Why white evangelicals criticize the Black church

In the 1980s, when I was a student at a small Christian college, some of my professors warned us about the “liberal theology” of the civil rights movement. What Martin Luther King Jr. did was notable, they said, but he could not be trusted as a theologian. As I look back on this now, I think it is fair to say that a lot of my classmates at the time interpreted this teaching to mean that the civil rights movement was somehow flawed, even unGodly, because its leaders did not tow the line of traditional evangelical theology. That is certainly how I interpreted it.

We now know, through some really good historical work, that white evangelicals were never completely on board with the civil rights movement. What I was getting in college was pretty standard stuff.

Back then I understood why my professors warned us about the civil rights movement. The school I attended had its roots in the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the early 20th century. (It was founded, in part, by C.I. Scofield). The fundamentalists were not only fighting liberal theology in the denominations, but they were also, by extension, at war with the “social gospel,” the Protestants who believed that Christianity required its adherents to work for social justice as a means towards Christianizing the nation. Fundamentalists believed that social gospelers confused the true Gospel with moral activism. The true Gospel was about getting people “saved.” The social gospel was a form of “works righteousness.”

When it comes to race, we are in the midst of something similar to the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the early 20th century. The stuff they taught me in college is still with us. The Black church’s roots in the social gospel scares a lot of white evangelicals today. Consider Audrey Farley‘s recent piece at The New Republic: The Conservative War Against the Black Church.” Farley writes in the context of the upcoming George senate run-off between Raphael Warnock and Kelly Loeffler.

A taste:

Conservatives claim long-standing tradition for their suspicion of the political, citing scripture on the supremacy of the spiritual realm, ignoring scripture on structural sin, and generally pretending that Jesus and centuries of his followers didn’t make broad demands for a new society and instead sought merely crumbs for the poor and outcast. History, however, reveals the privatization of sin and the intense cynicism toward material politics to be relatively recent inventions, developed precisely to counter racial progress and other social reforms. It illuminates how conservatives’ individualist theology is little more than a pretext for upholding the status quo—a ruse that secular institutions have nevertheless taken seriously.

Read the entire piece here.

When it comes to Raphael Warnock, I think it is fair to say that white evangelicals have an antagonistic relationship with the black church. But I also think that white evangelicals in Georgia will not vote for Warnock because he claimed to be a “pro-choice” pastor. In other words, white evangelicals in Georgia will not vote for Warnock for the same reason they will not vote for Jon Ossoff: abortion. The story of American evangelical political engagement is indeed a complicated one.

Will the debate over critical race theory divide the Southern Baptist Convention?

It’s a fair question. The Southern Baptist Convention, a denomination founded upon a commitment to slavery and racism, is now engaged in a fierce debate over how to deal with racial unrest in the United States. Future historians will notice the irony.

Charlie Dates, the pastor of Progressive Baptist Church in Chicago, has had enough. His church is leaving the Southern Baptist Convention. Here is his recent piece at Religion News Service:

From 2016 to 2019, too, I preached on the campuses of four of the SBC seminaries and had been invited to another. The backstage conversations at these gatherings promised a new era of advancement on race and theology.

So we decided to cooperate and join our church to the SBC in what is known as a dual affiliation. 

The resistance, especially from some of our elderly membership, was swift and sincere.

“That was the old Southern Baptists,” I promised them and others in our church. The specter of racial animus and theological arrogance was giving way to a new era of Christian leadership, I suggested. Sure, there were more battles to be won before legitimate change would warm the hearts of African American churches like ours, but that’s why our movement felt almost prophetic.

At the emergence of the pandemic, the SBC donated to our emergency effort to provide online food delivery services for Chicagoans with SNAP benefits. Here it was, I thought, further proof that the old SBC was fading.

But as 2020 went on, I grew increasingly uneasy. When Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Seminary, said the only politically moral option for Christians was the Republican Party, I asked other SBC leaders, good Christian men, to challenge him. They would not. I was shocked, but not surprised, when Mohler endorsed President Trump and watched the two men — on Reformation Day — celebrate each other on Twitter.

And then, last week, a final straw.

On Dec. 1, all six of the SBC seminary presidents — without one Black president or counter opinion among them — told the world that a high view of Scripture necessarily required a corresponding and total rejection of critical race theory and intersectionality.

When did the theological architects of American slavery develop the moral character to tell the church how it should discuss and discern racism? When did those who have yet to hire multiple Black or brown faculty at their seminaries assume ethical authority on the subject of systemic injustice?

How did they, who in 2020 still don’t have a single Black denominational entity head, reject once and for all a theory that helps to frame the real race problems we face?

I had to tell my church I was wrong. There is no such thing as “the Old Southern Baptists.”

Conservatism is, and has always been, the god of the SBC.

Read the entire piece here.

What happened at today’s “Jericho Rally” for Trump?

Today pro-Trump evangelicals and their friends gathered in Washington D.C for a “Jericho March” to “stop the steal” of the 2020 election. Eric Metaxas, the creator and star of the recent Joe Biden parody video in which he transposed a political message over the lyrics to a Christian song performed by acapella group Pentatonix, was the master of ceremonies for a non-stop parade of bombastic, reality-denying speakers. I did not get to watch the entire event, but I live-tweeted through most of it.

The rally got off to a “good “start when Metaxas asked if anyone in the audience had a bazooka so they could shoot down a media helicopter flying over the event.

The day ended with Metaxas blowing a red, white, and blue shofar and the “walls came tumbling down.”

Mike Flynn, the former Trump national security adviser who told special counsel Robert Mueller that he “willfully and knowingly” made “false, fictitious and fraudulent” statements to the FBI about conversation with Russia’s ambassador, was one of the day’s featured speakers:

I got a complementary copy of the Epoch Times in the mail the other day. Nearly every article was about voter fraud. This was not the first time this rag was mentioned today:

Midway through Flynn’s speech, another helicopter made several passages over the event:

Flynn had several family members on stage with him:

The election is over. Joe Biden the Electoral College will formally elect him on Monday. He will be inaugurated on January 20. Yet Trump is not going to go away. His followers, like the evangelicals who came to this Jericho March, will be the ground troops for a Trumpian lost cause. This lost cause movement was on display today:

I didn’t get this woman’s name:

Messianic Jew Curt Landry spoke:

I laughed out loud:

And there was more:

Yes, Infowars host Alex Jones showed up:

The organizer of the rally, Ali Alexander, looks like Sammy Davis Jr.

What would an evangelical pro-Trump rally be without the master of ceremonies illustrating a complete misunderstanding of racism:

Metaxas was introducing this guy:

Christian nationalism and Zionism was everywhere:

I took the opportunity to counter bad history with some good history:

They found a couple of Greek Orthodox pro-Trumpers:

Former Minnesota congresswoman Michelle Bachmann spoke via video:

One speaker wants to start a new political party:

Pro-life advocate Abby Johnson was way over the top:

A lot of speakers came with “prophetic words”:

And yes, there were threats of violence at this evangelical Christian event:

Lance Wallnau prepared the audience for spiritual war to win back the country.

The state of evangelical politics:

Read the attached post about Kullberg. She once thought I was the son of New Testament scholar Gordon Fee.

