The real meaning of your Monopoly board

Did you know that the prices of the properties on the Monopoly board reflect the economic and racial demographics of 1930s Atlantic City, New Jersey? Here is Mary Pilon at The Atlantic;

Take a good look at a Monopoly board. The most expensive properties, Park Place and Boardwalk, are marked in dark blue. Maybe you’ve drawn a card inviting you to “take a walk on the Boardwalk.” But that invitation wasn’t open to everyone when the game first took on its current form. Even though Black citizens comprised roughly a quarter of Atlantic City’s overall population at the time, the famed Boardwalk and its adjacent beaches were segregated.

Jesse Raiford, a realtor in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the early 1930s and a fan of what players then called “the monopoly game,” affixed prices to the properties on his board to reflect the actual real-estate hierarchy at the time. And in Atlantic City, as in so much of the rest of the United States, that hierarchy reflects a bitter legacy of racism and residential segregation.

Cyril and Ruth Harvey, friends of Raiford’s who played a key role in popularizing the game, lived on Pennsylvania Avenue (a pricey $320 green property on the board); their friends, the Joneses, lived on Park Place. The Harveys had previously lived on Ventnor Avenue, one of the yellow properties that represented some of Atlantic City’s wealthier neighborhoods, with their high walls and fences and racial covenants that excluded Black citizens.

The Harveys employed a Black maid named Clara Watson. She lived on Baltic Avenue in a low-income, Black neighborhood, not far from Mediterranean Avenue. On the Monopoly board, those are priced cheapest, at $60.

Read the rest here.

The Liberty University Falkirk Center continues to promote evangelical Trumpism:

Yesterday I noted that Calvary Chapel-Chino Hills has emerged as a prominent site for Trump’s evangelical lost cause movement. Today I highlight (once again) the “think tank” associated with this movement: Liberty University’s Falkirk Center.

It continues to baffle me that the Falkirk Center keeps championing “truth” while at the same time giving oxygen to the Trump’s “Big Lie” and carrying water for one of the most deceitful presidents in American history:

Charlie Kirk supported and enabled a president who most U.S. Senators, even many of those who voted to acquit Trump during his impeachment trial, believed had something to do with the insurrection on January 6, 2021. Now he wants the troops to go home. He is partially responsible for this $500 million bill.

Does Liberty University know that one of their spokespersons is tweeting stuff like this. Do they care?

I am guessing that in the minds of the Liberty University brass, the Clinton tweet is offset by the following tweets:

One of the Falkirk Center fellows appears to be taking course on racism at Princeton Theological Seminary. A quick Google search reveals that the four-week online course is taught by Dr. Carolyn Helsel. I wonder if Dr. Helsel knows that one of her students is on Twitter trashing her course. Which leads me to ask: Why is Darrell Harrison taking this course?

Another Falkirk Center fellow, David Harris Jr., is firing-up the base for 2022:

Harris was watching a different trial than most Americans and most Senators, even most who voted to acquit.

The Falkirk Center director prefers “biblical” over “evangelical or “Christian.” If the stuff the Falkirk Center spews regularly on its social medial platforms is “biblical,” this evangelical says “no thanks.”

Folks at the Falkirk Center are still questioning the validity of the election. Here is Christian Lasval. He holds the position of “Influencer Administrator” at the Center:

Two comments to close:

First, not all Christian universities are the same.

Second, reforming Liberty University in the post-Falwell era should begin with closing the Falkirk Center.

*The Brownies Book*

In the 1920s, Black activist and intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois published The Brownies’ Book, a monthly magazine for Black children. Here is Anna Holmes at The Atlantic:

Du Bois had a somewhat radical vision of Black children as foot soldiers in the march toward social progress, “exhorted not only to participate in adult political programs but often to lead them,” as Kate Capshaw Smith, a scholar of children’s literature at the University of Connecticut, has put it. But alongside these more avant-garde ideas about the New Negro, Du Bois also espoused rather genteel Victorian ideas about family, comportment, personal responsibility, and morality—what we might now call “respectability politics.” The Brownies’ Book managed to reflect both views, normalizing Black childhood as reflecting American family values while elevating Black political consciousness.

