It seems that the message people in the pews are hearing is deliberately divorced from Jesus’ values. Being a disciple no longer means sitting at Jesus’ feet, hearing his passionate, God-filled words, and trying to live them.
Almost every Christian denomination in the U.S. shows signs of growing diversity as white Christians, once the majority in most mainline Protestant and Catholic denominations, give way to younger members, who tend to be of different races, according to a study released Sept. 6 by the Public Religion Research Institute.
And American evangelicals — once seemingly immune to the decline experienced by their Catholic and mainline Protestant neighbors — are losing numbers and losing them quickly.
Think about it like this: From the time I opened my eyes, I have been told that as a white person, I am superior to people of color ... We are born into a racial hierarchy, and every interaction with media and culture confirms it—our sense that, at a fundamental level, we are superior. And the thing is, it feels good. Even though it contradicts our most basic principles and values. So we know it, but we can never admit it. ... We have set the world up to preserve that internal sense of superiority and also resist challenges to it.
Becoming a Christian who is also white should mean rejecting the ideology of white superiority. Our allegiance to Jesus should enable us to recognize that this ideology is antithetical to the Bible, as is any system, ideology, or narrative that attempts to position one group of people as superior. The gospel should instead position us to draw our identity from a different source.
The thrust of this book is to strengthen our ability to live from our identity in Christ while rejecting the ideology of white superiority. So how do we manage the disorientation that comes with the internal civil war sparked by this struggle? In the same way that it would be naïve for new Christians to presume that conversion comprehensively and immediately removes sin from their lives, so it is naïve to assume that conversion keeps us from drawing our sense of identity from the ideology of white superiority. A good way to think of it is that conversion gives us the ability to begin divesting ourselves from the grips of white superiority.
In the midst of a raging discussion about what it means to be American, it is worthwhile to reflect on the profound ambivalence of American civil religion — perhaps the most powerful force for creating a shared national identity.
In 1967, Robert N. Bellah’s seminal essay, “Civil Religion in America,” created a template for how both the right and the left defined civil religion to cultivate a sense of belonging, particularly in an era of turbulence. During this period of increasing polarization, Bellah’s words are more relevant than ever.
Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission have affirmed ethicist Russell Moore, despite his criticism of President Trump that caused some to consider withholding funds from the denomination.
“For us not to stand in affirmation of the principles that Dr. Moore has espoused would be unfaithful to the mission entrusted to us by the Convention,” wrote the Executive Committee of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in a statement posted on March 20, on the website of the agency that Moore leads.
A survey released last week by the Pew Research Center suggested a very different view of the presidential actions, especially among white Protestant Christians.
There was strong support among white evangelical Protestants, with more than three-quarters (76 percent) saying they approve of the policies outlined in Trump’s order. Among white mainline Protestants, 50 percent approved.
Many Christians now are asking the question Helena Leffingwell of Arlington, Texas – not a pastor or ministry leader, just a regular member of Gateway Church, a nondenominational megachurch – put into words: “How can we see things so differently?”
Most polls don’t matter much. But this one does. A recent Public Religion Research Institute survey has revealed a devastating truth: While about 80 percent of black Christians believe police-involved killings — like the ones that killed Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald, and so many more — are part of a larger pattern of police treatment of African Americans, around 70 percent of white Christians believe the opposite … that they are simply isolated incidents.
#BLACKLIVESMATTER is being touted as our uniquely contemporary civil rights movement. Yet it bears striking resemblance to the black power movement of decades past.
Who can represent #BlackLivesMatter, be involved, or be its leaders? It’s clear that black people can. Can others? And what sorts of black folks? Ben Carson? Cornel West? Two of the three co-founders are queer black women. And what about the role of the faith community, of clergy? The movement’s incredible racial justice work notwithstanding, it puts on display the identity politics that continue to complicate the body politic in contemporary American life.
Jennifer Harvey’s Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation (Eerdmans) is one of the most significant recent books addressing identity and politics, focusing on the intersections of race, anti-racism, and religion. In its pages, Harvey, an American Baptist minister and associate professor of religion at Drake University, deconstructs reconciliation as a paradigm and offers a constructive practical vision of reparations. Harvey’s work in trying to make sense of her own embodied white identity—through her studies at Union Theological Seminary and service in a host of ministry settings addressing racial justice—provides background that allows her to explore multiple racial justice issues, making her book relevant for an intercultural audience.
Harvey’s thesis is clear: Reconciliation as a paradigm has failed to address racial injustice in the U.S., and the church needs to shift to a reparations paradigm to better address our racial situation. In a reconciliation paradigm, racial separation denotes racism, making diversity and togetherness the primary criteria for determining racial righteousness in the church. Issues related to structural justice are significant within visions of reconciliation, but they take a back seat to the ultimate concern of inclusion.
The road to the White House is no longer white and Christian.
President Obama won last week with a voter coalition that was far more racially and religiously diverse than Mitt Romney’s – a phenomenon both predicted in the days before the election and confirmed in the days after.
What the Public Religion Research Institute has concluded since, however, has farther-reaching implications: that relying on white Christian voters will never again spell national electoral success — especially for the GOP.
“The changing religious landscape is presenting a real challenge to the strategy that relied on motivated white Christians, particularly white evangelical Christians,” said PRRI Research Director Dan Cox, referring to a PRRI study released Thursday.