I had a phone conversation yesterday with a minister friend of mine who is a dynamic Black preacher. My friend is having a rough time with the institutions of the white evangelical church.
I want to share my friend’s struggle, but I also need to be vague enough where I don’t get him into even more trouble. My friend told me he is being accused of being a Marxist because he teaches Black Liberation Theology and Critical Race Theory. I did not know that many leading white evangelical institutions have officially condemned Critical Race Theory because they want to condemn racism at the individual level but censor any conversation about how racism might hide in white institutions and traditions, like the white church. Talk about “cancel culture!”
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A 2018 survey conducted by Public Religion Research Institute found that white Christians are nearly twice as likely to say the killings of Black men by police are not part of a larger pattern of cultural racism. White Christians are more likely to say that Confederate monuments are not symbols of America’s racist past. White Christians are more likely to disagree with the statement, “Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for Blacks to work their way out of the lower class.” And, it turns out, the more often white Christians attend church the more likely they are to hold these attitudes!
I like to think I am part of the progressive church that stands up to racism and sexism, but if I ever forget that I am also part of this larger group seeking to dominate others, then I leave members of my human family vulnerable to being assaulted in the name of the whole church.
Very early in my ministry I was forced to realize if I did not publicly and clearly refute religious bullying, I was part of it. While Jesus summarized his entire message as loving our neighbor, the institutional church in my day has waged a perpetual war against our LGBTQ neighbors, our feminist neighbors, our neighbors who are not Christian, and, yes, our neighbors who are People of Color who want to dismantle systemic racism. I would agree with the statement that most Christians would not personally persecute our neighbors, but our personal opinions are hardly relevant if we stand by silently while other branches of the church attack innocent people in our name.
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Christian unity is false if it is based on being silent about injustices done by the church. For the church to gain power over others will never bring unity to our nation, or even within Christianity itself. Only love can do that. And love that does not do justice, is not Christian love at all. But it’s understandable that so many in the church would reject Jesus’ command to do justice. Whereas religious bullying leads to a throne, sacrificial love leads to a cross.
So, the next time you hear a “Christian” friend scapegoating other members of your human family, please ask the following question, “Who all do I have to hate to love your Jesus?”
Jim Rigby’s Facebook post blogged with permission.