Issues typically ran between 30 and 40 pages. They had striking covers, some of which, like the bust by Paolo Abbate of a young Black boy for the February 1920 issue—“I am an American Citizen,” read the caption—were explicitly political. Other covers featured illustrations of Black children in bucolic settings. Regular features in the magazine included short biographies of notable Black people, such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman; a column called “Little People of the Month,” which celebrated the achievements of Black youth; and “Some Little Friends of Ours,” later called “Our Little Friends,” which featured photos of Black babies, usually seated in portrait studios. (Photos like these prompted Gertrude Marean, a white 10-year-old from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to submit a letter kvelling over “the pictures of the little dark babies.”) The magazine also published fiction in a range of modes: reimaginings of antebellum folktales such as the Br’er Rabbit trickster stories; adaptations of African and West Indian proverbs and myths, such as “How Mr. Crocodile Got His Rough Back” and “Mphontholo Ne Shulo”; and florid renderings of classic European fairy tales. The goal, Capshaw Smith explains, was to replace European motifs with African traditions of storytelling, marrying racial pride to the values and stories of Western Europe.

Read the entire piece here.

What should we make of Trump’s 1776 Commission Report? Part 4

Read previous installments in this series here.

Part Four of the 1776 Commission Report covers what it calls’ “Challenges to America’s Principles.”

Slavery is identified as one of these “challenges.” At this point in our series it is important to remember that the 1776 Commission was formed as a reaction to the 1619 Project, a series of New York Times essays that makes slavery central to the American founding. We have had a lot of things to say about the 1619 Project here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home. You can read all our posts on the topic here.

Here is the 1776 Commission Report:

The most common charge levelled against the founders, and hence against our country itself, is that they were hypocrites who didn’t believe in their stated principles, and therefore the country they built rests on a lie. This charge is untrue, and has done enormous damage, especially in recent years, with a devastating effect on our civic unity and social fabric.

The statement then goes out of its way to take the founders off the hook for owning slaves. It fails to mention that the South’s wealth was generated by slave labor or that systemic racism permeated the South during the colonial era and early republic. The statement fails to mention that the failure of the founders to do anything to stop this institution allowed racism and white supremacy to gain a foothold in the United States. Over time these injustices became deeply embedded in American institutions and American culture. The Civil War ended slavery in America, but anyone who studies Reconstruction knows that the Union victory over the Confederacy did very little to rid the country of racism. None of this is acknowledged in the report. In fact, it skips from “slavery” to “progressivism” without saying anything about the failure of Reconstruction. (It does mention Reconstruction in the section on “Racism and Identity Politics”).

The founding fathers (Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and others) may have freed their slaves or tried to stop slavery from spreading outside the South, but in 1776 and again in 1787 they made a decision to privilege national unity over ending this institution. In other words, they chose compromise over moral conviction. Some of the founders fought hard to keep slavery in the South. Others quietly sat by and let it happen. The 1776 Commission Report seems to subordinate the lives of millions of enslaved Africans to the project of nation-building, or what it calls “a question of practical politics.” Were these men products of their times? Of course they were. But I don’t believe this gets them off the hook. Let’s remember that there were anti-slavery voices in late 18th-century America. The founders just chose to ignore them. Let’s not pretend that future generations, even after the Civil War, had to deal with the consequences of this choice. In history class we call this contingency.

Some have argued that the founding ideals, such as the belief that “all men are created equal,” eventually led to the abolition of slavery, women’s rights, the Northern victory in the Civil War, and the civil rights movement’s challenge to Jim Crow. (On Tuesday in my American Revolution course we are reading Gordon Wood’s famous “radicalism” argument). The 1776 Commission Report seems to be echoing this view when it notes that “the foundation of our Republic planted the seeds of the death of slavery in America.” This is true. And as we noted in an earlier post in this series, American reform movements drew heavily upon these founding ideals.

But the 1776 Commission Report fails to realize that on matters of race the damage was done well before the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. By allowing slavery to flourish for so long, the founders and their immediate descendants contributed immensely to the racism and racial divisions we see today. One cannot end slavery and expect that two centuries of injustice will just go away. One cannot end slavery and then expect the culture of racism that defined every day life in America prior to the 13th Amendment to just disappear. Racism was embedded in American culture for decades upon decades prior to the Civil War. It will thus take decades upon decades for Americans to rip it out.

As I have noted before at this blog, the 1619 Project has some historical problems. Its claims are too bold. But I am thankful to the project for at least calling our attention to the fact that the racial issues we face in the United States today are rooted in systemic injustices woven deeply into the fabric of American society and culture.

There is a lot more to say about this, but I think I will stop there for today. With the start of the new semester, I don’t think I will try to cover much more of the historical content in the 1776 Commission Report. Perhaps if the 1776 Commission Report gets some traction in the school boards of conservative states I will revisit it. But I do want to comment on the prescriptive calls for “national renewal” at the end of the document. Stay tuned.

