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Dr. Piper: Lecrae & #Facts about “White Evangelicalism”

 

 

I was puzzlingly enthused, encouraged and perplexed by Dr. John Piper’s response to Lecrae’s recent interview on Truth’s Table. Immediately, I realized that Dr. Piper’s response could be so more than that. It could actually be a seed that could sprout into dialogue and action that are both sorely needed, centering on the major question he asks in his blog post: “What are the implications when young black men and women state they are loosening ties with white evangelicalism?” I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ll share my insights in hopes of continuing this incredibly important issue.

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Why was I so enthusiastic about the post? My journey into ‘white evangelicalism’  had largely been a one-way street. Like many young black men and women who have found Jesus and been nurtured in the context of this particular movement, I have imbibed deeply of its fountains. White evangelicalism’s heroes became my own and the institutions they have built, have become those in which we have served. I have been serving with one of the largest of such organizations for 17 years- practically my entire adult life. Young black folks have embraced the teachings, proclaimed them passionately and studied the debates astutely. We have embraced the declarations of the Reformation, the Confessions, and Creeds. We have defended them against any adversary even when they were at odds with our own traditional black churches. Though many in our own communities have criticized and questioned our loyalty when we have raised financial support to join the missionary and church planting movements launched by white evangelical entities completely foreign (and often historically hostile) to our people, we pressed on- determined to serve Jesus and believe in the best of our white brothers and sisters. Our faith in them was often was in the face of evidence to the contrary as we were consistently stereotyped, and misjudged and held to different standards than others. Young, black Christians who hold to the same creedal confessions of evangelicalism rarely experience someone of Dr. Piper’s platform, influence or credibility in white evangelicalism engaging us on our terms. In that context, his listening was very meaningful. Using his platform to comment on what he heard was even more significant. Why? Because we’re used to the exact opposite. Normally, our voices and words have been ignored in dealing with issues of race, justice, and unity in the church. Truth’s Table wasn’t celebrated but attacked when the groundbreaking podcast first aired. The hosts, Ekemini Uwan, Dr. Christina Edmonson, and Michelle Higgins were called out, not called upon to share their insights. Similarly, Jemar Tisby, who co-hosts the Pass The Mic podcast has been castigated for speaking on racial issues. Even someone like Dr. Eric Mason, with all the bona fides of Dallas Theological Seminary, Acts 29, books and countless other ‘white evangelical’ credentials still finds himself wondering aloud why people question his loyalty to the Gospel when talks about race. I’m grateful that Dr. Piper broke from this trend and actually listened because white evangelicalism seldom has listened to us.


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Why was I encouraged? When the rare moment occurs that those of us “young black women and men” experience engagement from ‘white evangelicalism’ it is often the type that is dismissive. If we had a dollar for every time someone chastised us to just “focus on the gospel” when we bring up the significance of doing anti-racism work, none of us would have to raise support anymore. Dr. Piper not only listened in on the conversation, but he chose to emphasize that which he was thankful and hopeful for instead of being critical. That was very encouraging especially because he didn’t necessarily agree with all that he heard or read … or even understand it. But he offered Lecrae enough respect to listen and celebrate what he did grasp. That gave me hope. He set a tone that makes it more likely that others will follow suit because he is a respected elder in the tribe.

Why was I perplexed? I am grateful that Dr. Piper spent his personal capital to essentially support Lecrae on his blog but found it puzzling he pushed back on the term “white evangelicalism”  commenting it “puts too many whites in bed together” and therein lies my perplexion. Young black women and men didn’t put white evangelicals in bed together … they put themselves there! Ironically, Lecrae addresses this in “FACTS”, the second track on his new album, All Things Come Together:

They say, “‘Crae, you so divisive, shouldn’t be a black church”

I say “Do the math, segregation started that first!”

Doctrinally speaking, the Barna Group has both clarified and described the murkiness in how the term “Evangelicalism” is used. Broadly speaking, this Wikipedia definition is helpful: Evangelicalism “is a worldwide, trans-denominational movement within Protestant Christianity which maintains the belief that the essence of the gospel consists of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ‘s atonement.”[1]

