Friday, March 09, 2018

Wake Up: The New York Times Doesn't Care About Racial Reconciliation In The Church (Or Anywhere Else)

The New York Times ran an editorial today about blacks leaving majority white evangelical churches, A Quiet Exodus: Why Blacks Are Leaving White Evangelical Churches. This is a topic that I have addressed before (see for example Are We In A New Paradigm Of Race RelationsAre Reformed Christians Influenced By White Supremacy? and A Response To Lecrae, Jemar Tisby, Thabiti Anyabwile And Anyone Else Who Cares To Listen ).

This article finds a sympathetic figure, Charmaine Pruitt, who left her former church, Gateway Church headed by Robert Morris because as she describes it after a pretty overtly political sermon she felt uncomfortable.
Ms. Pruitt sent messages to several white couples she had befriended at the church, telling them she was going to take some time off. She had become uneasy at a church, she told them, that speaks of overcoming racism on one Sunday “and then turns around later and asks me to support” Trump, who she believed was “a racist candidate.”
She then recounts that a couple had her over to talk about it and the experience was sufficient for her to never go back.

The essay is full of the usual stuff that accompanies these articles, like the reference to Trayvon Martin but as usual fails to note that the man that shot him was Hispanic, a Democrat and that he shot Martin in self-defense. Like Michael Brown in Ferguson, Trayvon Martin is invoked as a talisman of racial injustice and you are supposed to take for granted that his shooting was unjust. I feel badly that Martin and Brown were both shot but I also recognize that in both cases the overwhelming fault for their shooting falls on themselves. George Zimmerman was being a jerk but Trayvon Martin was slamming his head into a concrete sidewalk which can cause serious injury or death. And still years later we are supposed to assume that simply invoking the Trayvon Martin case is proof of racial injustice.

There is a reference to Lecrae of course and the ubiquitous Dwight McKissic and his risible anti-alt-right resolution stunt. There is also something that I am seeing more and more of and it goes beyond a "failure" to be on the "right" side of the NFL player kneeling dispute. In reference to white evangelicals overwhelming support for Trump, the editorial quotes "Chanequa Walker-Barnes, a professor of practical theology at the McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University in Atlanta". Ms. Walker-Barnes left her position at a white church after the election where she was employed, which of course is her prerogative as an employee, but what she is quoted as saying in the editorial is far more troubling. The support of white evangelicals was a sign of a systemic problem in white churches:
“It said, to me, that something is profoundly wrong at the heart of the white church,” said Chanequa Walker-Barnes
Wow. This reminds me of the rhetoric of Anthony Bradley who claims that evangelicals, i.e. white Christians, have "never had the Gospel. Ever.". To make a sweeping condemnation of "the white church" because 4 of 5 white evangelicals made an informed choice to support one candidate over another is frankly obscene. I wonder if the good professor would agree with Anthony Bradley that we as white evangelicals have never even had the Gospel in the first place.

Something interesting to note. In 2008 black religious voters supported Obama overwhelmingly. From a Pew recap, emphasis mine:
Let’s just look at some of the key groups in 2008. Toward the top of the chart, virtually all of the strong Obama groups have this character of being minorities in one form or another. Of course, the first group, black Protestants, has been a strong Democratic group for a long time. In these data they voted nearly 100 percent for Obama.
So when black Protestants show up in 2008 to vote essentially unanimously for a far left candidate that supported the legalized infanticide that murders far more black kids in a day than cops do wrongly in shootings in years, a man that used to attend the church of racist "pastor" Jeremiah Wright, that is just an interesting electoral factoid. It is OK that one segment of the religious population, black Protestants, vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. It is not OK that a different segment, white evangelicals, vote overwhelmingly (81%) for Republicans. Do you see the problem here? Black Christians can be a monolithic voting bloc for Democrats and no one says a word, white Christians do the same thing for Republicans and it is blamed for black Christians leaving majority white churches. Later in the essay there is mention that Ms. Pruitt tried out Mt. Olive and that "But for two young white men, all the worshipers were African-American.". Many majority black churches are not only monolithic in voting for Democrats, they are also overwhelmingly monoracial but you will wait in vain for a scathing editorial from the New York Times about black churches not "looking like the Kingdom".

If we are going to have a "real conversation about race" in the church, it can't be marked by one-sided lectures and double-standards. I am willing to talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime about race, what the Bible teaches, how we can try to overcome historic differences and suspicions and so on. I am glad to. If you want me to sit mutely while you scold me about things that I have never done and have no guilt for? Not interested. The Bible calls for me to love my brothers but that doesn't require me to sit still while someone bears false witness about me.

The essay isn't really about blacks leaving white churches. It is about Trump and the New York Times' endless war to see Trump impeached on trumped up charges (trumped up, get it?) or defeated for re-election in 2020. Trump is mentioned a dozen times in the essay and it is clearly suggested that the reason for racial division in the church today is that white folk voted for Trump. The messaging is clumsy and obvious: if you care about "racial reconciliation" you can't vote for Trump. I will be the first to admit that white evangelicals are often pawns for the Republican party that promises us the moon and delivers potholes but the same is true for black Christians and the Democrats. In other words this is not first and foremost or even primarily an editorial about religion. It is an editorial about politics. If you don't recognize that at the outset you probably come away from this essay with a far different viewpoint than if you go into it with your eyes wide open to the inherent political bias you are going to get from the opinion section of the New York Times.

We have a lot of issues in the church that we need to work through, and race is one of the big ones. What is not helpful is when we allow people who don't really care about the church to define the terms of the conversation for us.

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