Science in Christian Perspective
What's the Next Move?
Tom Skinner Crusades, Inc
521 Hopkinson Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11212
From: PSCF 21 (September 1969): 66-68.
Harlem runs two-and-a-half miles from north to south, one mile from east to west. In that small area is a population of one million people. The social statisticians tell us that if you concentrated the 200 million Americans now living in the United States into New York City, it still would not be as congested as Harlem is right now.
It was in this community that I was born and raised. I come from a fairly religious homereligious to the extent that my old man is a preacher, which makes me a preacher's kid. In my early teens I rejected any concept of Christianity, basically because I could not reconcile it with the Harlem community.
At that time Harlem was more than forty percent slums. Thousands of
in ratinfested, rundown, dilapidated homes. It was not uncommon for some mother
to send a piercing scream through the community in the middle of the night as
she discovered that her two-weekold baby had been gnawed to death by
a large rat.
Forty-three percent of the kids in Harlem, born since 1945, were born out of wedlock, and 57 percent of them grew up without their fathers. Thousands live on welfare. More than 40,000 drug addicts live in Harlem, each one supporting an average habit of more than $40.00 per day.
Where is the Church?
In the midst of this, the big question I asked was, "Where is the church?" At that time, I put people on two basic extremes. One was what I called the "pseudoexistentialist," better known as the hippie or beatnik, who looks at society and decides that the world is hypocritical, confused, and mixed up. He prefers to run away and create his own little world and become his own god.
The opposite extreme was also a coward. He was what I called a "hyper-Christian." He called himself "a Bible-believing, fundamental orthodox conservative, evangelical Christian." He had Bible verses for every social problem that existed.
But he would never get involved. If you told him that a place like Harlem existed, he would give you some typical Christian cliché, but he himself would never go to Harlem to administer what he considered the "dose of salvation."
I came under the influence of some people in Harlem known as the Black Nationalists The Nationalists are a very militant, aggressive group who preach black supremacy. They would say to me, "Tom, your problem is that you have been brainwashed. You have been educated and trained and brought up under Christianity, which is just a white man's religion, given to the Negro to keep him in his place."
They pointed out to me that the leading exponents of hate, segregation, and bigotry in American society were basically Christians. During the 175 or more years in which the Negro was a slave in this country, it was the white Christian church that preached that slavery was a divine institution ordained by God.
They also pointed out that any attempt to pass open-housing laws that would give the Negro the right to buy a home that he could afford and attend the school of his choice was generally opposed by white Christians.
The Harlem Lords
Coming home from school one afternoon, I was approached by a fellow whom I recognized as a member of one of the up-and-coming gangs in the Harlem community. Very sarcastically, he asked me how I would like to belong to the gang called the "Harlem Lords." I told him I would like to.
That night I met the Harlem Lords, They gave me three choices of initiation. I had to pass one to be accepted into the gang. I chose to be stripped from my waist up, hung by my wrists from a long spike and slashed across my back twenty times with leather straps. I took the lashing without crying out and without asking the fellows to stop.
After six weeks of rumbling around with the fellows, I sized up the leader and decided, "Why should I just be a member of this gang when with my brains and intelligence I could be leader."
I challenged the leader to a knife fight and defeated him. Within two weeks, I was challenged by two other fellows. I defeated them, and for two years I was the undisputed leader of the Lords.
While I was gang leader, I was also president of the student body, secretary of the Arista Society (5th
dents with ninety percent averages and above), president of the Shakespearean Society, and president of the young poeple's department in my church.
The reason that I got hoodwinked into the gang was simply that all of us are conformists, and many of us have a particular in-group by which we want to be accepted.
Also, the Nationalists said to me, "Tom, it is a fine thing that you are a brilliant student, and that you show the brilliant qualifications of leadership, but this is a white man's world. He controls things from the top to the bottom. He might allow you to be a jazz player, a rock 'n' roll singer, or the janitor in his building, but he will never let you compete with him on an open basis to make a tangible contribution to society."