He was convicted of witness tampering and lying to investigators, but then he converted to evangelical Trumpism:

“From Twitter”:

Some speakers mentioned Bible passages:

It was only a matter of time:

The last time we heard from this guy he had COVID-19:

He has a Ph.D in military history:

It looks like this group will be back on Inauguration Day:

The day ended with another prophetic word:

But not before Metaxas blew a red, white, and blue shofar. And the “walls came tumbling down.”

Six white men decided the Southern Baptist Convention position on race

Maina Mwaura is a Black Southern Baptist writer with an undergraduate degree from Liberty University and an Masters of Divinity from New Orleans Theological Seminary (SBC). Here is a taste of his recent piece at Religion News Service:

I asked Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s president, the Rev. Danny Akin, about the meeting where the statement on CRT was devised. He shared that the six — all of them white men — talked on a Zoom call. He said the Rev. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was the principal architect of the statement, but that they were all on the same page when it comes to issues of race.

I don’t think Akin and Mohler, both of whom I know, understand how problematic it is to have six white men meeting to discuss race without having anyone of color in the room to represent their experience. I find it deeply offensive that people would speak for the SBC on race when they themselves have never worn Black skin; never dealt with its historical and cultural inequities; nor had any firsthand experience of navigating the tensions of race in today’s world.

This problem isn’t only one of misunderstanding academic theories. As America’s demographics shift, the SBC’s attitudes toward race will begin to cost the SBC souls. In 2020, the SBC is led solely by white men. The denomination’s president and the heads of every one of the SBC’s denominational entities are white. White male leadership has been ingrained within the denomination since its founding in 1845, when it broke with the Northern churches over slavery.

Read the entire piece here.

The debate over critical race theory in the Southern Baptist Convention (and beyond) is heating up

Who is afraid of critical race theory (CRT)? The Southern Baptist Convention is.

A denomination founded on racism, slavery, and white supremacy has become the center of opposition to a theory that helps us to better understand the consequences of racism, slavery and white supremacy in American life.

But the Southern Baptist Convention is not alone in this fight. Liberty University is also becoming a bastion of opposition to critical race theory. Liberty University is the evangelical school with a former president who wore a blackface COVID-19 mask that cost the school the support of African-American evangelical pastors and led to the voluntary departure of Black athletes , students, and employees.

These two institutions have chosen to pontificate about the dangers of critical race theory at a time of racial unrest in our nation. Instead of listening and learning in this moment, they felt the need to double-down.

Last week the presidents of the six Southern Baptist seminaries in the United States openly condemned CRT in “any form or fashion.” Dallas-area pastor and noted evangelical leader Tony Evans, who was quoted by the members of a 2019 Resolution Committee, offered a more nuanced take on CRT:

As I stated in my sermon, which I encourage everyone reading this to watch, I again affirm that the Bible must be the basis for analyzing any and all social, racial or political theories in order to identify what is legitimate or what is not legitimate. But I did not say, nor imply, that CRT or other ideologies lack beneficial aspects—rather that the Bible sits as the basis for determining that. I have long taught that racism, and its ongoing repercussions, are real and should be addressed intentionally, appropriately and based on the authority of God’s inerrant word.

J.D. Greear, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, endorsed the seminary presidents’ statement on CRT and then added a Twitter thread:

And then came a piece by a Nathan Skates of the Liberty University Falkirk Center. He praises the SBC seminary presidents and other critics of CRT and then decides to take a shot at Jemar Tisby, author of The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism and this recent piece. Skates writes:

Meanwhile, Jemar Tisby, president of The Witness, a black Christian collective that has advocated for CRT as a means to achieve racial justice and reconciliation, wrote that the Council’s statement showed their commitment to “whiteness.” He stated that the Council “ostensibly met to recommit to their guiding statement: the Baptist Faith and Message. In reality, these seminary presidents reaffirmed and gave themselves over to another historic Southern Baptist commitment: whiteness.”

Tisby went on to criticize the Council’s lack of action on racial issues and defended CRT. Tisby stated that the real threat to the Church is “Christian nationalism,” claiming that America is “not so exceptional” and lobbed charges of racism at evangelicals who support the Republican party.

This author would like to add that if America were not exceptional and were indeed irredeemably and systemically racist, Tisby would not be able to have achieved such success nor be allowed to make such claims without consequence.

I don’t know anything about Nathan Skates, but it doesn’t surprise me Liberty, an evangelical university, would publish such a loaded and ignorant statement like the last paragraph in the above excerpt. Let’s remember that not all Christian universities are the same.

A few final thoughts:

Evangelical Christians adopt all kinds of “theories” without accepting them in total. For example, “pagan” philosophers like Plato and Aristotle have informed the history of Christian theology at every turn. The evangelical “church growth” movement and most evangelical megachurches have embraced secular business theories. American evangelicals drink deeply from the wells of the Enlightenment, especially economic (capitalism) and political liberalism and self-improvement. There is nothing in the Bible about wearing masks, but many evangelicals wear them because they believe in science. Christian counseling owes a huge debt of gratitude to secular psychology (unless, of course, you come from the nouthetic school of counseling).

So why do evangelicals try to “integrate faith and learning” when it comes to ancient philosophy, psychology, economic and political theory, and science, but refuse to do so when it comes to race? I am asking this question to the SBC seminary presidents, Liberty University, and J.D. Greaar.

Do Southern Baptist schools teach secular ideas for the sole purpose of showing their evil origins–a kind of “know your enemy” approach to education? Is there nothing we can learn from human beings who do not share our theology? What happened to “all truth is God’s truth.” This is why I called the SBC presidents’ statement “anti-intellectual.”

What do we mean by critical race theory? I have now defined it in several posts, but I will define its basic tenets one more time for those who may have missed the previous posts:

First, CRT affirms that racism is an “ordinary” or “common” part of everyday life. In other words, racism is more than just individual acts of prejudice against people of color, it is a system of discrimination built into American institutions, especially the law.

Second, CRT affirms that since White people benefit from such systemic racism, they will not have the incentive to do anything about it. Shock events such as the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis or the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha might alert White people to racial injustice, but it is unlikely such tragedies will lead to a sustained anti-racism.

Third, CRT affirms that race is “socially constructed.” This means that the racial categories we use are not biologically determined but invented by human beings. There is nothing inherent about any race that should lead to its oppression. Racism is thus best explained by a close examination of American history to see how men and women in power “constructed” the idea of racial difference and promoted bigotry based on those differences.

Fourth, CRT affirms, to quote Delgado and Sefancic, that “no person has a single, easily stated, unitary identity.” For example, I am a male, white, a product of the American working class, and a Christian. These different identities are often mutually dependent on one another and when taken together make me a whole person. CRT uses the technical term “intersectionality” to define the way these different identities overlap and intersect.

Fifth, CRT affirms that Black people and other people of color “are able to communicate to their White counterparts matters that whites are unlikely to know.” At the heart of CRT is storytelling. This is the primary way that people of color can explain the racism that they encounter daily. It also implies that people of color are more equipped to talk about the plight of the racially oppressed than White people.

Which of these points do the Southern Baptist seminary presidents oppose?