Trump’s GOP commemorates MLK after trying to disenfranchise voters in Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Atlanta

Ever since November 3–Election Day–GOP members of the House and at least ten senators tried to overturn the votes of Black men and women in Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. Today, as Nick Visser and Amanda Terkel point out in their article at The Huffington Post, they want us all to remember Martin Luther King Jr. Here is a taste:

One hundred forty-seven Republicans in Congress voted against certifying Democrat Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election this month. Not only did they try to overturn the election results and give legitimacy to President Donald Trump’s lies of rampant voter fraud, but they essentially tried to erase the mammoth turnout among Black voters that helped Biden win. 

Twelve days after that vote, 127 of those Republicans ― 86% ― tweeted or put out statements Monday praising the work of Martin Luther King Jr., who is perhaps best remembered for fighting racial injustice.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. transformed America and inspired men and women across the world with his call to pursue justice and truth,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said.

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) tweeted the King quote: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” 

Boebert is a supporter of the deranged, baseless QAnon conspiracy theory that believes Trump is fighting a Satan-worshipping “deep state” of Democrats and Hollywood celebrities who are sex traffickers. 

The hypocrisy was not lost on civil rights leaders. 

Read the rest here.

As we pointed out earlier this evening, the court evangelicals did the same thing.

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.”

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.

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.

The Author’s Corner with John Marks

John Marks is Historian and Public History Administrator for the American Association for State and Local History. This interview is based on his new book, Black Freedom in the Age of Slavery: Race, Status, and Identity in the Urban Americas (University of South Carolina Press, 2020).

JF: What led you to write Black Freedom in the Age of Slavery?

JM: The idea for this project began developing for me in graduate school. In reading widely about the history of race and slavery in the Atlantic World, I began to recognize patterns in the lived experiences of African-descended people in urban spaces that often went unmentioned. Historians of the United States almost never talked about parallels with Latin American society; Latin Americanists, for their part, often referenced older, or more abstract, examples from US histories when drawing broad comparisons. A deep engagement with current scholarship for both regions, however, revealed parallels I just couldn’t ignore: namely, the opportunity for free people of color living in cities before the end of slavery to carve out spaces of autonomy for themselves, claim a degree of distinction within their communities, and conduct themselves in ways that defied white expectation—and often the law. Recognizing major differences in law, culture, and attitudes towards racial difference across the Americas, I wanted to understand with greater precision the ways African-descended people navigated daily life in these places. As I began researching, I recognized as well that explicitly comparative history in some ways represented an unfulfilled promise of the turn to the “Atlantic World” as a perspective for analyzing the history of the United States and other American societies. Few scholars had conducted the kind of careful social history research in service of a transnational and comparative project I thought was necessary to really understand local dynamics. Once I realized such an approach could make a unique contribution to our understanding of race and slavery, there was no turning back.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Black Freedom in the Age of Slavery?

JM: Throughout the urban Americas before the end of slavery, free people of color relentlessly pursued opportunities to improve their circumstances and provide for their families, staking claims to rights, privileges, and distinctions not typically granted to African-descended people. These efforts represented part of an international struggle for Black freedom, as free Black residents in Charleston, Cartagena, and beyond subtly challenged ideologies of white racial supremacy that linked the Americas together and undermined the foundations of white authority in the Atlantic World.

JF: Why do we need to read Black Freedom in the Age of Slavery?

JM: 2020 has revealed for many Americans, especially white Americans, the degree to which racial injustice and inequality are still pervasive and pernicious features of our society. In order to fully understand the persistence of both individual racial prejudice and systemic racism, we need to understand the history of how race has operated and affected the lives of African-descended people. To fully understand that story, we need to at times look at the history of race and slavery from an international perspective.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, free people of African descent in the United States, Colombia, and throughout the Americas had to confront broadly shared notions of white supremacy among the country’s ruling classes in order to advance efforts to provide for themselves, their loved ones, and their communities. Today, anti-Black racism and a wide range of persistent racial inequalities are pervasive from Canada to Chile and everywhere in between. When demonstrations against systemic racism and police violence erupted this summer, they extended to places like Puerto Rico, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, and Colombia, in addition to across the United States. These international demonstrations were not just in solidarity with the US, they were protests against the particular, local histories of white supremacist violence and injustice.

