Black and White: Evangelicals and American Racism


Sports Rivalries and Racism

Racism has been around, we can only assume, as long as there have been different ethnic groups for people to love and hate. It begins with a special love for one’s self, and then it extends to feeling a special affinity and pride for one’s family or extended community. For example, it is natural for sports fans to take pride in their favorite team. They may even identify themselves with their team. They wear the team logo on their clothes, go to the games, and cheer them on to victory. That is their team, and they say things like, “We won the game last night.”

However, with love for self can come hate for others. That is, it is natural for a person who loves their team to hate their main rival. They are in a competition for supremacy. It hurts when their team loses to the hated rival. Insults are often hurled at the opposing team’s players and fans. Occasionally fights break out. The rival is sometimes accused of cheating or having some unfair advantage. Grudges are carried long and strong emotion animates their competitions. 

With this said, racism operates on the same principles at play among sports rivalries—except it’s not a game. Favoritism can begin with a person identifying more closely with his or her own ethnicity, but it also can morph into racism when that person embraces the false notion that his or her own ethnic group is superior to other ethnicities. This type of pride naturally leads to bigotry and unjust discrimination.

Racism is not unique to the United States. To the contrary, every nation that has more than one ethnic group has at one time or another been afflicted with this blight. And, as long as the human race is plagued with a sinful nature, racism will continue to be a problem going forward. There is no doubt that racism has played a major role in the history of the United States. Institutionalized racism in the form of slavery, among other factors, played a role in fomenting the Civil War which led to the deaths of 620,000 Americans.

The First African Slaves in Colonial America

Slavery has a long history among the English colonies in North America. From the beginning, the colonies utilized indentured servitude as a means to meet the rigorous labor needs to develop the wilderness, but this arrangement, unlike chattel slavery, was mutually beneficial to both contracting parties. It was typically a voluntary agreement and the terms of service rarely exceeded seven years. The contract afforded them passage to the colonies and often a tract of land and certain essential supplies at the end of their service. The first Africans in an English colony in North America were brought to Jamestown in 1619 by the English warship White Lion. The White Lion was sailing as a Privateer under authority of the Dutch prince. They attacked a Portuguese ship bound for Veracruz, a Spanish colony at the time, and captured about twenty slaves on board. These Africans were sold in Virginia and became indentured servants, probably being set free at the end of their service.

Stripping the African Slaves of their Humanity

Chattel slavery began to take root in the colonies slowly but by the early 1700s it seemed to be the preferred answer to the labor needs of the Colonies. Chattel slavery is the owning of other humans as property, where the slave has no right to decide the course of his own life, but may be bought, sold, inherited, or given, and is typically in a state of perpetual enslavement with even his children being born as the property of the master. In all, more than 300,000 Africans were brought to the regions that now constitute the United States before the importation of slaves became illegal in 1808 under Jefferson’s presidency.

Chattel slavery is a dehumanizing institution which is one effect of racism. Africans that were brought to America began to be looked upon as less than fully human as this institution of chattel slavery took root. This was a means of excusing this horrific practice as Americans even began to misuse the Bible to justify this devaluing of fellow human beings made in the image of God. There was no excuse for these ungodly attitudes towards Africans. Greed and the idea of racial superiority blinded the eyes of many Americans to the helpless plight of these people who had been taken against their will and now exploited by those who should have known better. The seeds of God’s wrath were being sown which would later be reaped in the devastation brought about in the greatest war in American history. God heard the cry of the helpless and brought vengeance upon a people who tolerated such an evil institution. God’s heart for those who have been afflicted is seen in the warning he gave to the Israelites when they came out of Egypt.

“Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry; And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless”. Exodus 22:21-24.

Slow, Painful Change

 But not all Americans were in favor of slavery, and factors were at play even during the founding of our country in the late 1700s that would culminate in the abolition of slavery during the Civil War.

After the Civil War, though slavery was illegal, racist attitudes towards blacks remained in both North and South. In the North, discrimination and segregation were more de facto, but in the South after Reconstruction, the white Democrats regained power and enacted laws that enforced racial segregation that continued to be enforced until 1965. These Jim Crow laws continued the social caste of oppressed black people and kept them subjugated to the ruling class. The Civil Rights movement led to the removal of these laws, and many whites began to change their racist attitudes towards blacks. This change in attitude towards blacks has been painfully slow, yet has made significant strides in the white population since the days of slavery. Many of them joined with their black brothers and sisters in working for freedom and equality.