What about the white evangelicalism? White evangelicalism is real and is rooted in the historical heresy of white supremacy. One can not discuss the American church without discussing slavery, segregation, and racism. It was St. George’s Methodist Church in Philadelphia that sinfully insisted on segregating its congregation. Richard Allen, refusing to endure the false doctrine of white supremacy, left the segregated ‘fellowship’ and started the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1789. It was the Southern Baptist Convention which separated from the Triennial Convention in 1844 rather than turn away from its members’ idol of slavery. The National Baptist Convention started in 1866 by Black Baptists, who rejected this false teaching and practice, is the reaction to this idolatrous racism. And of course, it was the white Christian leaders who strongly criticized Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for demanding that the doctrine of Imago Dei be lived out in this nations laws, practices and churches. It was to them that he wrote the Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Time does not permit us to detail how “white flight”, targeted marketing, and the rejection of those who speak about racism have all contributed to the creation of ‘white evangelicalism’. The racial divide in the church is not only a historical vestige of slavery, but a result of continued practices that marginalize people of color in the Christian community. White evangelicalism has been cultivated and crafted to be just that. It’s not a historical accident. Those people of color who are passionate about racial justice who stay among this tribe do so in spite of it. They stay affiliated supremely aware they must carefully eat the meat of epistemological fidelity and spit out the bones of ethical infidelity and racism, and this is a particularly bony fish. The movement that often syncretizes American exceptionalism and uncritical patriotism with what it means to be Christian is White Evangelicalism. The movement that openly speculated that the first black president was the anti-Christ is White Evangelicalism. The movement that overwhelmingly was silent when a presidential candidate they endorsed race-baited and pandered to white supremacists is White Evangelicalism. The movement that ignores issues of justice and the crisis that black people are suffering at higher rates than whites in just about every measurable way is White Evangelicalism. It’s a movement that too often neglects to identify the socio-economic realities that our Scriptures clearly link with injustice and therefore is one that many of us have decided to discontinue identification with.

Those people of color who are passionate about racial justice who stay among this tribe do so in spite of it. But because it is hyper-individualism, white evangelicalism is predictably unaware of itself or of its importance.

What’s a recognized global leader in ‘white evangelicalism’ to do? I celebrate Dr. Piper’s post. He thought the sentiments of what Lecrae shared on Truth’s Table was worth celebrating and pondering. But more needs to be done. White Christians like Dr. Piper must press into this issue of “white evangelicalism”. If dynamic young African American Christian leaders are saying that the air is so toxic in this movement that they need to leave, perhaps an exploration and some type of assessment of their complaints are warranted? I implore anyone confused about the term ‘white evangelicalism’ and the reasons why many of us are disillusioned by it to look into history, learn and tell that story. Then change the story. Don’t just dismiss it, but explore it. It has already been reported that part of the reason for Lecrae’s decline in sales is because he is tackling issues of race and justice. (Album Sales is only one measure of success and this album has critical acclaim and unprecedented reach, it’s still a tangible indicator of Lecrae’s point). If you’re a white evangelical, buy the album, encourage others to do the same.

Still confused about the term ‘white evangelicalism’ and the reasons why many are disillusioned by it? Learn the history, tell that story, then change the story. Don’t dismiss it, explore it. (Recommended: books like Divided By Faith and Doctrine and Race) I say this as one who respects and appreciates Dr. Piper and not as a cynical critic. Lecrae and so many of others who also have given up attempting to scale the wall of white evangelicalism acceptance deserve more than thankfulness that they are still in the faith. They deserve advocacy from those on the other side of that wall. They are the Hellenistic Jewish widows with a complaint about the distribution of dignity and justice in Acts 6. Will white evangelical leaders, like the disciples did, call together those under their influence and see what must be done? If things don’t change, then more will continue to look for other places to be seen and heard because their calling is bigger than the confines of ‘white evangelicalism’. But wouldn’t it be awesome if white evangelicals actually tore down the walls of their own structures?

 

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58 thoughts on “Dr. Piper: Lecrae & #Facts about “White Evangelicalism”

  1. Hey brother, I really appreciate this post. It keeps the conversation moving, and in a charitable manner. I’m grateful for responses like this. I suppose my only critique is that when Dr. Piper says the term “white evangelicalism” puts too many whites in bed together, I think he means there are white Christians that confess salvation by grace through faith in Jesus’ atonement (which means they are technically defined as evangelicals), but don’t share the same views on race and oppression as many other white evangelicals. The term “white evangelical” in current conversations on race has more often than not, in my experience, been used in a derogatory sense. It seems that being a white evangelical means you have directly contributed to oppression and are currently opposing attempts to understand the plight of African Americans. That being said, what category would a white Christian that holds to evangelical views but vehemently opposes racism, systemic injustice and inequality fit into? I certainly don’t want to be lumped in with “white evangelicals” if it means I am in the same bed as those who don’t want to listen to, or learn from my black brothers and sisters. I am white, yes. But I wasn’t saved into, nor do I believe I am complying with the ignorance of, “white evangelicals.” I was saved and discipled in a multi-ethnic church, with multi-ethnic leadership, and “whiteness” wasn’t an unspoken value that gave you more influence. Do I, like you mentioned in this article, benefit from the teaching and leadership of prominent white leaders? Yes. Of course I do. But given the way white evangelicals are being portrayed in conversations, I try to stay away from the term “evangelical” altogether these days. But I think Dr. Piper is trying to say there are men like me out there. We are white, and technically evangelical, but we aren’t all on the same page when it comes to race in America. Can you help me understand this a little more, brother?