Linking the histories of race and slavery in these places, exploring how and when racial dynamics were the same and different, offers new perspective on the histories of the United States, Latin America, and the Atlantic World, and I hope offers some insight into how we should understand efforts to combat white supremacy in the present.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

JM: High school was the first time I really recognized that I had an uncommon interest in (and knack for) reading and writing about the past, but it wasn’t until college that I realized it could be a career. As an undergrad at Lynchburg College (now University of Lynchburg), I had the opportunity to pursue several locally-focused research projects, and I grew to enjoy the archive, the search for material, and the process of putting a puzzle together when you’re not really sure if you have all the pieces. As a New Jersey native researching race and slavery in Virginia, I also became keenly aware of regional differences in present-day racial dynamics, and I wanted to know more about how understandings of race developed over time. Moving forward through graduate school and now a career in public history, the way I think about what it means to be an American historian has certainly changed. But I’m as committed as ever to using research, writing, and engagement with the public to better understand the past and think through how it can help us solve problems in the present.

JF: What is your next project?

JM: I’ve got a couple things kicking around that I hope to be able to say more about soon. In both my scholarship and my day job (for the American Association for State and Local History), I’ve been thinking a lot about anniversaries and how historians can use them as opportunities to expand, challenge, and learn from the public’s understandings of history. 2022 will mark the 200th anniversary of the Denmark Vesey conspiracy in Charleston, and 2026 represents the 250th anniversary of the United States. I know planning is underway already for both commemorations, so I’m interested in using those events to think in new ways about the history of race, slavery, and freedom—whether for books, articles, public history projects, or other endeavors.

JF: Thanks, John!

Tonight’s debate

Some thoughts on the final debate of the 2020 presidential campaign.

On the format:

The mute button definitely worked. Kristen Welker did a solid job as moderator. Trump was under control. He started-out very mellow:

Symbolic gestures are important, especially in a pandemic:

This continues to be the essence of Trump’s approach to the coronavirus:

I have no idea what Trump meant when he criticized Biden for “selling pillows and sheets”:

Trump focused on Hunter Biden’s laptop, Burisma, and Biden’s houses (he owns two). No one cares unless you watch Fox News:

Seth Cotlar gets it right:

When Trump attacked Biden’s family, Biden did not get into the mud. (There is a lot of material about the Trump family he could have used). Instead, he appealed to American families:

When Biden talked about American families and their “dinner table” concerns, Trump accused him of being a “typical politician.”:

Trump kept pushing lies about Biden’s positions on health care and fracking:

In one the better moments of the debate, Biden said that Trump was confused about the identity of his opponent in this election, especially as it relates to health care. Biden does not support socialized medicine. He actually won the Democratic primary against the likes of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who do favor socialized medicine. He reminded the viewers who Trump was running against:

The moderator, Kristen Welker, asked Trump about how his administration manage to lose the parents of 545 immigrant children. Trump claimed that they these children were brought to the country not by their parents, but by “coyotes.” Biden pushed back hard, saying that these children came to the United States with their parents and they were separated. Trump’s failed to exercise any degree of empathy for these children. It was painful to watch.

As a side note, I had interesting exchange on Twitter on this issue with court evangelical and GOP operative Ralph Reed:

I am not holding my breath about Reed’s decision to revisit this issue 10 days before an election.

Welker asked Biden and Trump about “the talk” African-American parents give their children about the dangers they will face in a racist society. Bruce Springsteen summarized this well in his song “American Skin”:

Here is the lyric:

41 shots, Lena gets her son ready for school
She says, “On these streets, Charles
You’ve got to understand the rules
If an officer stops you, promise me you’ll always be polite
And that you’ll never ever run away
Promise Mama you’ll keep your hands in sight”

Biden responded to this question with a clear statement about systemic racism, lamenting that such a “talk” is necessary in the United States of America. Trump never answered the question. Instead he said this:

Trump claimed he was the “least racist” person in the room. Then he backpedaled a bit, saying he couldn’t be entirely sure that he was the “least racist” person in the room because the lights were too bright and he was unable to see everyone.

Trump then went after Biden for his role in drafting the 1994 Crime Bill. This bill was controversial because it increased incarceration in an attempt to stop crime. It led to more prison sentences and aggressive policing that hurt people of color who are disproportionately likely to be incarcerated.

Biden has said that his support of the 1994 bill was a mistake and he regrets it. He said the same thing last night. But what confuses me is why Trump always criticizes him on this front. Wouldn’t a “law and order” president like Trump who does not believe in systemic racism be in favor of such a bill? After Trump’s response to racial unrest this summer, one might think he would have been chomping at the bit to support such a bill. Biden lost a chance to point this out.