Don’t Lump all Whites Together

Understanding this history of slavery in the United States and the terrible injustices perpetrated upon blacks by law until 1965 is crucial if we are to understand in 2017 why there still remains bitterness between many whites and blacks. It is important though, that we not stereotype all white people as rich planters oppressing black people. In actuality less than one third of whites in the South owned slaves. It was mainly agricultural areas that had a large population of slaves. In many regions, slaves were few and far between. In the North, slavery was practiced until the last of the Northern states abolished it in 1804 showing maturing attitudes toward the institution. The fact is that most whites did not possess slaves and many of them opposed the institution. From the days when all the Colonies practiced slavery, to 1804 when half the country was free, to 1865 when the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery entirely, to 1965 when Jim Crow ended, there has been huge progress made in attitudes towards blacks. This would have been impossible if a growing majority of white people were not becoming sympathetic to the plight of blacks. Furthermore, many whites immigrated to the United States after the Civil War and had nothing at all to do with slavery. The point being that whites are not a monolithic group and those racist whites who oppressed blacks did not ultimately win the day, their racist ideology finally giving way to equality.

Hijacking the Civil Rights Movement

The equality that I am speaking of is both equality as persons and equality before the law. Where once blacks were not considered full persons and did not have the same privileges as whites under the law, now they are regarded as equal in the eyes of the law with all the rights of white people. But there has been a growing movement that has co-opted the cause of blacks in America and sought to extend equality to mean that the government must coerce economic equality. In other words, establishing Socialism has become the objective of this continuing struggle for equality. This movement is permeated with Marxist philosophy in the guise of Christian theology, or rather, what has become known as Black Liberation Theology.

James Cone is considered the chief architect of Black Liberation Theology. Cone is a professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary and an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1969 his book Black Theology and Black Power, and in 1970 another book A Black Theology of Liberation defined a theology that sees the gospel primarily as liberation from social, political, and economic bondage. He casts blacks as the victims and whites as the victimizers and his theology envisions the violent overthrow of the oppressor. Black Liberation theology self consciously accepts the basic categories of Marxism and seeks to work with Marxists for the common goal of the overthrow of the perceived oppressive white capitalist society. This theology casts Jesus as a “poor black man” oppressed by “rich white men”. Black Liberation Theology has gained momentum since the presidency of Barack Obama who was a member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, and sat under the vitriolic preaching of Jeremiah Wright who forcefully promoted James Cone’s theology. White guilt and black victimization is the axiom of this theology, and any and all means are justifiable in liberating the “victim”, including violence. Social Justice is the buzzword which encapsulates the ethos of Black Liberation Theology. Social Justice, in their view, ultimately requires the removal of Capitalism and replaces it with Socialism with its state coerced redistribution of “advantage” and wealth. The almighty, infallible state becomes the mechanism to ensure economic equality for all, whereas equality as persons and equal rights has become insufficient.

Evangelicals and White Guilt

Key in this battle for Social Justice is the concept of white guilt. White people must all be lumped together and made to feel that they as a group are what is wrong with the world. James Cone, in his inflammatory way informs us that, “What we need is the destruction of whiteness, which is the source of human misery in the world” (A Black Theology of Liberation p. 114). It troubles me greatly that recently Evangelical leaders are picking up on this theme of white guilt and forwarding its debilitating effects on the collective head of white Christians. In 2012 Timothy Keller, an influential pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America, preached a sermon called Racism and Corporate Evil: A White Guy’s Perspective, in which he proposes that children are guilty for the sins of their parents. Particularly, he views white Americans as bearing the guilt of the racism of their ancestors.

I am not denying that collective guilt is a biblical concept under the right circumstances. I believe that God held our country collectively guilty for chattel slavery among other evils and brought great judgment to us in the Civil War. I believe we will collectively suffer great consequences in the future for the murder of nearly sixty million unborn babies. What I am denying is that collective guilt applies to this generation in reference to the oppression of blacks. For one, God has already exacted the lives of 620,000 Americans in reference to chattel slavery.  Second, the institutional racism that characterized the South after the Civil War was finally corrected and this kind of collective racism has been illegal in our country for a long time now. Third, many white people joined with their black brothers and sisters fighting against this ungodly discrimination and eventually abolishing institutional racism. Fourth, the poverty that characterizes many in the black population today is not as much a result of slavery 152 years ago; rather it has more to do with liberal governmental policies such as The War on Poverty, which has resulted in creating a welfare state that has perpetuated a whole class of poor people burdened by governmental dependency. Conservatives have been opposing this governmental affliction to the poor since its inception, yet they are invariably blamed by leftists for the resulting chaos. Finally, despite popular opinion, blacks are not merely victims of oppression in this country any longer. Black people may live anywhere they want. They may go to the same schools as anyone else, and in many cases even have preferred access to institutes of higher learning. They may go into any career they so choose. They may marry whomever they want. They may vote, run for political office, even become the president of our country. The burden of poverty is real but it is not insurmountable, and black people are not the only ones who suffer under it.   

