I’ve spent quite a bit of time on the road the last couple of weeks, so that has meant a lot of audiobooks and podcasts. Three podcasts I listened to recently highlight the continual demythologizing going on in my life.
First, a two part podcast where Ed Stetzer interviews Beth Moore. She has written a new study on Galatians but she relates it to the past few years when she has been ripped apart by her own denomination simply because she called out hypocrisy among powerful men. It is a heartbreaking interview worth your time.
Then, of course, there is the Holy Post podcast, my personal oasis during my years of wandering out of the evangelical wilderness.
As usual, the first part of the podcast is mixed with serious discussion and Phil Vischer’s weird humor (which I’ve grown accustomed to because in all of it there are some significant moments to pay attention). The first part has some incredible insight. LISTEN HERE.
The second part, beginning around 52:30, is an interview with church historian Randall Balmer. His newest book is Bad Faith and covers the lies surrounding the “religious right” and its founding. It is FAR too easy to “discredit” or dismiss Balmer because he teaches history at (HORRORS) Dartmouth, one of those evil Ivy League schools! Balmer is not so easily dismissed. His father is a pastor who inspired the movie “A Thief in the Night”. Balmer has MY roots!
I have heard quite a bit in the past few years about the myth of the religious right and how the main issue has always been abortion. Balmer documents that myth.
When I was in my early 20s, just out of Bible college, and trying to plant a church, I came across the testimony of a man who had faced severe racial discrimination in my former denomination. It was jolting to me, but being young, I didn’t truly act on it. (Meaning, I should have just quit right then. Honestly.)
Growing up, I was “coming of age” as Ronald Reagan was running for president and I stood on protest lines decrying the horrors of abortion. (NOTE: I am womb to tomb pro-life, so this isn’t about any major change in my theological position.)
The myth of it all (to give it away because it’s probable that many won’t listen to the podcast and very few have made it this far in my post) is that the “religious right” was built on … RACISM. We called it “government overreach” and “IRS meddling”, but what was NOT told was the REASON the IRS was “meddling.” Balmer documents it. It was about pulling our white kids out of schools that were being desegregated in the 60s and 70s and we still wanted tax-exempt status for our racist actions as we built “Christian” private schools (especially in the South).
So… those are the spoiler alerts and yet I still invite you to listen to the podcast.
I have reflected on all of this and still had the question that maybe we’ve just made it “all about abortion.” Maybe we’re just down to that on the “religious right.” But… we’re not. I listen carefully as I hear small comments all the time from “Christian conservatives.” The vile that is spewed a year after George Floyd was murdered… the straw man attacks on Critical Race Theory… and even when people gripe about someone’s behavior, it’s generally entirely negative about a black man or woman and full of grace if it’s a white man (and sometimes white women).
At the core of our national structure is the rot of racism. Period. And we are STILL not dealing with it.
I will say this, though: God IS dealing with it. It is ugly and nasty and we truly want it buried all over again, but God isn’t going to let it get buried. We need this cancer exposed, so it is going to stay ugly for quite some time. We are in the operating room watching someone’s intestines being operated on. It’s nasty to watch. We’d rather be in the recovery room!
The longer we delay, as the white American church, in dealing with the rot of racism, the longer God operates. But right now… we’re seeing this ugliness because it NEEDS to be exposed.
May we walk toward healing.