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    • thanks for your thoughtful question. I actually just added some clarification in the last section which hopefully teases this out more. Part of the implications of the Hebraic understanding of corporate sin/injustice is that people who aren’t directly responsible for sin are still responsible for confessing, repenting of and rectifying that brokenness. We see this with the Fall. We can’t say “Adam did that not me”. Perhaps a more current example is the antebellum period. The biblical response to benefiting from 250 years of free labor would have been restitution (think Zaccheus or David to Mephibosheth). When Isaiah (Isaiah 6) and the other prophets confess sin they don’t just confess their own but that of their people. Because white evangelicalism has been created and continually sustained, it’s not enough to not participate, but actively work to dismantle it. In the meantime, when people are lumped in who haven’t directly participated in the evils of it, I hope it will bring the Isaiah like respond “I’m of a people of unclean lips”. Similarly to how I respond when people have been hurt by the church. I don’t say “Well, that wasn’t me”. I try to empathize and say “I’m sorry you experienced that. We must do better. Here are ways I’ll try to be part of the solution and not the problem.”

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      • dcgleaton says:

        Thank you for your thoughtful response to @Joseph_Turner’s comment above. As I was reading his comment, I totally identified with his perspectivd. Your response is very helpful and made it finally “click” for me. Thank you for your patience and commitment to helping others understand!

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      • Kara says:

        excellent article and gracious response. I especially like how you find common ground with your last few lines:
        Similarly to how I respond when people have been hurt by the church. I don’t say “Well, that wasn’t me”. I try to empathize and say “I’m sorry you experienced that. We must do better. Here are ways I’ll try to be part of the solution and not the problem.”

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  2. Thank you, Rasool. James Baldwin helps me a ton deconstructing “whiteness” – it’s a continual repentance. If I could suggest something by Baldwin other white Christians might find helpful, it would be his 1964 essay “The White Problem” and his 1984 essay “On Being White…and Other Lies.” Both can be found in The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings, ed. Randall Kenan (Vintage, 2010).

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    • Thanks Matthew for the question. Acts 6 serves as the biblical model I see for how to respond. 1) There was a complaint from the minority of social injustice. 2) The disciples heard that complaint. 3) They decided to fix the problem. 4) They organized a gathering to hear the grievances directly, and work toward solutions. 5) Built into this step is repentance (confession and turning away from sin). 6) They empowered the offended community to select new leadership to distribute the assistance. 7) The Hellenistic Jews then appointed Hellenistic Jews to do he work. 8) The people rejoiced 9) and the Gospel spread.
      Our context:
      1) Complaints have been expressed.
      2) Listen to the complaints by (listening to Lecrae’s album, the Truth’s Table Podcast, Pass the Mic, and others writing and rapping about their pain and challenges)
      3) Process what these complaints mean and really take them in.
      4) Decide to fix the problem.
      5) Confess and repent.
      6) Look for ways to empower the offended community
      7) Encourage the empowerment of those disadvantaged by the problem (and realize some of that empowerment will be realized in their own spaces)
      😎 Rejoice
      9) Repeat knowing the Gospel is being spread

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      • Thank you.

        I have listened to these things, but I am having trouble making out what kind of fixes need to be made, to be honest.

        I have minority friends and want to fix the problem, yet I don’t know what I’m being asked to do. Indeed, pursue having a minority in leadership in the church. Yes, have each other over for dinners. Go to minority neighborhoods and buy goods from the groceries and small businesses.

        Are there other tangible things white evangelicals can do? Is there more that is being asked of us?

        Thank you for fielding these honest and searching questions. I am merely trying to be faithful to my context and for how grace and mercy can be expressed in my life.