Southern Baptists and Unacceptable Whiteness

In spite of the abolition of institutional racism in this country and the great progress that has been made, more and more Evangelicals have been jumping on board the white guilt train recently. The Southern Baptist Convention rightly apologized in 1995 for the role their ancestors had in perpetuating slavery and racism. But for four consecutive years now the SBC has felt it their duty to decry and apologize for racism that they are not guilty of. I didn’t know that Southern Baptist Churches display the Confederate flag in their Sanctuaries. I didn’t know that the Alt Right and White Nationalism were being supported by the SBC. Yet, in 2016 and 2017 they decried these things it as if they are promoting them. I’m glad that the SBC wants to be sensitive and non-offensive about the Confederate flag. I’m glad they don’t approve of the Alt Right and White nationalism, but the SBC is not guilty of insensitivity or racism. If they feel it their duty to renounce dangerous trends, why didn’t they spend any time denouncing the Communists in Charlottesville in addition to the White Nationalists, seeing that they pose an even greater threat to our peace and tranquility than the Alt Right and White Nationalists. I have a feeling it’s because that would be politically incorrect and bring down a firestorm of criticism as it did on President Trump.

The SBC is kowtowing to the Leftists who are using guilt manipulation to pave the way for an increasingly Socialist society. It is wrong for them to continually project guilt on their church members who do not support racism. The Southern Baptist Convention has repudiated racism for a long time now, but by continually groveling in guilt, it debilitates its members and denies that the problem has been rectified. The end result of such guilt is that Conservative people are silenced while the Leftists overturn our present social order. It’s not surprising that those pushing for these apologies and renunciations are rather liberal in their politics. I wonder if they agree with James Cone that the only way to clear whites of their guilt is to repudiate their “whiteness” and “white institutions”. In his words, we need to deny “whiteness as an acceptable form of human existence” (A Black Theology of Liberation p. 10). 

Anti-Racism Training and Safe Spaces in the PCA

Another example of white Evangelicals being encouraged to succumb to collective guilt is found in the Presbyterian Church in America. The PCA’s Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis sponsors the annual Leadership Development Resource’s LDR Weekend conference, which exists to promote black voices in theology, racial unity, reconciliation, justice, and vocational ministry for blacks. In this conference, just like the Southern Baptist Convention, white guilt is promoted. This year they directed the white participants of the conference to attend a seminar on anti-racism training taught by political activists sympathetic with the Black Lives Matter movement. Meanwhile the black participants attended a black only safe space so they could fellowship without having to “explain themselves”. The white participants were encouraged to give themselves to “hearing, repenting and listening more than you speak”. It is shocking to me that the conservative denomination that I was once a member of not only promotes white guilt, but also seems to have no problem standing with an anti-Christian movement like Black Lives Matter.

A quick look at BLM’s guiding principles reveals that they are anything but Christian. For instance, they affirm transgenderism, homosexuality, and are committed to destroying the nuclear family structure. It is obvious by reading their core beliefs that caring for black lives is just a cover for political and social Leftism. If they really cared for black lives, they would care about the 19 million black unborn babies that have been murdered in the womb since 1973 at possibly four times the rate as white women. Most of these precious black children are killed by the racist organization Planned Parenthood who has specifically targeted blacks. Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger, a eugenicist, said in a letter, “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the Minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to their more rebellious members” Again, if Black Lives Matter cared about black lives they would care about the 2,205 blacks murdered by blacks in 2014 and not just the murders by whites or shootings by police officers that make political hay. The fact that the PCA gives implicit credence to such a wicked organization is very troubling indeed.

Christians Promoting False Narratives

It is not the desire for racial unity or reconciliation that is troubling about these trends in the SBC and PCA. It is the fact that they are naïve enough to give credence to the false narratives about black oppression. One of the flash points that caused Black Lives Matter to organize was the shooting of black teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. After tremendous pressure to convict Officer Wilson of murder, he was acquitted of any wrongdoing, having been found acting in self defense. Brown was killed while rushing at Officer Wilson. The false narrative was that Brown had his hands up while asking Wilson not to shoot and he was shot in cold blood. Violent protests engulfed Ferguson for more than a week after the shooting based on this lie. The solidarity of the PCA’s Leadership Development Resource with Black Lives Matter perpetuates these kinds of false narratives and is antithetical to true justice and righteousness.