Southern Baptist seminary presidents unite against critical race theory

The official statement is tacked-on to the end of George Schroeder’s article at Baptist Press. Here it is:

On this twentieth anniversary year of the Baptist Faith & Message (as revised and adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000), the Council of Seminary Presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in its annual session, hereby reaffirms with eagerness the Baptist Faith & Message as the doctrinal statement that unites and defines Southern Baptist cooperation and establishes the confessional unity of our Convention. Our six seminaries are confessional institutions, standing together in this classic statement of biblical truth. All professors must agree to teach in accordance with and not contrary to the Baptist Faith & Message. This is our sacred commitment and privilege, and every individual faculty member and trustee of our institutions shares this commitment. We are thankful for the theological commitments of the Southern Baptist Convention, standing against the tide of theological compromise and in the face of an increasingly hostile secular culture.

In light of current conversations in the Southern Baptist Convention, we stand together on historic Southern Baptist condemnations of racism in any form and we also declare that affirmation of Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and any version of Critical Theory is incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message.

The statement seems to suggest that Southern Baptists now formally believe that racism is confined to individual racist acts and is not systemically embedded in American society. The latter appears to be understood as a form of “theological compromise in the face of an increasingly hostile secular culture.”

Yes, you are reading this correctly. A Protestant denomination founded upon its commitment to slavery and racism has rejected the idea that racism is systematically embedded in southern society.

The president of the Southern Baptist Convention, J.D. Greear, has also endorsed the statement.

UPDATE (December 2, 2020 at 12:30pm):

Several folks have told me that many of the seminary presidents who signed this statement actually do believe in systemic racism. This appears to be true. Al Mohler, Danny Akin, and J.D. Greaar have all said that systemic racism exists. Mohler seems to making some kind of case for systemic racism here. (I find this interview problematic for a lot of reasons, but that is another post). Akin and Greaar seem to be adhering to something similar to systemic racism here and here.

A couple of quick points.

A person who believes in systemic racism and, at the same time, rejects critical race theory “in any form or fashion,” will need to thread a very narrow intellectual needle. It all depends on how one defines systemic racism and critical race theory (CRT). I summarized CRT in this post. Here is a taste:

First, CRT affirms that racism is an “ordinary” or “common” part of everyday life. In other words, racism is more than just individual acts of prejudice against people of color, it is a system of discrimination built into American institutions, especially the law.

Second, CRT affirms that since White people benefit from such systemic racism, they will not have the incentive to do anything about it. Shock events such as the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis or the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha might alert White people to racial injustice, but it is unlikely such tragedies will lead to a sustained anti-racism.

Third, CRT affirms that race is “socially constructed.” This means that the racial categories we use are not biologically determined but invented by human beings. There is nothing inherent about any race that should lead to its oppression. Racism is thus best explained by a close examination of American history to see how men and women in power “constructed” the idea of racial difference and promoted bigotry based on those differences.

Fourth, CRT affirms, to quote Delgado and Sefancic, that “no person has a single, easily stated, unitary identity.” For example, I am a male, white, a product of the American working class, and a Christian. These different identities are often mutually dependent on one another and when taken together make me a whole person. CRT uses the technical term “intersectionality” to define the way these different identities overlap and intersect.

Fifth, CRT affirms that Black people and other people of color “are able to communicate to their White counterparts matters that whites are unlikely to know.” At the heart of CRT is storytelling. This is the primary way that people of color can explain the racism that they encounter daily. It also implies that people of color are more equipped to talk about the plight of the racially oppressed than White people.

Which of these points do the Southern Baptist seminary presidents oppose?

Here’s another thought. Why are Southern Baptist seminary presidents and theologians willing to learn from non-Christians in other areas, but seem unwilling to learn from those unbelievers (and in many cases fellow believers) who write about race? For centuries Christian theologians have read “pagan” philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle and have integrated the thought of these pagans into Christian theological systems. In fact, one cannot understand the history of Christian theology without these ancient thinkers. (Thanks to historian Andrea Turpin who told me that Wheaton College theologian Esau McCaulley makes this case for Plato in his book Reading While Black).

We just interviewed Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn on The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast. What she argues about Stoicism, Platonism, and other ancient moral philosophies in her book Ars Vitae: The Fate of Inwardness and the Return of the Ancient Arts of Living can be very helpful to evangelical Christians. I am guessing that these seminary presidents would agree.

Next semester I am teaching Homer in a course for first year students. In the context of a Christian college we will read Homer critically, but I imagine there will be things that my students will find useful in Homer as they strive to practice their Christian faith.

I am sure most of these seminary presidents would agree with the phrase “all truth is God’s truth.” I linked to an Al Mohler interview above in which he talks about a variety of non-Christian or non-evangelical thinkers who have influenced him, including the sociologist Peter Berger. If Mohler and others do believe that truth can be found outside the Bible and the church then why do they reject CRT “in any form or fashion” (as I defined it above)?

In the end, this statement is another example of Southern Baptist anti-intellectualism and fundamentalism. When I call someone an anti-intellectual I am not saying that they can’t think. Rather, I am saying that they think in overly binary ways that lack nuance and complexity. As a friend wrote to me this morning, such anti-intellectualism results in fear–the fear of theological or intellectual others and the fear that acknowledging what is true about intellectual others will hurt them politically and lead to a loss of power.

How do we have conversations with people who do not share the same basic facts?

Spoiler: I don’t know the answer to the question I asked in the title of this post.

On Sunday night I watched Chris Krebs on 60 Minutes. Krebs served as the Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Donald Trump appointed him to the position. Krebs was tasked with making sure that the 2020 election was secure.

Following the election, Krebs said that the 2020 election was the “most secure in American history.” Trump promptly fired him:

Here is Krebs on 60 Minutes:

For some, it doesn’t really matter what Krebs says. They will not believe him. Why would anyone listen to the cybersecurity expert who spent every day of the last couple of years trying to make sure our election was safe? Why would people believe Krebs when God is telling them Trump won? Why would they believe Krebs when Sean Hannity and Newsmax are telling them that there was massive election fraud? Why would they believe Krebs when he is clearly cooperating with a Satanic plot to steal the election from God’s anointed one?

One of Trump’s lawyers actually said that Krebs should be “taken out at dawn and shot” for defending the integrity of the election. Will Trump terminate Joe DiGenova?

As I watched the news coverage of Krebs’s 60 Minutes appearance and exchanged e-mails with some blog readers concerned about the church and the nation in the wake of the Trump presidency, I thought about veteran evangelical activist Ron Sider’s recent newsletter titled “Could We Just Listen to Each Other?” Here is a taste:

Democracy simply will not work and our country’s future is very bleak, indeed exceedingly dangerous, unless we can start talking and really listening to each other.

I wish I had a good set of solutions. I don’t. So if you have concrete ideas or even successful stories, let me know.

But I intend to pray fervently, and often, that God will show me how to become friends with, and truly listen carefully to the views of those who voted for Donald Trump. We need to pray together. We need to explain respectfully to each other why we think so differently.

That kind of listening does not mean succumbing to relativism. Some statements are true and some are not. I will continue to work hard for the political changes I believe are right.  

For example, I continue to be certain that structural racism continues to exist in education, policing, etc. in ways that benefit white Americans and hurt others, especially African-Americans. I believe that widespread white racism is a terrible sin that makes African-American Christians  and other non-white Christians turn away in disgust. It makes non-Christians refuse even to consider—in fact despise— Christianity. And it is driving many of our younger Christians away from the church and even our Lord. We must speak the full force of truth against the terrible sin of white racism. Furthermore, at the center of any honest conversation on racism must be humble listening to African-Americans tell their experiences of racism. We must listen to them tell us why they are almost ready to totally give up on any relationship with white Christians who do not work to end racism.