Feeling sorry for myself, I became stagnant, and this stagnation channeled itself into social disorder. Before long I could bust a bottle across a fellow's head, jig the glass in his face, and twist it without even batting an eye.
I led the fellows in more than fifteen large-scale gang fights, and we never lost. It was a small gang just 130 of us.
An Unscheduled Program
I was preparing strategy one night for what was to be the largest gang fight ever to take place in New York City. Five gangs were uniting together to fight a bunch of gangs from the other side of the city. If I succeeded in leading the fellows to victory in this fight, I would emerge as the leader of this alliance of Harlem gangs-the most powerful teenage gang leader in the city.
I was quite excited about it because I had planned a long time for it. I had my radio on, listening to my favorite disc-jockey, when an unscheduled gospel program came on. A preacher spoke on II Corinthians 5:17, which says, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
Now, I had heard that Scripture before, but that night I began to realize the revolutionary content of the verse. The word "revolution" is very important in Harlem. I was being trained to help initiate the revolution that was to liberate all black people.
The job of a revolutionary is to take an existing order that has proved to be archaic and impractical and tear it down and build a new system. This Bible verse was saying that Jesus Christ came to tear down human nature, which had proved to be greedy, lustful., bigoted, prejudiced, and immoral, and recreate it with a new nature-his own.
Jesus Christ would live in me. The preacher pointed out that every person born into the human race is born without the life of God. And it is the absence of God's life that causes a man to live contrary to God.
He quoted John 1:12: "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on his name."
Obviously, if I had to receive Jesus Christ in order to become a son of God, I could not have been a son of God before I received him. The preacher said that Jesus Christ died on the cross to crucif in his own body the sinful, rotten nature with whic all of us are born. And he said that three days later Jesus Christ arose from the dead to prove that he had the power over death, but also so that he could live his resurrected life in me.
Being a typical pseudo-intellectual, I had the standard arguments. Everything the preacher said was from the Bible. In my opinion, the Bible was a nice, poetical, religious history book.
The only way you can accept scientific theory as conclusive fact is to experiment. I had never experimented with Jesus Christ. I had never given him the opportunity to prove himself in my life. The only way I could prove whether John 6:37 was a lie or the truth was to come to Jesus Christ and find out whether he would accept me or reject me.
Second, I argued that, as a philosophical realist, I was not going to
to a god that I couldn't see, touch, or feel. And third, I argued,
understand God; and since I cannot logically figure God out in my mind, why do
I need to bother with Him?"
One by one these arguments were smashed as I began to realize that there were things in my life that I accepted and believed which I could not touch, see, or feel-such as vitamins. I did not understand the international monetary system and was not an expert economist, but I certainly was not going to stop spending money until I understood.
I began to realize that God was not asking me to understand everything, but rather to believe the evidence that I had. I was a great advocate of the scientific method. Whenever someone made a mystical statement to me, I challenged him to prove it scientifically.
The only way you can accept scientific theory as conclusive fact is to experiment. I had never experimented with Jesus Christ. I had never given him the opportunity to prove himself in my life.
The preacher quoted John 6:37, which says, "And him who comes to me, I will not cast out." Now, either Jesus Christ was lying, or he was telling the truth! The only way I could prove whether that was a lie or the truth was to come to Jesus Christ and find out whether he would accept me or reject me.
I bowed my head and prayed, "Lord, I do not understand all of this, and I do not know how you are going to change me, but if these things are true and you can really make me a new person, I now give you the right to take over my life."
At that every moment, Jesus Christ came into my life. I saw no blinding flashes of light. I heard no thunder roar. I simply accepted the fact that if God was God, then God could only be God because he does not lie. Jesus Christ took up residence in my life and has been living in me ever since.
The following night, I faced my entire gang-129 guys with knives and pistols and no reservations about using them. I told them I had committed my life to Christ, and, based on that commitment, could no longer lead the gang.