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      • Kara says:

        great breakdown! And you mentioned one specific application point of your (6) above is to buy Lecrae’s album. Subscribing to blogs and podcasts, buy books, donate to organizations and individuals who work to directly or indirectly counter systems which sustain injustice. Tell me more ideas, or more specific recommendations.

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  3. wkstinger says:

    I appreciate the stances of you, Lecrae and Dr. Piper. I respect greatly all of you and thank you for your boldness. I am white and trying to better understand and shape my view on the issues of racism today. I think what a majority of white Christians including myself have a hard time overcoming privately is the issue of restitution that you addressed. Obviously my ancestors 200 years ago oppressed and mistreated your ancestors, no one would deny that. But it appears by your responses that I am not only being held accountable for their actions (before I was alive) but being asked to make restitution for their actions. From my perspective, I would say that very much has been done in my lifetime by a predominantly white society to embrace and empower positive change toward our black brothers and sisters. I and many other white evangelicals that are being demonized are charging boldly into our inner cities investing our time and resources to bring about positive change in the best way we know how to. So you’re seeing resentment and hostility build as many of us that truly do not have any hatred in their heart toward people of color being lambasted daily and labeled racist for not agreeing with and endorsing certain African American issues that we may not agree with. As an example, I disagree with many of the non-biblical principles endorsed by President Obama (abortion, homosexuality, higher taxes, etc) that have nothing to do with him being white or black, but I am lumped into a grouping that is assumed “you just don’t like him b/c he is black”. Another example NFL millionare employees being asked to stand by their employer being compared to slaves and their masters. So would love to hear your feedback because I honestly want to understand, but I also want you to understand where many of us (whites) are coming from as well.

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    • Thanks for your honest response. It’s really critical to share these things if someone wants to grow in understanding and empathy. I’ll try to respond to each concern quickly. 1) We “have a hard time overcoming privately the issue of restitution”. There are a couple points here. The first is that I don’t think the issue of historic and systemic sin was ever meant to be ‘overcome privately’. The slave was stolen in public, whipped in public, and her labor exploited in public. When I read the accounts of Nehemiah or Zaccheus, I see public expressions, not private ones. The desire to not deal with the guilt and shame of systemic racism is what often prompts the “private”. Doing it in privately also removes the very restorative act of hearing from those who were oppressed. Let our stories and our pain shape your understanding of what needs to be restored (that’s how it works in our legal system). 2) Sadly, we can’t even get to restitution yet because many white Americans refuse to first acknowledge the extent of what happened. Slavery was abolished in the USA with the 13th Amendment (by a slim margin by the way) in 1865. That was 152 years ago, not 200. Those extra 48 years matter. But your statement assumes the oppression ended with emancipation. Quick question: Do you think that in 1865 reparations for the previous 250 years of forced labor would have been a biblical application of injustice? But even after 1865, study the Black Codes, peonage, and Jim Crow Laws. The exploitation of Black people and disenfranchisement continued within the legal framework of the United States for an additional 100 years when the Civil Rights Act (1960), Voting Rights Act (1965) and Fair Housing Act (1968) were passed. My grandparents and parents were legally barred from going to the good public schools in their neighborhoods, they couldn’t acquire wealth through building equity in houses, nor attend the best colleges and universities. That was 50 years ago (and in many places like Boston fought well into the 70’s). But my post wasn’t referring to reparations or restitution. It was referring to the very biblical principle of corporate responsibility for corporate sin. Why did the prophet Isaiah and many others confess the sins of their people? Because God has historically dealt with his people corporately not just individually (remember the battle of Ai in Judges)? 4) “From my perspective” – I covered this a bit in #1, but just to reiterate, from a biblical standpoint, appropriate conciliation between groups is not determined by the perspective of the party who has been part of the offending. But also the offended party. Perhaps the things that have been done in inner cities are not viewed as restorative to those “black brothers and sisters”. “5) White evangelicals are being demonized” – My brother, I can only assume you mean to say you felt that way in my post. If so I would encourage you to read it again. I serve in a white evangelical institution and clearly expressed my esteem for Dr. John Piper. I only demonize demons. Our battle is not against flesh and blood. But at the same time in order to heal, surgeons have to cut. 6)
      “you’re seeing resentment build …” we are quite aware that the resentment is building. Not endorsing President Obama is not a litmus test of racism for anyone I know. That wasn’t the problem I posted. It was the accusation that he was “the Anti-Christ”. Though I didn’t agree with Kaepernick’s approach to protest, I would just try to help you to see that the fundamental problem here is “Do I believe there is a crisis and gross injustice in the criminal justice system that has racialized outcomes?” You probably don’t. But the players do. In this case, they would be comparable to Queen Esther who chose not to allow her privileged position of affluence and wealth cause her to ignore the plight of her people. The black community has a much stronger sense of community so even if they aren’t personally victims they feel a corporate responsibility. If, they are right, (just for the sake of argument let’s say they are), then the preoccupation with their protest instead of outrage over the injustice is comparable to way slave masters ignored the greater injustice of their slaveholding but focused on the rule-breaking of their slaves and felt they had to keep them in line. Again, I’m not advocating that one agree with their approach, but I just wanted to help you understand why that analogy would be drawn. Space doesn’t permit me to explain how white supremacy, privilege, and stereotyping works but I’ll just say that it typically works by creating imbalanced scales in which the standards of a black person are much different than a white person. It is possible to unknowingly be influenced by bias though you aren’t aware of it. I actually think it’s almost unavoidable … especially if you are not aware of these biases. It’s kinda like complaining after you move from one place to another that it’s cold outside. If you take out the factor that you grew up in Florida and just moved to Canada, it would just seem obvious that the weather is unbearable, but it is directly tied to your way of looking at the world and what was normal (80 degree weather). Last thing, you mentioned, “you also want me to understand where many whites are coming from”. Part of the experience we were trying to share is that many of us who have chosen to engage with white evangelicalism KNOW where you’re coming from. We are immersed in the assumptions, and biases of white evangelicalism. I could have a doctorate degree in it. What I think is more salient to this discussion is can you see where you are coming from? I don’t say that in a trite or argumentative way, but just in a way that is trying to tell a fish what water is. White supremacy and the privilege resulting from it is hard to spot when you are the “normal” that it asserts as normal. It takes the person considered “abnormal” to help the “normal” person see “um, you’re not ‘normative’ just privileged. Thanks for asking. Hope that helps!

