A couple of years ago, I penned a piece, Some Questions I’m Asking While Off to My White Evangelical Church, that got a bit of attention. The piece was the product of growing concerns I had regarding where the racial reconciliation was headed. I had questions of whether we were legitimately seeking reconciliation or was an agenda being imposed on the body of Christ that actually is driving a wedge through it. And now that I’ve seen the movement morph into an anti-racist and social justice paradigm that adopts a worldview that seems to run contrary to a Christian paradigm in doctrine and practice, I stick by every word I wrote in asking the questions I had.
Speaking of which, there has been a lot of discussion on Critical Theory lately especially with the denouncement of whiteness in our churches. Neil Shenvi has done an excellent job in examining this theory and asking if integration is possible. Check out his website here and this hour talk. What I most appreciate about his work is that he doesn’t ignore the issues that Critical Theory is attempting to address given the very lengthy history that the false of construct of race has produced. We can refute Critical Theory as the means to bring correction but we can’t refute the annuls of history whereby the white “superior” race dominated every aspect of culture that subjugated those of the so-called inferior race (namely those of African descent) to a sub-human classification. That white superiority complex also has denegrating views of Jews as well.
So we do have to be honest with history and particularly churches’ complicity in maintaining this false construct. However, one of my concerns is how we imposing the weight of history on to the present as if slavery and Jim Crow are very much enforced and we’ve made no progress at all. Surely, we can recognize changing attitudes that have weakened the hold of racism on institutional and cultural infrastructures.
But that doesn’t negate the fact that there are still issues, particularly with prevailing mindsets that uphold some kind of racial superior mindset and wants to preserve white heritage…against Blacks, Latinos, and even Jews. And yes, even in our churches.
With this latest incident of a synagogue shooting, the facts have exposed that the suspect was a member of an Orthodox Presbyterian Church in which his parents have been prominent members, according to this article. Now some people will wrongly assign blame on Reformed theology and particularly because of the history of conservative Presbyterian churches. Sure, its unfathomable to understand how those who claimed unmitigated submission to the Scripture as final authority could also be so blind with hate and cultural normativity, that the application of the gospel could be so skewed. I do think cultural acceptance had much to do with it, something to ponder when we think about how culture gets into the church today. Nonetheless, doctrine is certainly not to blame, nor can we automatically assume that such hate is being endorsed from the pulpit. Evidence suggests that he was being influenced by groups outside of church.
However, in observing the reactions about this incident, I get the impression that some Christians believe this to be an anomaly that is one of those off-shoot incidences. Because this young man was being influenced by white nationalism rhetoric, we can’t treat it as a problem within our churches. Honestly, I think that’s a naive approach. Yes, it’s wrong to assume that all conservative reformed churches are incubators for white nationalism but it’s equally wrong to assume that its presence does not exist in any reformed church.
Back in 2016, when my denomination, the Presbyterian Church of America, passed Overture 43 (known as the racial reconciliation document) at its 44th General Assembly, an unfortunate incident happened a couple of weeks after this momentous occasion. A kinist group known as Concerned Presbyterians, distributed flyers on the cars at my congregation in Richardson, TX and other PCA churches in the area. The points they attempted to raise were couched in Scripture but displayed some of the most vile, racist attitudes towards non-Whites while advocating for racial purity. In sum, they advocated for the white way of life and heritage, just like slave supporters and Jim Crow endorsers advocated in the past. And let’s be clear, this was a mindset of pastors and whole church congregations during that time.
I’ve seen some brush this off as if these people cannot possibly be in our congregations, let alone committed members that supposedly uphold the Christian faith. But in reality, they are in our conservative reformed congregations and I think we need to face that fact. This mindset is very well alive and if you don’t believe me, google Faith and Heritage. Joe Carter has some thoughts kinism in the church in this TGC article. Check it out.
This leads me to ask some more questions about how we are dealing with attitudes of white superiority, especially for those who have taken a firm posture against anything that smacks of social justice or cultural Marxism, that blessed term that gets bandied about. Have we become so opposed to a social justice agenda that we fear addressing this sin for fear of being on the “wrong” side? Are we so concerned with not capitulating to Critical Theory, Liberation Theology and supposed ills of addressing racial injustice that we end up turning a blind eye to the presence of racial partiality in the church?
Pastors and elders, are you aware of this presence in your congregations and if so, just brush it off as someone’s heart that needs changing? Are congregants with this mindset made so comfortable in your churches that they don’t even have to think about why it’s wrong? Would they even receive any kind of church discipline for unrepented maintenance of these views? Are you so afraid of appearing to not be one of those cultural Marxists that they keep quiet even when kinism and white nationalism maintains a grip on the white heart? Because honestly, if we can call out Critical Theory but not kinism, that’s a problem.
I surely hope that the church of Jesus Christ can keep working towards the kind of unity that our Lord spoke about in John 17. That’s not going to come about with persistent injections of worldly philosophies and superimposed demands. But its also not going to come about unless we can honestly deal with any racially superior mindsets that work against it.
What is meant by white culture? Can you flesh out what you (or what you think others) mean by the term?
I think sometimes that the great efforts we white evangelicals are making to not appear racist, turn out to be the most racist constructs of all. Our tendency is to highlight any person of color that attends our church and denominational events like a great trophy we’ve won. We call it celebrating unity, but it’s really accentuating difference. The danger is the false sense of accomplishment as we check off the racially diverse box on our “we did it” check list.