At the same time,  I believe that many white Christians with racist ideas truly want to follow Christ. And I want to listen to those who do not believe that structural racism exists and then sit down together and search together to help us all understand and embrace the actual facts.

I simply do not know how to do both honest truth-telling about racism and genuine listening to white Christians who reject even the idea of structural racism. But somehow we must try.

Read the entire piece here.

I am very sympathetic to Sider’s words. But I still wonder how we have conversations with people who do not share the same basic facts about what is happening in the world. How do we have conversations with men and women who do not believe in systemic racism or think such a view of race is undermining the Gospel? How do we have conversations with people who believe Trump actually won this election? How do we have conversations with people who reject science in the midst of a pandemic?

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions and I don’t have any advice to give at the moment.

I am not a prophet. But it does look like the fault lines in American evangelicalism are deepening.

I write partially out of experience. As long-time blog readers know, I live in south-central Pennsylvania. This is Trump country. My state senator was at the sham hearing in Gettysburg. Doug Mastriano is the state senator in the neighboring district. Scott Perry, who represents me in U.S. House of Representatives, has been helping the Trump legal team on these election fraud cases. When we are not in the midst of a pandemic I attend an evangelical megachurch. I am the only person in my extended family who did not vote for Trump in 2016 and 2020. I know a lot of people who said they “held their nose” and voted for Trump. I know more people who voted for Trump without holding their nose.

I guess I share one thing with the Trump evangelicals: God sometimes performs miracles. This may be our only hope. I will take Sider’s advice and keep praying.

Study: White Evangelicals are “cultural others” and the culture wars are getting worse

The Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia just released its 2020 survey of American political culture. It is titled Democracy in Dark Times. James Davison Hunter and Carl Desportes Bowman are the primary investigators/authors.

It is a very thorough study. Read it here. A few things the study tells us about White Evangelicals:

7 out of 10 “white evangelicals” believe that most opponents of Donald Trump are “socialists.”

9 out of 10 “white evangelicals” believe that the Democratic Party wants to transform the nation into a “socialist nation.”

86% of African Americans believe racism is a serious threat to America and its future. 70% of Hispanics believe this. 68% of White non-evangelicals believe this. But only 36% of “White Evangelical Protestants” believe racism is a serious threat to America and its future.

86% of African Americans believe economic inequality and poverty are serious threats to America. 68% of Hispanics believe this. 66% of White non-Evangelicals believe this. But only 37% of White Evangelicals believe inequality and poverty are serious threats to America.

91% of Blacks believe “the police and law enforcement unfairly target racial and ethnic minorities.” 60% of Hispanics believe this. 57% of White non-Evangelicals believe this. But only 17% of White Evangelicals believe this (83% disagree).

78% of African Americans favor some kind of “financial compensation to African Americans for their historic mistreatment of White Americans” (reparations). 41% of Hispanics favor reparations. 34% of non-Evangelical Whites favor reparation. But only 7% of White Evangelicals favor reparations.

The authors of the report write:

In sum, yes, there is a racial divide in America. Whites, Hispanics, and
African Americans do not share the same or even similar perspectives on
the history, experiences, and issues surrounding race, and the consequence
of this is misunderstanding, a lack of respect, and ultimately prejudice in
the everyday experience of Blacks and other minorities. But these points
of division are not equally or uniformly distributed across the population.
The deepest and most consistent racial division is found between White
Evangelicals and Blacks. Reconciliation begins with mutual understanding,
and by these lights, it is a long way off.

Here’s more:

26% of the African American community identify as “Evangelical.” According to the report, they are “entirely aligned with their larger racial community” on matters of race in America.

Black evangelicals “harbor more ‘conservative’ fears about crime and lawlessness, immigration, socialism, and the like than do secular Blacks. Even so, the two groups in our sample are not that far apart, especially in comparison with the great cultural distance between White Evangelical Protestants and White secularists.”

Evangelicals of color are nearly three times as likely as White Evangelicals to agree that “our founding fathers were part of a racist and sexist culture that gave important roles to White men while harming minorities and women.”

Evangelicals of color are twice as likely as White Evangelicals to see “Wall Street and the banking system as a very or extremely serious threat to America and America’s future.”

53% of White Evangelicals are Republicans. 35% of White Evangelicals are Independents. Only 7% of White Evangelicals are Democrats.

82% of White Evangelicals say that they are either “very conservative” or “somewhat conservative.” 15% of White Evangelicals describe their politics as “moderate.” Only 2% of White Evangelicals describe their politics as “liberal.”

The authors of the study conclude that White Evangelicalism, a movement that once was at the center of American religious and cultural life, has become a “cultural other” in the United States.

A majority of White Evangelicals believe that the opponents of Donald Trump are “misguided and misinformed,” “close-minded,” “dangerous,” and “arrogant and pretentious.”

Read the entire report here. The study concludes that “nearly 30 years after Hunter’s 1991 book Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America…, the country is even more deeply fractured by ideology, religion, race, and income.”

Gordon College students hold a sit-in protest to call attention to a racist incident on campus

Students walk through campus at Gordon College during the Spring on 2016. Photo by Mark Spooner, courtesy of Gordon College

On November 1, 2020, a pro-Black Lives Matter T-shirt sitting on a Gordon College residence hall laundry room table was defaced with a racist slur. Gordon is an evangelical liberal arts college in Wenham, Massachusetts.

Michael Gryboski has the story at The Christian Post. Here is a taste:

A group of some 100 students at Gordon College held a sit-in on campus in response to a racial incident involving a defaced T-shirt, with organizers arguing that not enough is being done to ensure African American students feel safe at the Massachusetts Christian institution. 

The student group, All For Reclaiming Our Hamwe and Gordon College Student Association President Shineika Fareus, organized the sit-in protest last week at Frost Hall, which is the administrative building for the Wenham-based higher education institution with over 1,500 students. 

And this:

Gordon College spokesman Rick Sweeney told CP the school is investigating the incident and that the college’s police department “has involved the local town of Wenham police officials and are handling this as a hate crime.”

He added that the school is also investigating another incident in which someone wrote an anti-Asian message on a whiteboard near an apartment where some Asian students live.

“The investigation is ongoing and will remain so until completed. Rather than set a timetable, our goal is to bring closure on both incidents,” Sweeney said. “We have urged students with any information to contact our chief of police or a staff member in Student Life.”

Regarding the sit-in, Sweeney said that school leaders, including Lindsay, met with organizers. He told CP that the college “wanted to be responsive to student concerns.”

Read the rest here.

Shane Claiborne: “The 2020 election was a referendum on race and Christian faith

After what we witnessed this summer–the killing of black men and women, the president’s lack of response, and the white evangelical rejection of systemic racism–it is hard to argue against Shane Claiborne.

Here is a taste of his recent piece at Religion News Service:

This election was not only a battle for the soul of our nation, it is also a battle for the Christian faith. While white Christians were the only bloc of religious voters that went for Trump, some 80% of nonwhite Christians voted against him. This suggests that the fixation with Trump that we see in many white Christians has more to do with their whiteness than with their faith. It’s more of a white thing than a Christian thing.