New York Times columnist David Brooks weighed-in on the debate:

Biden said that he wanted to phase out the oil industry because it is bad for the environment. Trump implied that Biden’s statement alienated people in Texas, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Ohio. Perhaps it did, but Biden stood his ground. Historian Andrew Wehrman put it succinctly:

Biden’s claim to be the president of all Americans reminded me of Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural address:

Trump did fine. As CNN’s Dana Bash put it, the “bar was very low” for Trump and he managed to clear it.

Biden did fine as well. He had some nice moments.

I don’t think the debate changed much, especially since Trump is probably going to stay some more stupid stuff tomorrow and everyone will forget about last night’s debate.

“I hope this person believes this. Some days I am not even sure I do.”

Like most people, I sat down early Tuesday evening, November 8, 2016, to watch election returns fully expecting that, by the time I went to bed, Hillary Clinton would be declared the country’s first female president.

Instead, I saw my home state of Pennsylvania fall to Trump, followed by the Clinton “firewall” states of Michigan and Wisconsin. I was shocked. I was saddened. I was angry. But my emotions were less about the new president-elect and more about the large number of my fellow evangelicals who voted for him.

Five days later–the Lord’s Day–I took my seat in the sanctuary of the central Pennsylvania megachurch where I had worshipped with my family for the last sixteen years. As I looked around at my fellow worshippers, I could not help thinking that there was a strong possibility, if the reports and polls were correct, that eight out of every ten people in that sanctuary–my brothers and sisters in my community of faith–had voted for the new president-elect. This seemed to reflect deep divisions in how we understand the world, and it was deeply distressing.

I still attend that church, but I have not visited in person since the outbreak of COVID-19. I wish I could say that COVID-19 is the only reason I haven’t returned. It’s been four years since that post-election Sunday and there are days when my anger and disappointment are still raw. This is not an indictment of the pastoral staff at my church or most of the members–past and present–of the church elder board. They are serious Christians who have been doing their best to navigate this season without dividing the church. I appreciate the work they are doing and I can tell when they are trying to bring biblical faith to bear on the times without naming names or “getting political.” I do not attend a pro-Trump church.

But I also get the sense that my church is keeping me at arms length. This is probably a smart move. I am a divisive figure. I have tried to use my voice and platform to criticize a morally corrupt President of the United States and the conservative media infrastructure, including the Christian media, that props him up.

Some of my fellow churchgoers have read Believe Me and have sent me wonderful notes of encouragement and support. Others have made it clear that I am a negative influence in the Christian community. When I taught a Sunday school class on Christianity and politics (a class in which I don’t think I ever mentioned Trump), I got a lot of positive feedback. I also got some pretty strong negative feedback.

Why am I bringing this all up right now?

Today I had an emotional conversation with a Christian I love. This person does not understand how friends, family, and fellow Christians can support Donald Trump. Tuesday night’s debate really set this person off. How could Christians vote for a man who refuses to condemn racism, lies endlessly, and lacks basic empathy? This person is considering giving-up on church and the Christian faith generally. She/he is trying to hold together her/his friendships with Trump supporters, but does not know how to do it and still be true to her/his deepest convictions.

We both had tears in our eyes. I didn’t know what kind of advice to give this person, but I certainly understood. Over the last four years I have had old friends cut me off because of my strong criticism of the president. I have had present friends pull back. I have had dozens and dozens of people tell me that they have stopped going to church (COVID-19 has become a convenient excuse). People who I have not communicated with in over thirty years have come out of the woodwork to condemn me in public forums.

I don’t want this person to give-up on Christianity. I encouraged this person to lean into our shared faith and not pull away. Current events have led me to read the Bible with new eyes, pray in different ways, and rethink how I live my Christian life. It is all a work of progress, but I feel like I have started a new spiritual journey of sorts. I shared all of this with this person. We must continue to live as people of hope and try not to let the anger overwhelm us. I hope this person believes this. Some days I am not even sure I do.

Many Americans do not see this as an ordinary election between two candidates committed to basic principles of decency, civility, truth, science, reason, and human dignity. This is not a choice between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama (2008) or Al Gore and George W. Bush (2000) or Bill Clinton and Bob Dole (1996). This is an election between one man who believes that the president should be a steward of democracy and another man who is a racist, nativist, and narcissist willing to undermine democracy with almost every word he speaks.

And the majority of white evangelicals, whether they love Trump or held their nose and voted for him, are complicit. I know that statement will anger a lot of people. But how long will evangelicals support–either directly or indirectly through their silence– this immoral president?