Yet another example of this white-reproach comes from John Piper, an influential evangelical leader who wrote an article in 2016 for his Desiring God website entitled Structural Racism: The Child of Structural Pride. In this article he piles on more white guilt, proposing that it is impossible that our society is not full of structural racism because of the sin of pride. He assumes this racism is everywhere and condemns white Americans for it, yet does not offer a single example of this ubiquitous racism in our society. The effect of such an article only furthers the cause of those who wish to overturn our free society. If structural racism is so rampant in our every institution, the only just course of action in many people’s minds is to overturn them all. This is helpful to the revolutionaries in our country. It is not helpful to the situation for John Piper to be piling on, without offering even one example of so great a sin that it permeates all of our institutions. 

Evangelical Leaders Serving Leftists

The cause of Leftists is being served more by evangelical leaders today than perhaps even the liberal news media. I say this because Evangelicals are the last obstacle to a complete restructuring of America as a Socialist country placing even more power in the hands of a government already at war with the church of Jesus Christ. In spite of our opposition to Leftism, Socialism has been slowly permeating our society for a long time, and as they gain steam these Evangelical voices are chipping away at the last resistance.

Though I am thankful much good has been done by the SBC, PCA, Timothy Keller, and John Piper, I am disappointed with their buying into the white guilt, black victim theme. What was a problem in 1960 is simply not the case today. I love the fact that they are concerned with race relations in this country and want to do something about it, but I am humbly calling out these Christian organizations and individuals and any others that perpetuate the false narrative that blacks are being unjustly treated by our society. It just isn’t true. All of the ills in the poor black community exist in the poor white community. Supporting untruths and partial truths is a great sin that must be repented of. The course they are taking will only deepen the racial divide in America.    

Social Decay and Shifting Blame

That is not to downplay the fact that the black community is plagued with some very serious social problems.  Real problems like an unprecedented percentage of unwed mothers and fatherless children, generational government dependency, violence, illegal drug use, gang activity, poor education, and extreme poverty. These problems cannot be solved by blame shifting. Yes, there are contributing factors as to why this is the case. Slavery, Jim Crow, and Socialist government policies all have had a significant effect. Nevertheless, these are not the primary cause of the problems in the black community. The primary cause of these problems is the everyday choices that many of those in this condition make. For example, the choice to have sex outside of marriage is a personal choice that is at the root of many of these social ills. Approximately seventy five percent of black children grow up without a father in the home. This fatherlessness makes these children four times as likely to be impoverished as children who do have a father in the home, not to mention the susceptibility this exposes them to things like violence, gang activity, and teenage pregnancy. But this is not caused by racism or systematic oppression. It is caused by personal disobedience to God’s law, and the solution starts with personal repentance. This one factor of having children within the confines of marriage could greatly improve the condition of black America. Blaming these social ills on racism does absolutely nothing to actually solve these problems; it simply shifts the blame to someone else. 

Jesus is the Answer

Where do we go from here? Here are my thoughts. We have to stop playing the white guilt / black oppression game. Our country is as divided as it has ever been and powerful forces are at work to deepen the chasm between us. The only real remedy to the problems we face is heart transformation brought about by the Holy Spirit through the gospel of Jesus Christ. As long as people on both sides are driven by pride, lust, envy, hatred, bitterness, and unforgiveness there is no hope of societal transformation. We need hearts that are moved by humility, chastity, love, forgiveness, and longsuffering. Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace and we will only find peace in him.

Here are some practical steps that all Christians can do to help. Pray for revival. Unless God intervenes to change hearts things will not change. Preach the gospel. Revival cannot come unless the gospel is being preached. Pray that the many churches teaching false gospels like the Prosperity Gospel, the Social Gospel, or the Marxist Gospel i.e. Black Liberation Theology will repent and become true gospel preaching churches. Pray for gospel preaching churches to be planted in these areas that suffer so much from false churches. In addition to praying and promoting missionary activity, let each of us, white and black search for ways we can make a difference in the life of one person; personal evangelism, mentoring someone, opening a door of opportunity for training or a job, filling the gap in the life of a fatherless child or perhaps helping a single mother as we have opportunity. Surely each of us can do something to help, but that something is not demonstrating, rioting, sowing seeds of discord, guilt manipulation, retreating to safe spaces, promoting white guilt and class envy, or legitimizing bitterness by rehearsing past wrongs. May God help us all to truly love each other and do the work he has called us to. In the words of Scripture, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:31,32) 

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