I have been hard on my evangelical, fundamentalist roots for a long time. It hasn’t really led to more discussion as much as it has led to a lot of silence. Nevertheless, I press on. These are things that need to take place. Tough conversations. Tough action.
One handicap we’ve had is that evangelical, culturalized Christianity has poor theology. We tend toward “rugged individualism” (which is American ideology), a low view of the Church (leading to 5 Baptist churches in a town of 10 people, figuratively speaking), and a poor view of eschatology, resulting in a “rapture” mentality (God will get me out before all hell REALLY breaks loose).
This has not equipped us to handle community issues, whether it’s our church community or the wider community. We have no theological framework in which to work. So… racism? It turns into, “Hey, I didn’t own any slaves!” or “I posted a MLK quote last January.”
When George Floyd was murdered on the streets of Minneapolis, which followed the horrific video of the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery, it was a shaking in our collective souls. Then… we got tired. We had the privilege of going back to our lives and then raising our own ire again.
We went back to “All Lives Matter” and “Back the Blue” and “Black Lives Matter is Marxist.”
As the American Church, this has been tragic… and it keeps costing us. We have not understood the anger of the protestors (who we now conveniently call “rioters”). We can’t see the big deal about voting… because we’ve always had access to voting in our favor.
So, I press on. I keep working on these issues and presenting these issues because we refuse continually to LISTEN and then ACT.
It is harming us. It is harming the black community. It is deepening the divide between even Black churches and White churches. My plea is for us to open our eyes and SEE. Open our ears and HEAR.
This particular article is probably behind a pay wall for now, so I will highlight it. (Trigger warning: I will invoke the name of Trump in this post.)
My point is that our lack of prophetic voice continues to divide in places we should not be divided. The opening paragraph of the article:
White evangelicals angered over the death of George Floyd this summer have joined protests and declared that “black lives matter” — and some have even championed reparations as they tried to promote racial reconciliation. But their continued support for President Trump has disgusted Black evangelical leaders, many of whom have let them know they are not interested.
I can hear it now. “But Trump is going to end abortion!” I have a whole thought pattern on THAT and should write another post soon. Let me leave it with this: we are left playing a one string banjo with that cause… and it’s ridiculous.
NASCAR can get rid of Confederate flag displays, Mississippi can finally remove the Confederate symbol in their state flag, the NBA puts “Black Lives Matter” on the court now… and the Southern Baptist Convention can’t help but endorse Trump for President. It’s just simply all hollow. The world is better at even symbolic action than the church? Are you kidding me?
Here is what I’ve found among culturalized Christians:
We rose to the occasion with George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery for a time because we were horrified. Our problem is the way we do things. For white Christians, we asked, “What can we DO?” The problem with that question is how we handle it. For white Christians, we want a project. The project has a beginning and an ending.
Racism isn’t that simple. It is long hard work. We can’t solve it by next Friday at 5 p.m. So… we got tired.
What could be a key turning point for culturalized Christianity is in danger of turning into an ever-widening rift in the church community. This need not happen!
One of the great community activists and a dean of Christian community activism is John Perkins. At the age of 90 he is fed up with the white church. From the article:
“Evangelicals sold out” to Trump, Perkins said. “That created a split in the church.”
Other leaders have had similar reactions:
For Black Pentecostal speaker and author Brenda Salter McNeil, the 2016 election made 30 years of talking about racial reconciliation feel like “a waste.” She began to speak out more specifically on systemic issues like immigration, the lack of clean water in Flint, Mich., and police brutality.
Friends, I continue to implore us… let us not lose this opportunity.
I grew up conservative and Republican. It was “God’s way”… or treated as such. I’ve been extracting that from my life (God’s way equaling conservatism or the GOP) for a long time. I admit there are still shards of it in my mind somewhere still lurking.
It is shocking to no one younger than me, but I found a refreshing prayer group on Zoom that prays for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. It is led by a black Pentecostal lady who prays with joy and Holy Spirit fire. It is hard for me to admit, but I grew up thinking that just wasn’t possible!
This is not a post about who to vote for. This is a post to keep putting in front of us the problem: RACISM. It is a national sin. It is still deep within the culturalized Church… and I am begging for an end to it.
It is a call to stand in the prophetic, set political labels aside, and quit being so pathetic in our anemic response of one issue.
And finally, one more video. Phil Vischer, who did a short video on racism that went viral a few weeks back, has a second video out this week. It’s a bit longer and it hits more deeply at our embedded racism.
Take it in.
I have a T-shirt that says: “Listen. Lament. Legislate.”
It’s time. Let’s listen. But more. Let’s ACT. Let’s repair the breach before it’s too wide.