When Trump is gone, I hope and pray I will be ready to participate in the healing work that needs to be done. But right now the cancer at the heart of the republic must be cut out. Americans have the chance to do this on November 3rd. As I have said before at this blog, let’s remember that Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address (“bind up the nation’s wounds” and “achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace”) occurred after the Northern victory over the slave-holding Confederacy was all but secured.

UPDATE: I wish the President and First Lady well as they deal with COVID. I am praying for them and for all who are struggling with this terrible virus.

Trump is a racist. There is just no way around it.

You’ve all seen it by now:

A lot of people are going to say Trump misspoke or Chris Wallace set him up. Trump’s supporters are doing everything possible to defend him. But how can we interpret Trump’s words as something other than racism? Consider some of his previous comments:

The Atlantic has an oral history of his racist statements.

Vox has a timeline running from 1973-2020.

There is even a Wikipedia page on Trump’s views on race.

Read our coverage of Charlottesville 2017 here.

I try to get my history students to think contextually. The work of placing Trump’s comments on race in the historical context of his previous statements on the subject gets us closer to understanding the meaning of his words on Tuesday night. There is a definitely a pattern here and because of this context I feel comfortable calling Trump a racist.

And the day after the debate, Trump continued with the race baiting in Minnesota.

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

We deserved last night’s debate. We didn’t deserve last night’s debate.

Last night the nation got the debate it deserved.

Last night a nation suffering through coronavirus deserved better.

I think both of these things can be true at the same time.

The first 2020 presidential debate was a disaster. It was a perfect representation of the current state of our political culture. I think theologian Keith Plummer got it right when he tweeted:

Biden’s performance wasn’t great, but he hung in there. Historian Amy Bass nailed it:

Biden didn’t need to kill it last night. He is leading in all the polls. Trump did nothing to widen his base. The debate changed very little.

At one point in the debate Biden told Trump: “You’re the worst president America has ever had.” We will let future historians decide this, but right now it is hard to argue with Biden’s assessment. Here is presidential historian Jon Meacham:

As most of you know by now, Trump refused to condemn “white supremacy” and “racists”:

Here is Christian writer and editor Katelyn Beaty:

And then Trump empowered a neo-Fascist group by telling them to “stand back and stand by.” It is worth noting that the Proud Boys immediately made “Stand Back. Stand By” part of their new logo. Yes the President of the United States told a white supremacist militia group to “stand by.” This implies they he may need them at some point in the immediate future.

Actually, this whole Proud Boys thing sets me up nicely for my Pennsylvania history class today:

This may have been the first presidential debate in American history in which one candidate called another candidate a “racist.”

Trump did nothing to win women voters tonight. Here is historian Heather Cox Richardson:

A few odds and ends:

  1. Trump refused to say that he would concede the election if he loses.
  2. Trump interrupted Biden to attack his son Hunter at the precise moment Biden was talking about his dead son Beau.
  3. In the middle of a discussion on COVID-19, Trump attacked Biden’s intelligence. He also mocked Biden for attending “Delaware State” university. Actually, Biden attended the University of Delaware. Delaware State is a historical black university. One would think Trump would know this since he likes to brag how much he has done for HBCUs.
  4. I don’t want to see another debate. This was a waste of time. Let’s just vote in November and move on as a nation.

A few random tweets from the night:

Before the debate court evangelical Robert Jeffress was praying for unity:

I support national unity. I even support praying for national unity. One of the best speeches on national unity was Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address:

Here’s Sean Hannity being Sean Hannity:

CNN commentators saw things differently:

Is this King George or Vladimir Putin?:

Even the Fox News moderator Chris Wallace was having problems making sense of Trump’s words:

I am hearing all kinds of stories about parents letting their kids watch this debacle. Here is Yahoo News writer Jon Ward:

Here is Amy Bass:

Hey, but at least Donald Trump did this:

34 more days.

Trump doubles down on the racism, nativism, and unhealthy nostalgia in Pittsburgh

Watch Trump on September 22, 2020 in the Pittsburgh area:

Trump is talking about Ilhan Omar, a Black Muslim congresswoman who represents Minnesota’s 5th congressional district. She won nearly 78% of the vote in her district in 2018.

Trump is playing both a racist and nativist card here. “She’s telling us how to run our country,” Trump says. Who is “us?” What does Trump mean by “our country?” He then makes a remark about “where she came from.” For the record, Omar is was born in Somalia and has lived in the United States twenty-five years. She has been a United States citizen for twenty years. Who is the divisive one here?

