there will not be much progress made in race relations within the evangelical church and why Sunday will remain”the most segregated hour” of the week.
The silence of the lambs is the main reason for most of the backlash about who voted for who among evangelicals.
And lastly, it’s about what I believe to be the main reason why there will be a greater racial divide in the evangelical church, particularly among Reformed believers who preach, so emphatically, the grace, mercy, and reconciliation of God through Christ.
To understand where all this is coming from, it’s important to answer two questions:
- Who are the lambs?
- What are they silent about?
Who Are the Lambs?
The lambs are those who would largely identify themselves as evangelical. They are mostly white (don’t roll your eyes), but not only, and would see themselves and the Gospel they believe in as the bridge for reconciliation, first to God, and then to all other relational levels.
They are influential leaders that have been given (by God ultimately) a recognized degree of influence over the body of Christ, whether it be through books, preaching, or blogging, their popularity. Whether it be right or wrong, the influence causes other believers to look to them for guidance on matters of obedience.
This is a necessary distinction that must be made for two reasons, one biblical, and one cultural.
In the Gospels, we see that Jesus had a higher standard and higher intolerance for the religious leaders. It was a rare occasion where Jesus verbally challenged ordinary (non-leading/teaching) Jews. We see Jesus having compassion on those being taught, but firmly and embarrassingly challenging those who taught.
Thus, the “lambs” will be those with teaching and influence in the body of Christ.
Culturally speaking, we live in a time where the idea of celebrity is significant. We take popularity so seriously that we give an undue amount of respect to people who have public platforms much greater than ours.
And though there has been some push back against this idea of “Celebrity Pastor” it’s still our reality. We make celebrities out men and women and hang on their every word. They are the lambs.
What Are They Silent About?
I stated earlier that the lambs were largely white Evangelicals but not just white Evangelicals. The white lambs are primarily silent about the reality of historical injustice towards their black brother’s and sisters, and this silence, has crippled the church’s moral example, as well as opened the door for serious heresy to take hold and divide the church.
Take, for example, gay marriage.
In all of history, the church has never seen marriage as anything other than between a man and a woman. At the feet of gay marriage lies a legitimate accusation. That accusation is: “The church got slavery wrong, so how do we know it’s right about marriage?”
This argument has challenged the thinking of many genuine believers because it’s a well known fact that the church did get slavery wrong. Jim Crow, civil rights, and segregation within the church, to name a few, saw the church being complicit in these horrendous institutions.
The saddest part of all of this is that the church allowed the Bible to be used to justify slavery and that silence has created a loud voice of justification for a sexual ethic that is unbiblical.
Now, as racially charged incidents occur the silence of the lambs (leaders with influence) on these issues is essentially a throwback to an era where black people’s struggles are dismissed as pulling race cards.
Ironically these same leaders use their platforms to give guidance on who to vote for, gay marriage, abortion, dead theologians, and a number of other issues. However, they don’t seem to use their influence to bring attention to this gospel issue. And make no mistake, gospel issues are not isolated to the order of salvation, or the eternal sonship of Christ. Weep with those who weep, and mourn with those who mourn are gospel issues because they deal with gospel character.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said:
Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.
The silence of the Lambs is not restricted to white evangelicals, and in part two of this post we’ll look at another demonstration of silence amongst that lambs that is deafening.