Many white evangelicals have said that they voted on one issue, abortion, that didn’t register as a top priority for any other demographic. More and more people I talk to are hopeful that we can find common ground even on this topic. The number of abortions is dropping every year, under both Republican and Democratic presidents, and many of us are convinced that the best way to reduce the number of abortions is to support health care and other social services for low-income women, since the leading reason for having an abortion is a lack of resources to raise a child. 

For now, I am encouraged to see so many people stand up for faith over fear, for love over hatred and for hope over despair. We did it in many different ways. Some folks, including many of my friends, explicitly endorsed Biden. Others did not. We saw new factions of pro-life evangelicals stand out in their courageous support for change in Washington while not compromising their convictions on abortion or other issues they hold dear.

Others, like me, did not endorse Biden-Harris, but worked closely and prayerfully with them to get Trump out of office. I have said many times that I do not agree with the Democratic Party on everything, but I agree with them on this: Trump and his enablers needed to go. 

Read the entire piece here.

“If you’re a white church, you’re open. If you’re a Black church, you’re not.”

The quote in the title of this post comes from pastor John Onwuchekwa of Cornerstone Church in Atlanta. Onwuchekwa’s church recently left the Southern Baptist Convention because it was “slow-walking racial justice reform.”

Here is a taste of Kadia Goba’s piece at Buzzfeed News:

It’s a common difference between the churches in Georgia right now who are grappling with the coronavirus. More than 7,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the state and those numbers have deterred many of the most vulnerable — churches with large Black congregations — from returning to in-person activity.

Gov. Brian Kemp reopened the state on April 24; a month later, Trump declared places of worship essential, settling a nationwide dispute as to what category they fell under during the pandemic. By then, and soon after, many evangelical churches led by white ministers with predominantly white congregations in Georgia were opening their doors. Many Black churches, some of which had been closed since March 15, continued digital services and one-on-one Zoom meetings with members of their congregation.

“I would be overwhelmingly reckless and irresponsible to put 6,500 people in my sanctuary while COVID numbers in Georgia are still escalating,” Pastor Jamal Bryant told BuzzFeed News, who added that the divide on masks wearing is that of a political nature, and nothing to do with theology.

State data shows the statistics mirror other parts of the country: Seniors and Black people have disproportionately died of the coronavirus. Data in June showed that 79% of people hospitalized in Atlanta for COVID-19 were Black.

Read the entire piece here.

More court evangelical responses to the first presidential debate

See my earlier post here. Here is the latest:

For reasons that are unclear to me, James Robison felt moved to tweet the First Amendment during the debate:

James Dobson on his Facebook page: “Consider this as you watch tonight’s debate.” The “this” is this.

Jack Graham spoke at an event sponsored by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition. Does this mean that last night Trump was fighting a battle for the Lord?

Graham said these words at a Faith and Freedom event that included Mike Pence:

“Whether America remains America.” What does this mean?:

On the day after the debate, Pence is standing alongside Trump. Of course he is:

Biden does not want to defund the police. But if the lie works, why not keep suggested that he will:

Actually, I think you can work for criminal justice reform and still be a racist. Last night is a perfect example.

Yes Jentezen, it just may be the most important election of our lifetime:

John Hagee is ready for the fight:

Gary “Character is Destiny” Bauer had a long statement on his Facebook page. Here it is:

I’m not at all surprised that the president was a little “hot” last night. I suspect that any of us would be eager to defend ourselves and set the record straight if we had been subjected to similar treatment. We would also be furious over what had been done to us.

My friends, don’t forget what President Trump has had to endure the last four years.

Many leftists refused to accept the results of the 2016 election.

The “resistance” rioted during his inauguration.

The Deep State spied on his campaign and undermined his presidency.

His friends and supporters have suffered all kinds of harassment, investigations and prosecutions.

Democrats impeached him over a phone call, and they are threatening to impeach him again.

The left has viciously smeared him time and again. (More on that below.)

Anyone so upset about the president’s style that they are thinking about not voting or voting third party needs to seriously think about whether their frustration with Trump outweighs their love for our country and our values.

Joe Biden is no moderate. And you don’t have to take my word for it. He is running on a platform written by Bernie Sanders and well to the left of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Quick response:

  1. Whatever Trump has had to “endure” was of his own making.
  2. Bauer seems to be supporting Trump’s claim that he will not accept the election results if he loses.
  3. The Deep State is a useful conspiracy theory for people like Bauer.
  4. Trump did nothing wrong with his “perfect call” to the Ukraine
  5. Joe Biden is not a socialist or a man of the left and he made that clear multiple times last night in the debate.
  6. Nothing here about Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacy.

This is a perfect example of how the Christian Right uses Twitter to spread misleading information without any larger context. This is why contextual thinking is absolutely essential if we want to restore democracy. Social media is destroying us and Charlie Kirk is contributing to this.

Jenna Ellis loves Rudy:

Unlike other conservatives, Jenna just can’t admit Trump blew it. Nope, this evangelical Christian and fellow at the Liberty University Falkirk Center is defending Trump:

She also retweeted Trump’s racist tweet about blacks coming into the suburbs:

33 more days

Jeh Johnson speaks at Liberty University

Jeh Johnson was Barack Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security. Today he spoke to Liberty students about character and leadership. Though he didn’t mention Donald Trump, much of this speech was about Donald Trump (and perhaps Jerry Falwell Jr.) During the Q&A he tells campus pastor David Nasser that he believes racism is a systemic problem.

Watch:

Good leaders, Johnson argued:

  1. Tell people the truth
  2. Build consensus (and do not merely find consensus).
  3. Surround themselves with people willing to offer hard truths
  4. Never ask someone to do something they wouldn’t do themselves. (Like separating immigrant children from their parents).
  5. Live by the Golden Rule

Click here for Politico‘s story on Johnson’s visit.

Two days earlier, campus pastor David Nasser spoke about race in America and on the Liberty campus. He still seems skeptical about systemic racism and believes that a religious revival will solve everything, but before you say he doesn’t go far enough, please try to understand his speech in context. Nasser is trying to address important issues and understands his audience. These are worthwhile steps. Nasser says he is getting some blow-back on campus for his efforts.

People on the Christian Right are noticing what Nasser is doing at Liberty and they are not happy about it. The right-wing Christian website Capstone Report is upset about a recent event on Liberty’s campus:

Here is a taste of the Capstone Report’s post:

According to the source, a Liberty University dean promoted a Christian study of the book The Heart of Racial Justice. The book study is an attempt to radicalize young nursing students in the Social Justice rhetoric, we were told by worried conservatives at Liberty.

The book promotes what are now common tropes among the Critical Race Theory-Intersectionality and Social Justice Wokevangelical movement. Namely, that American Evangelical Christianity is defective, individualistic and promoted evil power structures.

On page 209, the authors assert that the Christian West has used its power to preach an “individualistic gospel” over true forms of Christianity. Instead some type of communitarian form of Christianity is promoted and preferred.

And on pp. 88-89, the authors preach an anti-corporate message claiming that White Americans “must face what people of their ethnicity have done to others” and that “Western government and corporations are the world champions of spin doctoring and spin control” and that the West pursues economic and military conquest of others around the globe.