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  4. Thanks for the thoughtful response, brother. I THINK I see where you are coming from, although I don’t want to assume too much.

    I certainly don’t try to distance myself from white evangelicalis when it comes to embracing how the evils of the past (and present) have affected African Americans and other minorities. I wholeheartedly agree that whites in our country, especially Christians, need to diligently seek to understand the degree to which blacks have been disadvantaged and dehumanized in our country because of the history and presence of oppression. I suppose I’m simply saying the label “white evangelical” is becoming a derogatory term in many dialogues I see on social media, and it typically generalizes or characterizes white Christians as all holding the same views. It often assumes the worst about white Christians, and eclipses the efforts of those who are trying to actively dismantle the presuppositions, prejudices and worldviews of their white peers who don’t see a problem. To say that all white Christians in America now belong to the institution that created, and to this day, sustains oppression of blacks is unfair, in my opinion. I think this lacks a robust theological view of the role of the atonement of Jesus as it relates to the absolution of sin, the history and role of EACH local church (as it’s own institution) in how issues of race have been handled, and many other things that, in my opinion, supersede that of societal and cultural systems. Certainly the local church is situated in the broader context of society, and contributes to the shape of that society, but I think just as Christ deals with His church at local level, we might consider that a little more before sweeping all white Christians into broad categories and assuming all share the same degree of culpability.

    I would also add, just as a charitable critique of what has become a broadly held view of corporate sin, I think we need to be careful with how we apply that theological view to cultural and societal structures of systemic oppression. The original sin of Adam resulted in a curse for all mankind. Hostility toward God is now part of human nature. I can’t say “I didn’t have anything to do with Adam’s sin,” because in my unregenerate or unrepentant state, I myself am hostile toward God. Adam’s sin brought about a curse for every human that would ever walk the face of the Earth, which is different than oppression brought about by a culture or society of sinful people. Although I didn’t commit the original sin of Adam, I actively commit that sin on a regular basis, and I need to repent for that.

    As far as the Hebraic understanding of corporate sin and restitution is concerned, I think we have to be careful not to apply the ethics of a theocratic monarchy that existed in the Old Covenant to “white evangelicals” in America. The Children of Israel were God’s covenant people and He had a particular covenantal relationship with them. He collectively called them to worship and walk in a certain manner, and when they chose to rebel, He rightly and justly held them all accountable for the sins of one another. If they broke His covenant, He held them corporately responsible. I have seen the idolatry of Achan in Joshua 7 used to describe this many times. Achan indeed held onto the “devoted things” but the Scriptures make it clear that he simply represented the broader idolatry of God’s people. So God rightly and justly held them all accountable for their collective idolatry.

