Well, I’ll get to the point. The other day, Dr. Russell Moore penned this piece in the New York Times, A White Church No More. In it, he argues that the swelling support of Trump by evangelicals belies a white institutional vanguard that in actuality, is far from reality. Rather, evangelicalism is a multicultural array of every tongue, tribe and nation (Rev. 7 anyone?)
The center of gravity for both orthodoxy and evangelism is not among Anglo suburban evangelicals but among African Anglicans and Asian Calvinists and Latin American Pentecostals. The vital core of American evangelicalism today can be found in churches that are multiethnic and increasingly dominated by immigrant communities.
Given the intent of the post, from what I read, was to point out that the white evangelical suburban paradigm that was at the heart of Christianity no longer had a stranglehold on the kind of evangelicalism that finds its support in Trump. If I’ve read his article right, he is denouncing the idea that white evangelicalism speaks for what evangelicalism truly is.
Apparently, some Christians weren’t happy with what he wrote, not so much because he challenged the status quo thinking of the majority culture (though I suspect he probably got negative responses on that end). Rather, it’s because what he wrote wasn’t good enough and did not adequately address the real issues of power structures. It represented a continuation of the problem.
A noteworthy protest came from Christena Cleveland on her Facebook page. She implored her readers to consider the critique of this piece;
To those of you who are enthusiastically sharing Dr. Russell Moore’s NYT piece, please consider my critiques:
1. “A White church no more”? Evangelicalism/Christianity is still white because whites hold all of the power.
2. Black/brown spaces are the center of gravity for Christianity, but WHITE spaces are still the center of Christian POWER.
3.Too little, too late. This “wake-up” call has more to do with the panic around Trump than actual justice.
4.There’s no discussion of power dynamics or call to white Christians to abdicate power.
5. Instead, there’s a call for more multiethnic churches – which are long known to be transmitters of white supremacy.
6. There’s some theological tone-policing. A call for “theologically robust” churches in the midst of diversity is a call for assimilation.
7. The fact that we need a white male leader of a white male denomination to stand up and say this in order for us to cheer IS THE PROBLEM.
8. People of color have been saying this for YEARS — CENTURIES.
9. And no, people of color are not here to bail white Christians out of the mess they got themselves into with Trump.
Now, I agree that some of these are very valid points. But overall, I found the critique troubling. Not because she raises some valid points, but because Moore’s good intentions are completed negated. To her point #7, no, he did not need to speak up for minorities, but from what I read from Moore (and from his other works too), it’s because he is striving to bear another’s burdens, the same thing he is urges his readers to do. And what does he get for his quest for empathy, for his desire to see bridges built and wounds healed. Scorn. Disdain. Rocks thrown. She, like others, couldn’t understand why people were applauding this.
I hate to say but I’ve seen this kind of reaction when white brothers and sisters in Christ attempt to address issues of race from a stand point of seeking understanding and healing. So this is not so much about one voice of protest but a multitude of protests that rise when white Christians try to help, especially when it is with the sincere desire to empathize and bridge the divide.
That doesn’t mean that it will be done perfectly. Let’s be honest, on the scale of not getting it, there is a range. There are those who don’t get it and don’t want to. They think that any discussion of race is capitulation to a leftist progressive agenda that subjects the gospel of Christ to sociological paradigms. On the opposite end of the spectrum are those who demonstrate an incredible insight into the complexities of racism and bias that have undergirded the fabric of American society. They are allies, brothers and sisters in Christ who want nothing more than to see people of color equally embraced, recognized, acknowledged and appreciated for their unique perspective and contributions.
And in between, you have a host of white Christians who really want to understand and some even want to help. Some will bumble. Some will say ridiculous things bound by nothing more that a sheer cluelessness. Some will perpetuate white supremacy without realizing they are holding all to a Euro-centric standard and marginalizing the minority voice. And some, like Dr. Moore, will empathize and try to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. They might not respond perfectly but that is no reason to beat them down because haven’t matched every jot and tittle of racial reconciliation standards.
I propose that when our brothers and sisters at least try to make an attempt, let’s at least acknowledge that there might be some care and empathy involved for the sake of the gospel. And that gets to the other part of my title, #LivingRocks. This past week on NBC’s NCIS, a side theme in the story was #LivingRocks promulgated by quirky forensic scientist, Abby Sciuto (played by Pauley Perrette). The idea of #LivingRocks is to recognize when someone makes a contribution for good. Let them know you appreciate it! Because in reality, there is a swatch of those who don’t really care.
And Scripture has something to say about living rocks.
As you come to him a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Pet. 2:4-5)
Regardless of whatever tragedy has been perpetrated by white people and even in the name of Christianity throughout history, that does not override the biblical call to consider those with whom we are united in Christ. We don’t get a pass on forgiveness. We don’t get to be sociological Pharisees, insisting that our white brothers and sisters in Christ respond perfectly to our paradigms for justice.
And truth is, we’ll never heal if we don’t give our white brothers and sisters in Christ room to ask questions, and to understand and at least try to help. No, not in a capitulation to white supremacy and privilege but in a quest to build unity in Christ. That’s not assimilation but consecration of who we are to be as God’s people.
Incidently, in the midst of writing this out, Jemar Tisby, co-founder of the Reformed African-American, penned some very similar and well written thoughts in Supporting White Christians When They Attempt to Work for Racial Justice. At the heart of his thesis as well as mine, is a call to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, to seek for the things that make for peace for the sake of the Kingdom, the same call that Jesus commanded.