If this book were written in 1979 instead of 2009, everyone would recognize the Marxist roots of that critique.

The core of the book teaches white people enjoy white privilege and have exploited other people groups historically. There is no nuance in this view showing the historical reality that every people group in history has done something like the authors allege—it is what the pages of history continue to show—whether the Islamic invasion of Europe reversed only by Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours or the vast invasion of the West by the Great Khans of the Steppes.

On the day (Thursday) between Nasser’s remarks and Johnson’s visit, the Falkirk Center, Liberty’s culture war wing and public voice, held a conference on campus. The folks at the Capstone Report sound just like what I heard yesterday at the Falkirk event. Liberty University is trying to address racism on campus, but their public image, as represented the Falkirk Center, remains the same. As might be expected, the university is in the midst of a post-Falwell identity crisis and we are seeing it all play out on YouTube and online.

Out of the Zoo: Building Bridges

Annie Thorn is a junior history major from Kalamazoo, Michigan and our intern here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  As part of her internship she is writing a weekly column titled “Out of the Zoo.” It focuses on life as a history major at a small liberal arts college. In this dispatch, Annie writes about her church’s journey toward racial reconciliation—JF

On June 14, 2020, I logged into my laptop and connected it to my family’s living room television for our weekly Sunday morning church live stream. Nibbling on my strawberry toaster strudel and trying not to drip the icing on the journal I use for sermon notes, I watched the pre-service announcement slides cycle-through on the screen. My parents settled into their usual spots on the couch as we waited for the five-minute countdown to reach zero. I was still in my pajamas. It seemed like a regular Sunday.

The break from normalcy came after the first worship set came to close. Pastor Bryan Tema took the stage, but the typical table he usually uses during sermons was replaced by two armchairs. “Today is a very unique day in that we are going to have a conversation,” he explained. Pastor Michael Brown, the CEO and President of the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission, would be joining us to talk about what’s been going on in the news–but not about politics or the coronavirus pandemic. Pastor Brown, Tema explained, would be leading the congregation in a conversation about race.

Pastor Brown had given sermons at gracespring before, but this time he spoke words I never expected to hear at my church in the middle of Michigan suburbia. He talked about the Black Lives Matter movement, explaining that using the term “All Lives Matter” is like spraying a fire hose on a whole neighborhood when only one house is burning. Pastor Brown shared his own weariness, expressing that people of color in the United States are just plain tired of the way they’ve been treated. He pointed out that in order for meaningful change to take place, we’re going to have to shake things up. We’re going to have to leave our comfort zones.

At the end of the service, Pastor Tema offered a next step. Whoever was interested in learning more about racial reconciliation was invited to participate in a virtual book club led by my old youth pastor, Kenneth Price and his wife Monica. I signed up the very next day. Over the next several weeks, we progressed through Latasha Morrison’s book, Be the Bridge. Like during Pastor Brown’s sermon, in the book club I heard words–like “white privilege,” “microaggressions,” and “whitewashing”–that I never thought would be uttered at church. Three generations of congregants gathered over Zoom every Wednesday night to learn how to lament our nation’s racist past, confess our own stereotypes and complacency, repent and seek reconciliation. We learned how to build bridges of racial reconciliation and even talked about how our church, our “family” as Kenneth puts it, can continue to build more bridges in the weeks, months, and years to come. 

This is what the Church is supposed to look like. Brothers and sisters in Christ coming together with open hands and open hearts, ready to listen and learn. Believers seeking justice instead of passively accepting injustice. Christ-followers refusing to shy away from conversations because they’re uncomfortable or because the work of reconciliation is too hard. Family members celebrating diversity, seeking understanding, and spurring one another toward love and good works.

Ten weeks later, my Be the Bridge book club has finally come to an end. I actually finished the last two weeks of the study from the basement of Messiah University’s Harbor House. I’m not sure what my next major steps will be on this journey, but until I do I’ll keep studying history and reading The Hate U Give. I’m not sure what the future holds for gracespring either, but I pray this summer will prove a catalyst for a family-wide journey towards racial reconciliation.

Trump and critical race theory: What is really going on?

In case you missed it, Donald Trump discovered critical race theory over the weekend. Here is Friday’s memo from Russell Vought, the director of the president’s Office of Management and Budget:

September 4, 2020

M-20-34

MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES

FROM: Russell Vought
Director

SUBJECT: Training in the Federal Government

It has come to the President’s attention that Executive Branch agencies have spent millions of taxpayer dollars to date “training” government workers to believe divisive, antiAmerican propaganda.

For example, according to press reports, employees across the Executive Branch have been required to attend trainings where they are told that “virtually all White people contribute to racism” or where they are required to say that they “benefit from racism.” According to press reports, in some cases these training have further claimed that there is racism embedded in the belief that America is the land of opportunity or the belief that the most qualified person should receive a job.

These types of “trainings” not only run counter to the fundamental beliefs for which our Nation has stood since its inception, but they also engender division and resentment within the Federal workforce. We can be proud that as an employer, the Federal government has employees of all races, ethnicities, and religions. We can be proud that Americans from all over
the country seek to join our workforce and dedicate themselves to public service. We can be proud of our continued efforts to welcome all individuals who seek to serve their fellow Americans as Federal employees. However, we cannot accept our employees receiving training
that seeks to undercut our core values as Americans and drive division within our workforce.

The President has directed me to ensure that Federal agencies cease and desist from using taxpayer dollars to fund these divisive, un-American propaganda training sessions. Accordingly, to that end, the Office of Management and Budget will shortly issue more detailed guidance on implementing the President’s directive. In the meantime, all agencies are directed to begin to identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on “critical race theory,” “white privilege,” or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil. In addition, all agencies should begin to identify all available avenues within the law to cancel any such contracts and/or to divert Federal dollars away from these unAmerican propaganda training sessions.

The President, and his Administration, are fully committed to the fair and equal treatment of all individuals in the United States. The President has a proven track record of standing for those whose voice has long been ignored and who have failed to benefit from all our country has to offer, and he intends to continue to support all Americans, regardless of race, religion, or creed. The divisive, false, and demeaning propaganda of the critical race theory movement is contrary to all we stand for as Americans and should have no place in the Federal government.

Trump has been tweeting about this:

And here are a few of Trump’s retweets this weekend:

So what is happening here?

What is critical race theory? You can learn all about it here.

Critical race theorists believe that racism is a systemic problem in the United States. In other words, racism is more than just individual acts of prejudice executed by a “few bad apples,” but a system of injustice woven deeply into American culture.

I have read several stories on Trump’s attempt to ban critical race theory and it is still not clear to me exactly which federal training programs Trump is talking about here or how critical race theory is being taught in these programs. I think it is fair to say that Trump knows absolutely nothing about critical race theory apart from the fact that his political base is against it.

And what should we make of the fact that a memo from the Office of the President condemning a federal government training program cites “press reports” as its primary evidence? Trump’s seems to have learned about critical race theory from this segment of the Tucker Carlson Show on Fox News:

Chris Rufo, the guy who appears in this video, works for the Discovery Institute, a conservative Christian think tank. You can read his other writings here. You can learn more about others connected to the Discovery Institute here.

