For my brother in Christ, Paul Steele, and all the others that would take the time out to just listen to the frustrations of a black Christian: I thank you for your heart to hear. The very act of willingness to do that speaks louder than much of what is being done to deal with racial issues in the church. These are my thought on the quiet black exodus from the American church, why I considered myself part of those that wished to distance themselves from evangelicals, and why I changed my mind about it going forward.
This is hard for me to do, so bare with me. I can’t speak for every person of color that follows Christ, but this is my experience. This is me looking at this as objectively as I can, as I know my own prejudices will color the lens I see this to some extent no matter how hard I try to suppress it.
I have never supported Trump. I thought his candidacy was a bad joke until he won the race. Through all the controversy of his campaign, I wanted to give him a chance to prove that the rumors about him were not true, but he’s dropped the ball when it matters too many times. How can I, a black Christian, not take offence to Trump referring to known white supremacists as “very fine people” and black football players that are peacefully protesting as “sons of bitches”?
How did the evangelical church handle this controversy? Well, they didn’t really. I felt like there was not so much as a flinch to the discrimination Trump showed there, and even worse, there was a backlash because people were “disrespecting the flag”. Evangelical God fearing Christians chose to defend threads over the open mourning of black lives senselessly lost. To the black Christian, that’s the equivalent of saying that an inanimate object is more precious than a black life lost. I’m here to tell you that is a sure fire way to alienate minority Christians that want to be part of unifying the church at large.
It really does feel like every time a racially charged incident occurs, the evangelicals are quick to talk about all the issues the black community has: fatherlessness, divorce, rampant abortion, on and on… any and every issue to disregard the matter at hand. To me, this is the equivalent of saying “Shut up and don’t talk about these things”. There’s not really much of a response, just utter dismissal. It hurts, and that’s why people are leaving.
Being a fan of the arts, I noticed first when Lecrae’s artistic direction changed. The more he gravitated towards open grief because of things that happen in the black community, the more his white fans began to reject him and dismiss him as a social justice warrior. Watching all this unfold hurt me too, because I feel the same way he does on some of these issues. The rejection he faced because of his artistic expression effected me too. It just made me feel more alienated from white evangelicals. (*Let’s not get derailed on all his music, because I have issues with some of his positions as well)
We’re at a point where these churches have the opportunity to weep with those that weep and they are dropping the ball … again. One of the most powerful things I’ve heard concerning this came from John Piper. He showed much remorse that the church he attended of the day went about business as usual when MLK was murdered. It was not addressed at all. (I’ll find the link and insert it when I come across it). The very same things are happening today. We’re at point now where we’ve got people on film being murdered and evangelicals still won’t grieve with us. What are we supposed to do?
It’s offensive and hurtful to me to support a man that questions why we allow people from “shithole” countries to come here, as if their lives aren’t valuable because of their conditions. It makes me sick that Trump can talk about Jesus in a positive light during Christmas and say he doesn’t need God’s forgiveness, the former getting applause and the latter met with silence from evangelicals. I take that as an insult to me and my God and it makes me very angry.
Because of all this, I began to distance myself from and openly criticize the white evangelical church (By white evangelical church, I mean the kind of church that is disconnected from what’s going on in minority communities, not all white churches all together). How could I have fellowship and unity with people that don’t understand some of the complexities of the life of a minority and seemingly don’t care to? My answer was simple: I can’t.
I can’t tell you what changed my mind concerning this. Part of me just hates the idea of division in the church. Part of me wants to be one of those willing to have difficult conversations with those that will listen. Part of me feels called to love those that are difficult to love, even of brothers and sisters. Part of me desires to be part of the change I want to see, but it’s so hard to do that when it feels like the toil of reconciliation isn’t being taken seriously.
I have seen the beauty of true reconciliation: churches that embrace people that are disenfranchised and downcast. I’ve seen love and trust blossom when a vulnerability has been exposed. I have seen and felt what it’s like for the body of Christ to come together and truly weep for peace and it’s beautiful. I don’t have any particular moment to look back on, but God has shown me enough of His goodness to continue to openly bare this kind of pain and struggle in an attempt to bring some understanding.