All the time I was talking, something inside of me was saying, "Cat, you is a fool! You ain't getting out of here alive!" Sitting in front of me was the No. 2 man in the gang. His nickname was the "Mop," because he was never happy in a fight unless he drew blood from someone and then put his foot in it.
I knew that he wanted to be No. 1 man, and I also knew he would say my committing my life to Christ was a sign of weakness. As you read this article, are you afraid to commit your life to Jesus Christ because you are afraid of the social repercussions? I walked out. Not one of those guys moved.
Two nights later, the "Mop" cornered me and said, "Tom, the other night when you walked out, I was going to put my blade in your back, but I couldn't move. It was like something or somebody glued me to my seat." He said the other fellows told him the same thing.
Then I knew that the Christ to whom I had committed myself was more than just some fictitious character who lived 1,900 years ago, or some nebulous spirit floating around in-space somewhere-he was alive and real.
I asked the "Mop" if he would like to know that somebody who kept him glued to his seat, and he said, "Yes." Standing right there on the street corner, the No. 2 man bowed his head and invited Jesus Christ into his life.
The two of us went back to the gang, and we led five other guys to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
A New Person
At this very moment, I am a new person. Jesus Christ has completely revolutionized my life. I am not the product of a poverty program, or social legislation, or sociological theories. I am the product of a person called Jesus Christ. Society is made up of people. Therefore, if you want to change society, you have to change people. And the only Person who changes another person is Jesus Christ.
I used to be deeply concerned about the fact that people would not accept me because of the color of my skin. And I used to constantly preach and scream at people to stop looking at the color of my skin and accept me as a person. But I do not have to do that anymore.
Now I am a son of God, a member of the family of God-which puts me in the best family stock in
the world. That makes me better off than the Queen of England's kids or the kids of the President of the United States, or any other socially elite person, because I can address the Cod of heaven and earth as my Father. That gives me status.
So now if a person gives me a "hate" stare, or tells me that he does not want to live next door to me, or does not want to be my friend because of the color of my skin, I simply tell him, "Well, fellow, listen, if you do not want to rub shoulders with royalty like me, that is your problem, not mine."
The Bible tells me that I am seated with Jesus Christ in heavenly places, which puts me on the highest social level in all the world. Therefore, I do not have to picket, demonstrate, pray-in, sit-in, wait-in, or do anything else "in" to get social acceptability. Why should I break my neck to come down from a superior position, to try to break into a society that is inferior to the one to which I already belong?
My Message to Society
My message to society right now is simply this: It does not make any difference if you do not accept me, because I have been accepted by the God of heaven and earth. It does not make any difference if you do not love me-maybe you cannot love me because of your built-in prejudices, your opposition to my Christian philosophy, or the color of my skin. I am already loved and accepted. All I ask is that you give me the privilege to love you. Whether or not you love me back is unimportant.
Some people will say, "But, Tom, that is the Uncle Tom philosophy that black people have been believing for generations, and white people have been taking advantage of them."
That is not true. What has existed for generations in the Negro community, as well as in the white community, is "religion." We have had the philosophy and principles of religion. But we have not had Christ, who is the center of true religion. And until people have Jesus Christ living in them, we will not revolutionize our world.
We can put thousands of people on welfare, but it is not going to stop them from drinking or taking drugs. We can remove them from the slums and put them in beautiful buildings, as we have done with white, middle-class America, but that will not put their homes back togetherone out of every three white, middle-class American families break up even though they have education, money, and social position.
No, again, the answer is that we must reconstruct human nature. And only Jesus Christ can do that.
* Tom Skinner, founder of Tom Skinner Crusades, Inc., is the author of Black and Free published by Zondervan. This article is reprinted from the Collegiate Challenge, a publication of Campus Crusade for Christ, Arrowhead Springs, San Bernardino, California 92404