So what should we make of critical race theory? Like all academic theories, we should engage it thoughtfully. Critical race theory is one way of helping us come to grips with the fact that some groups in society oppress other groups. In the United States, there has been a long history of White people oppressing Black people. As a result, White people have had advantages–privileges even–that Black people and other people of color have not.

It is hard to study American history and not see this oppression. It is also difficult to study American history and not see continuity between the past and present. The legacies of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, lynching, and white supremacy are still with us just like the founding fathers’ ideas of liberty and freedom and individual rights are still with us.

This past week I was teaching the students in my U.S. history survey course about seventeenth-century Virginia. This colonial society passed laws that made Black men and women slaves in an attempt to quell disgruntled poor whites who had shown a propensity for political rebellion. The codification of race-based slavery in Virginia law resulted in the social, economic, and political advance of the former white indentured servant population in Virginia.

Were there individual acts of racism in colonial Virginia? Of course. But what the Virginia government did was systemic–its leaders embedded racism in the culture of the settlement. While this is an early example of systemic racism, we can point to many other examples in American history where White people were able to achieve something called the “American Dream” on the backs of slavery and other oppressed and marginalized people.

I have a hunch that Rufo is a Christian. And I have no doubt that Trump’s decision to root out critical race theory will win him points with his evangelical base. So what should a Christian think about critical race theory?

Christians should expect injustice and oppression in this world. The world is fallen. We learn this from reading Genesis 3. Sin pervades this world and manifests itself in both individual transgression and cultural systems. We place our hope in Jesus Christ, a suffering savior whose death for our sins initiated a new kingdom–the Kingdom of God– that will one day reach its fulfillment in a new heavens and a new earth. God redeems our individual lives and will one day redeem His creation, which Romans 8 tells us is “groaning” with “labor pains” as it awaits redemption. Until Jesus returns, citizens of God’s Kingdom are called to live justice-filled lives. And those who care about justice will privilege standing with the poor and oppressed.

So if theologians like James Cone, critical race theorists, or American historians can help me better understand oppression, the ways I have benefited from such oppression (even if I don’t commit overt acts of racism), and teach me how to have greater solidarity with my black brothers and sisters, why wouldn’t I want to learn more about it?

As a Christian, I prefer to see the world through the eyes of my faith. In other words, I want my “theory” to be the teachings of the scriptures and the Christian tradition. This may mean that I embrace parts of critical race theory and reject other parts. This might also mean that I reject the way critical race theory is applied, especially when it leads to violence. But Christian’s shouldn’t be afraid of it.

If we want to use jargon that is common in today’s political climate, I think it is fair to say that Trump is “canceling” critical race theory. Trump and his followers want open discourse, debate, and the free exchange of ideas, but only with those ideas that they find agreeable. Critical race theory appears to have become a new kind of McCarthyism. How else should we interpret Trump’s call to “please report any sightings.”

Finally, let’s acknowledge what is really going on here.

First, Trump is trying to distract us from the fact that he called American soldiers “losers” and “suckers.”

Second, Trump is trying to scare Americans, especially his white evangelical base, into voting for him in November.

Third, by attacking a theory he knows nothing about, Trump continues to engage in the subtle (but premeditated) racism that has defined his entire presidency. We saw it in Charlottesville. We saw it in Kenosha. We saw it following the Floyd murder. And we see it whenever he talks about the suburbs.

Fourth, this whole incident shows us, once again, that we have an incompetent president who watches Fox News and then impulsively tweets policy proposals based on what he has seen.

Court evangelicals on night 3 of the GOP convention

Court evangelicals prayer

Here is what the Bible-believing, born-again Christians who support Donald Trump are saying today:

Let’s start with the Liberty University Falkirk Center crowd:

Charlie Kirk believes that the Democrat concern over racial unrest and racial justice is politically motivated:

He is still denying the existence of systemic racism. How many more incidents have to happen before he sees a pattern?:

The NBA players boycotting for racial justice are morons:

And this:

Can Jenna Ellis point to one “God-given right” enshrined in the Constitution? The Constitution never mentions God:

As I wrote earlier today, Pence actually “stands firm” on the heretical fusion of Christianity and American nationalism:

Here is Sebastian Gorka of the Falkirk Center:

And this:

Court evangelical journalist David Brody has a partial list of court evangelicals who will be at Trump’s acceptance speech tonight:

The list includes Johnnie Moore, Jenetzen Franklin,Paula White-Cain, Tim Clinton, Greg Laurie, Samuel Rodriguez, Eric Metaxas, Gary Bauer, Jack Graham, Harry Jackson, Cissie Graham Lynch, and Ralph Reed.

Trump hasn’t even given his speech yet and Robert Jeffress is already calling it “historic”:

As expected, Jeffress was pretty excited about Mike Pence’s speech last night:

Johnnie Moore, the court evangelical who describes himself as a “modern-day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” wrote a piece at Religion News Service in defense of Trump.

Mike Pence tried to quote the New Testament Book of Hebrews last night. He replaced “Jesus” with “Old Glory. Pastor Jack Graham loved the VP’s manipulation of the Bible for political gain:

Ironically, earlier in the day Graham tweeted this:

Yes, but is Franklin Graham proud of his niece Jerushah?

Night four of the RNC convention begins very soon.

David Barton says 19th-century Christians who used the Bible to defend slavery were “the exception, not the rule”

Watch:

There are a lot of historical problems with this video, but the one of the most overt problems is Barton’s claim that most 19th-century Americans were abolitionists. Apparently Barton believes that those who used the Bible to defend slavery were the “exception to the rule.” The only way such a statement is true is if you believe that the South was not part of the United States during the era of slavery. I am sure Barton knows that the Southern Baptist Church, the largest Protestant denomination in America today, was born out of a reading of the Bible that justified slavery. Exception to the rule?

Barton also confuses slavery and racism. (The conversation takes place in the context of a condemnation of the Black Lives Matter movement). He claims that 75% of New England clergy signed a petition condemning slavery. I don’t know if this is true, but I don’t think it would surprise any historian that 75% of New England clergy would sign such a petition. This region was the center of anti-slavery activism in the 1850s.

But even in New England, segregation and racism was present, if not dominant. Systemic racism was deeply embedded in the region’s culture. I would encourage Barton to read Joanne Pope Melish’s Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and “Race” in New England ,1780-1860. Here is a description of the book:

Melish explores the origins of racial thinking and practices to show how ill-prepared the region was to accept a population of free people of color in its midst. Because emancipation was gradual, whites transferred prejudices shaped by slavery to their relations with free people of color, and their attitudes were buttressed by abolitionist rhetoric which seemed to promise riddance of slaves as much as slavery. She tells how whites came to blame the impoverished condition of people of color on their innate inferiority, how racialization became an important component of New England ante-bellum nationalism, and how former slaves actively participated in this discourse by emphasizing their African identity.