But Trump doesn’t stop there. After saying that Omar is destroying our country, he then illustrates perfectly the close connection between “Make America Great Again” and racism. Trump says: “From ten years ago it’s like a different world and we want to keep our world the way it was.” It is as if the racial unrest plaguing American cities this summer never happened. In the context of his previous comments on Omar, this is blatant racism.

And then there are the Trump followers cheering all of this.

The kind of nostalgia Trump is peddling here can be a powerful political tool. A politician who claims to have the power to take people back to a time when America as “great” stands a good chance of winning the votes of fearful men and women.

The practice of nostalgia is inherently selfish because it usually focuses on one own’s experience of the past and not the experience of others. For example, people nostalgic for the world of Leave it to Beaver may fail to recognize that other people, perhaps even some of the people living in the Cleaver’s suburban “paradise” of the 1950s, were not experiencing the world in a way that they would describe as “great.” This kind of nostalgia gives us tunnel vision. Its selective use of the past fails to recognize the complexity and breadth of the human experience–the good and bad of American history.

Who’s afraid of critical race theory?

Donald Trump has turned Critical Race Theory (CRT) into a campaign issue in the hopes of winning white evangelicals and other conservatives who fear that an academic theory that they know little about is somehow threatening American democracy. Between his attacks on CRT and the 1619 Project, he just might win back a few 2016 voters who were contemplating pulling the lever for Biden or another candidate in November.

On Friday night, September 4, 2020, Russell Vought, the director of the president’s Office of Management and Budget, released a memo demanding that the Executive Branch stop teaching CRT as part of required “training” sessions for federal employees.

Vought’s memo condemns seminars that expose employees to the idea that “virtually all White people contribute to racism” or “benefit from racism.” All programs that include discussions of “white privilege” or the notion that the United States is an “inherently racist or evil country,” the memo states, must immediately “cease and desist.”

Trump may have learned about CRT from a segment on Fox News. On September 2, 2020, Fox host Tucker Carlson interviewed Chris Rufo, a fellow at the Discovery Institute, a conservative Christian think tank best known for its advocacy of the “intelligent design” view of creation. After studying CRT for six months, Rufo concluded the theory has become the “default ideology of the federal bureaucracy” and is being “weaponized against the American people.” He described CRT as “a cult indoctrination” and demanded that Trump bring an end to it immediately. The president was apparently listening.

So what should we make of CRT? Like all academic theories, we ought to 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 based on the color of their skin.

In their helpful introduction to CRT, scholars Richard Delgado and Jean Sefancic identify five major themes of this theory.

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.

Critical race theorists are often suspicious of liberalism, both the Left and Right variety. As a product of the Western intellectual movement known as the Enlightenment, liberals champion universals—the things that we hold in common as human beings regardless of race. CRT celebrates what makes human beings unique and different. The appeal to the universal values of the Enlightenment, its adherents argue, always favors the White people who have defined and benefited from those values.

Much of CRT sounds a lot like some of the things I learned in college, seminary, and graduate school. Back then we studied these things under the rubric of “American history” and “Christianity.”

For example, I don’t remember reading anything about CRT while working toward my Ph.D in American history. But I did not need these high-falutin academic theorists to see how racism was embedded in the history of the republic. All I needed to do was study the documentary record with my eyes open. One cannot ignore the long history of White people oppressing Black people. White people have had advantages–privileges even–that Black people and other people of color have not. To acknowledge white privilege is to be a good historian.

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, freedom, and individual rights are still with us. Indeed, racism is “ordinary” and “common” in American life. It is not some kind of aberration practiced by a few “bad apples” who make occasional appearances in the narratives we teach about the past.

A few weeks ago I was teaching the students in my U.S. history survey course about seventeenth-century Virginia. This colonial society passed laws that defined Black men and women as slaves for the purpose of quelling disgruntled poor whites (former indentured servants) who had a propensity for social and political rebellion. The codification of race-based slavery in Virginia law resulted in the social, economic, and political advance of these marginalized White colonials.

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 instances 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.

Trump’s decision to root-out CRT will inevitably win him points with his Fox-News-watching Christian conservative base, but is CRT something Christians should fear?

As an undergraduate and seminary student at evangelical institutions, I learned that Christians should not be surprised by injustice and evil in this world. Rather, we should expect it. The world is a fallen and broken place. My professors drilled this into my head through a reading and re-reading (occasionally in the original Hebrew language) of Genesis 3. Sin manifests itself in both individual lives and cultural systems.

Since Christians believe in human sin, we should have no problem embracing CRT’s affirmation of systemic racism. At the same time, we should always be ready to offer hope–rooted in Christ’s atoning work on the cross and the promise of resurrection—as a means of healing a world that is broken. We may never overcome the damage of systemic racism on this side of eternity, but we cannot ignore our call to be agents of reconciliation.

