Jurrita Williams often finds herself grieving alone when she sits among the crowded pews of her church.
Following tragic events — like the shooting massacre of nine African-American Christians at a church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, or the more recent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that turned deadly — she waited to hear them mentioned by her white pastor.
Williams, an Alabama native who is attending seminary in Dallas, attends a white church she loves. But while her white brothers and sisters have embraced her, they don’t respond to racial events with the same level of sadness. And, short of a major event, race is rarely discussed.
“Even though they’re Christians, even though they follow Jesus, they separate … the gospel with social issues,” said Williams.
But in the wake of Charlottesville, she and many other black Christians say it’s time for evangelical leaders to address racial discrimination, attacks on undocumented immigrants and police brutality.
“For me, there is a separation between your gospel and my life,” Williams said. “I think we can do both and not separate them from who I believe our Savior is.”
Many evangelical leaders don’t mind discussing issues like abortion or sexuality, but skirt the issue of race, says Nicola Menzie, of Brooklyn, who is editor and publisher of Faithfully Magazine, a digital publication for Christians of color and women. Even though race may be on the “hearts and minds” of people in their congregations, she argues in the current issue that racism is crippling the church.
“Even to simply say, racism is wrong. Racism is counter to the Christian message,” Menzie said.
In addition to acts of violence against people of color, Menzie points to other high-profile events that angered many black Christians. Earlier this summer, the Southern Baptist Convention refused to pass a resolution written by black pastor Dwight McKissic calling white supremacists a toxic menace.
After a public backlash, the convention passed a watered-down version.
“You have these white evangelicals who are in the south who are saying this is our history our heritage,” said Louis DeCaro, a historian with the Nyack Theological Seminary who studies the intersection of race and religion. “Yes, but what you have to understand is your history is entangled with oppression.”
For example, DeCaro says evangelicalism in the United States “has always been mediated through a lens of white self-interest.” That lens allowed evangelicals to enslave blacks, even while trying to evangelize them, he said.
To truly reckon with race, he says, the church has to speak honestly about its history. “That history is tied up in oppression.”
In modern times, DeCaro said white evangelism has become closely intertwined with nationalism, or patriotism — a theme Trump has capitalized on with his slogan Make America Great Again.
Christian Hip-Hop Artist Jason Petty, who uses the name, “Propaganda,” sings about what he — a black Christian man — sees as a disconnect between Christian teachings in the bible and the actions of evangelicals, in his newly-released song, “Cynical:
Where were you when we were dying?
Flying to Trump rallies, sipping the finest wine and
We fought off the Five-Percenters
They called him White Jesus, low-key started to believe ’em
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: WNYC News, Karen Rouse