This paper explores the question of how Christians should think about systemic racism and racial socialisation by providing a theological reading of 1 John 2.15-16 as applied to the development of race.

Ryan Saville considers to what extent systemic injustice and racial socialisation are affirmed by a reading of John’s warning against idolatry. This analysis is fundamentally positive and hopeful about our ability to deal with racism. Since the love for the world displaces the love of God the opposite is also true. It is the love of God that displaces the love of the world. In the final analysis, dealing with racism happens at the foot of the cross.

The significant contribution of this study is not that it purports that racism, like any other sin, can be overcome through the sanctifying power of the gospel. Its unique contribution is also not the socio-historical analysis of the development of race and its impact on South Africa. Its unique contribution is the combination of both. John’s warning is precisely that idolatry is subtle and deceptive. The challenge is one of full awareness of the extent of the issues.

Both an accurate assessment of the problem and the application of the full gospel are required. God has a glorious plan to use his church to ameliorate racism. But this plan springs from a church fully aware of the social and spiritual extent of the idolatry that has so characterized South Africa for centuries

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