Is it true that White people have no incentive to do anything about racial injustice because they benefit from it? American history certainly bears this out. The story of our nation is filled with White men and women who witnessed racism on a regular basis and did nothing to stop it. Some of them knew it was wrong but lacked the courage to do anything about it. Others simply did not care.

Christian critics of CRT celebrate abolitionists such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Wilberforce, or William Lloyd Garrison, but these courageous activists were the exceptions to the rule in 19th-century America. The “heroic man” or “heroic woman” view of the history of moral reform does not account for the long record of White Christian complacency on racial injustice. In the end, any Christian who takes a deep dive into the American past will find heroes to emulate, but they will also find that most White people were complicit in sustaining a system of white supremacy.

What about the social construction of race? When Thomas Jefferson said in his Notes on the State of Virginia (1781) that Africans were “inferior to whites in the endowments both of body and mind,” he was degrading the human dignity of Black people, men and women created by God in His image. Racism entered the world when sinful human beings forged communities that privileged some and excluded others.

Christians can also agree, to an extent, with the idea of intersectionality. We all possess different social identities and there are times when we face injustice that stems from those identities—injustices that our legal system fails to address.

Our urge to downplay the identities that define us as human beings is understandable and, in many cases, good. A flourishing society will always be built upon the things we hold common as human beings. A thriving Church will always be built upon the knowledge that one day White Christians and Christians of color will share together in the new heavens and new earth promised in the Book of Revelation. A central message of the Book of Acts and Pauline epistles is summed-up best in Galatians 3:38: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you all one in Christ.”

But God has also made us different. We are products of history. Our faith will always be understood and navigated through the circumstances that have shaped us and provided us with multiple identities in this world. While we all want to be one in Christ, and should always be about the work of reconciliation and unity as Jesus reminded us in John 17, we must also remember, as theologian Miroslav Volf writes, that God notes not only our “common humanity,” but also our “specific histories.”

Finally, CRT’s emphasis on storytelling is something Christians should value. The Christian tradition is full of men and women telling stories of suffering, sin, and redemption. When Black people tell their stories of encounters with racism it should provoke empathy in the hearts of White Christians. We understand the power of testimony.

Of course, stories can be manipulated for selfish or political ends. And personal experience does not always translate to expertise on a subject such as African American history or literature. But those who dwell on these matters miss an opportunity to cultivate a more just democracy through compassion and understanding. It is time to exercise some humility. This means we need to stop talking and start listening to the stories African Americans are telling us.

In the end, if critical race theorists can teach me something I don’t know about how I may have benefited from white oppression (even if I may not commit overt acts of racism) or how to have greater solidarity with my black brothers and sisters, why wouldn’t I want to consider it?

As a Christian, I want to see the world through the eyes of my faith. I want my “theory” to be the teachings of the scriptures and the Christian tradition. This may mean that I embrace parts of CRT and reject other parts. I know very few academics—Christian or secular—who adopt theories in toto.

There is much truth in CRT, and all truth is God’s truth. We have nothing to fear.

This is what racism looks like

And it comes from the Donald Trump campaign:

Yes, that is the voice of white evangelical vice president Mike Pence saying “you want be safe in Joe Biden’s America” as Biden kneels with parishioners at a black church.

Here is Jack Jenkins at Religion News Service:

President Donald Trump’s campaign released a digital advertisement late Wednesday (Sept. 9) extending its argument that Americans “won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America” with images of angry or violent protest. Set to dramatic music, the commercial bombards the viewer with footage of flaming police cars, protesters confronting law enforcement personnel and explosions.

But the ad, titled “Meet Joe Biden’s Supporters,” ends not with an image of violence, but with slow-motion footage of former Vice President Biden kneeling in a Black church in front of a row of Black leaders. A moment later, words appear on the screen reading “stop Joe Biden and his rioters” as Mike Pence declares “you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.” 

The church footage appears to be from shortly after George Floyd’s death at the hands of a policeman in Minneapolis, when Biden visited Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware, to discuss racial injustice and police brutality before praying with those assembled.

Asked whether the ad meant to suggest there was something unsafe about Black churches or meeting with Black leaders in a church, Trump campaign deputy national press secretary Samantha Zager replied, “That’s absurd and it’s shameful to even make the allegation.”

When Religion News Service followed up to ask what, exactly, footage of the church visit was meant to imply, Zager did not respond.

Read the rest here. White identity politics is all Trump has left.