As some of you know, I have been reading David Blight’s biography of Frederick Douglass. Blight notes how Douglass faced overt racism in New England following his escape from slavery. Here is just one small passage from Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom:

The distances between the young abolitionist’s private and public lives were thrown into stark contrast, which would only grow with time. Twice in September [of 1841] Douglass was insulted, accosted, or thrown off the Eastern Railroad, the second instance occurring at the Lynn depot. On September 8, Collins and Douglass had purchased train tickets in Newburyport to travel north to Dover, New Hampshire, to speak at the Strafford County Anti-Slavery Society. The two were sitting in one double seat as the gruff conductor ordered Douglass to immediately move forward to the Jim Crow car. For Douglass such constant practices of segregation were always about dignity, as much as the “mean, dirty, and uncomfortable” space of Jim Crow cars. Collins vehemently objected on behalf of his black companion….With the conductor’s “little fist flourished about my head,” Collins reported, he too was ordered to leave the car. “If you haul him out, it will be over my person, as I do not intend to leave this seat,” proclaimed Collins. The conductor brought in several of the railroad’s hired thugs to do the deed. With Collins loudly protesting this was “no less than lynch law,” five men dragged the strong Douglass over Collins’s unmoved body, “like so many bloodhounds,” and “thrust him into the ‘negro car.'” In the fracas, Douglass’s clothes were torn and Collins described himself as “considerably injured in the affray.” Not missing an opportunity to make a Garrisonian doctrinal point, Collins told of a second conductor who went into the Negro car to console Douglass with the intelligence the railroad’s policy was not so bad after all, since so many churches “have their ‘negro pews.'”

Please don’t get your American history from David Barton.

What happened when an evangelical university created a scholarship named after George Floyd

Bethel_thumbnail

On August 3, 2020, Bethel University, a Christian school in St. Paul, Minnesota, announced the George Floyd Scholarship.

The scholarship, named after the Black man killed by police during a May 2020 arrest in Minneapolis, is open to “incoming African American and Black students in all Bethel’s schools.” The scholarship was established “to invest in the future of diverse leaders.”

Bethel president Ross Allen, who attended Floyd’s memorial service in Minneapolis, wrote: “The deaths of George Floyd, Philando Castille, and so many others are evidence of the pain and persistence of racism…as followers of Christ, we are called to seek Jesus by seeking justice–and we will do so imperfectly yet consistently, until the inherent worth of all people is respected, cherished, and protected.”

Over at the the Clarion, the Bethel student newspaper, Emma Harville reports that the response to the George Floyd Scholarship has been mixed.  Here is a taste of her article:

Bethel University received support, but mostly criticism, from alumni and community members on social media following its Monday announcement of a George Floyd Memorial Scholarship for incoming African-American and Black students. 

Most comments criticized Floyd’s criminal history, claiming Floyd was a drug addict, felon and “not a man to look up to.” A couple even questioned why white students could not apply for the scholarship, too. 

“Shame on you Bethel…The Lord is removing His hand from you!” Bethel alum Linda Koblish wrote under Bethel’s Facebook post announcing the scholarship. 

Bethel junior S.I. Washington said he and a couple of his Black friends from Bethel met over FaceTime after they found out about the negative comments circulating Twitter and Facebook. To them, Floyd’s death was something that “brought all of us together.” 

“They’re so focused on [Floyd’s] life,” Washington said. “But his death meant everything to us. Yes, his life wasn’t amazing. But his death was everything.” 

Read the rest here.

The announcement at the Bethel University Facebook page currently has 66 comments. I think it’s fair to say that this a pretty good cross-section of how evangelicals are thinking about race in the wake of Floyd’s death.

Here are a few of those comments:

–As an alum, I am also looking forward to the ways that Bethel will announce how it will not just get black students through the door, but will fundamentally care for those student while they are there by making major policy, theological and environmental shifts by committing and ensuring students thrive by being protected, supported, centered, seen, and listened to – moving beyond perforative actions and into true repentance and transformation.

–I’m proud of Bethel’s actions in creating this scholarship in the name of George Floyd. As many have also expressed, I’d be interested and excited to hear more about additional and forthcoming anti-racism measures–especially those that focus on supporting BIPOC students throughout the years they attend. #BLM

–This is an amazing first step. As Christians it is our job to stand up and fight for those who are marginalized, serve them , love them, walk beside them the way Jesus did. This scholarship opens a door and I hope that bethel continues to do so in supporting our students of color during their time there too !

–As a Converge pastor, I find this to be virtue signaling and pandering and I can’t in good conscience recommend a school that is going to do this. I could support a scholarship, but it should not be named after a career criminal who was high, passing counterfeit money, and resisting arrest when he died. What I could support was something that would actually help our black brothers and sisters. Like addressing broken families, doing something to help with money management, sponsoring a charter school in at risk communities to give better education options (maybe connecting that with a scholarship), doing something to improve training of officers, etc.

I’m proud of my university for creating such a scholarship–this, and more scholarships like it, are a good first step toward making Bethel a place that can both reflect and honor the true diversity of the body of Christ. I hope, at the same time, we can keep working on Bethel’s *culture* to make it a place where BIPOC folk can feel entirely at home in the community, down to the level of each everyday interaction. That’s going to take a lot of intentional work from everyone.

Sounds like you’re joining the race to the bottom of the Woke Sea. An AA scholarship program sounds fantastic, but too bad you couldn’t pick from the myriad options of unbelievable historical black contributors to the nations history.

–Bethel could have and should hang their scholarship hat on a more deserving individual. His criminal past does not warrant the honor even if he was murdered. Better to name it after one of the children murdered in Chicago during the protests.

–George Floyd used to be a thug. He once held a gun to a pregnant womans stomach. Bethel University, bad idea. This is your role model? He indeed should never have been killed but still there is a lot to consider.

–I just lost all respect for Bethel. It is not the college we used to love! With many grandchildren coming of age to pick their college…Bethel will not be one of their options. You are supporting terrorism and a drug addict, felon and Covid-19 positive person who didn’t care who he spread the virus to. Everyone should be welcome…and if you are presenting the Christian faith…you should not distinguish between any race…rather you should be promoting that in Christ we are all one race and one body! Shame on you Bethel…The Lord is removing His hand from you!

–Thank you for acknowledging the persistence of racism. Looking forward to seeing Bethel make more steps in the direction of change!

–So proud of being Bethel University Almuni💪💪💪#BLM

–Thank you for creating this scholarship. This is a good first step, I will be anxiously waiting for what comes next.

Was Jesus White? Michael Gerson on Eric Metaxas’s recent claim

Metaxas

Former Bush speechwriter and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson sets the record straight on a recent claim by court evangelical Eric Metaxas. Here is a taste:

Evangelical writer and radio host Eric Metaxas is one of those figures on the right who has been miniaturized by his association with President Trump. The author of a flawed but serious biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is more recently the co-author of the children’s book “Donald Builds the Wall!” From Dietrich to Donald is a fall of biblical proportions.

Now Metaxas has stirred controversy with a tweet contending (or assuming) that Jesus was White. His claim was made in reaction to news that the United Methodist Church is partnering with Robin DiAngelo, the author of “White Fragility,” to produce a video series on “Deconstructing White Privilege.” Metaxas’s response read in full: “Jesus was white. Did he have ‘white privilege’ even though he was entirely without sin? Is the United Methodist Church covering that? I think it could be important.”

Metaxas has subsequently attempted to place his claim about Jesus’ ethnicity into context. But there is no context in which this statement makes historical or theological sense. In attempting to debunk the idea of white privilege, Metaxas employed a traditional affirmation of white supremacy.

Read the rest here.

If you are interested in exploring how we got to this place I recommend Edmund J. Blum and Paul Harvey, The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Sage of Race in America