    Fast forward to the New Covenant and the birth of the local church. The discipline and corporate accountability God brings to His New Covenant people aren’t broadly applied to one universal (catholic) church. Accountability happens at a local level, inside the boundaries of a local church that is governed by Holy Spirit-appointed elders. Notice Paul doesn’t bring the sins of the Corinthians to the Galatians. Nor does Jesus condemn the church at Philadelphia for the sins of the church of Laodecia. The concept of corporate sin and responsibility shifts in the New Testament. The people of God transform from being a nation of people with a theocratic government with prophets, priests and kings (Israel) to scattered bodies of people with Jesus as THE Prophet, Priest and King (the Church). On a universal level, all christians in America are united with God’s people from every tribe, nation and tongue. American Christians, black and white, have been irrevocably united into God’s new-humanity that spans across time and geographic boundaries. In the eyes of God, He has one people, and those people are scattered into thousands of local expressions, each with their own structures of authority and accountability. Slavery and segregation may have separated Christians in America from one another, but not from Christ. To then say that corporate sin is the same for the Children of Israel as it is for the New Covenant church is to some degree, a mishandling of biblical theology. If I am corporately responsible for the sins of my white Christian brothers from a decades ago (or even today), am I also responsible for the sins of my brothers and sisters in other countries that may have participated in corporate evils? If the answer is no, what makes that so? Is it because the corporate sin of white evangelicals was conducted by whites, and I’m white? Is race then what makes me corporately accountable? Or is it because they were American evangelicals, and I’m an American? Is it then my nationality that makes me corporately accountable. If you say it’s because “white evangelicalism” is an institution created by white Christians and therefore now all white Christians in America are collectively responsible, then are you saying that despite my unique position in Christ and in my local church, I’m still responsible for the actions of a social construct of oppression that I didn’t participate in building, and I have no choice but to belong to it because of my color? Do you not see that as a form of bondage? There is a fine line between responsibility and bondage here. If I can’t escape something simply because of my race that seems like another form of bondage to me. I am not arguing that I haven’t benefited from the system of oppression as a white person, but how can I be responsible for it’s creation and existence. I benefit from lots of things I haven’t contributed to building or sustaining. I understand that is called privilege, and again, I’m not arguing against that. My issue is with the concept of broad generalizations and corporate accountability. Are then all people groups who have institutional sin in their heritage now responsible for owning it? And it is just historic, or current? What of the Congolese and Sudanese who still have slaves? Are all Sudanese Christians held accountable for the oppression of slaves in their own country, even though they have nothing to do with it? What about nations with other forms of corporate evil in their heritage… the Japanese, the Germans, the Indians, the Saudi Arabians… Are the Christians there all responsible for the corporate evils in their national heritage? How far back does the responsibility go… to the forming of the nation… to the forming of the system of oppression? What role does the blood of Jesus and His atoning work play in this for Christians in such places? I hope you see what I’m getting at here. This is muddy water we are swimming in.

    All of this to say, I think whites in America need to understand and own the privilege we enjoy and take active steps to bring about equality. I even understand grieving for the sins of whites, and white Christians in particular. But as far as being a member of Jesus’ blood bought bride is concerned, the sins of other white people in my country can’t be added to my debt, can they?. The sins of Adam were imputed to me because I was born human. Surely the sins of white people who promote oppression aren’t imputed to me just because I was born white, or American? I can grieve what they did, call it out and try to abolish it where it still exists. But I don’t think I can be held corporately responsible for it… Not theologically, at least. White evangelicals in our country certainly have a dark past, and I’m angry and grieved about it. This is why I have a hard time being lunped into the pejorative term “white evangelical.” I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but white evangelicals are kind of being treated like a Piñata right now. I have seen many angry and uncharitable things said and assumed about ALL white Christians because of the actions of SOME white Christians. While I understand blacks have suffered far more than whites in our country ever have or ever will, I just want us to be careful of assumptions and generalizations. When used pejoratively, the term “white evaneglical” does put all of us in the same bed together, and I don’t think that’s just either.

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    • And just to be clear, brother. I mean all of the above questions with the utmost respect for you and what you laid out in your post. Given all of the ill-intent being spread on the internet today, I want to make sure I clarified that. I’m grateful for you and your posture towards everyone that has commented on your blog. I’m not digging my heals in the ground here. I just want to make sure we are careful when handling principles of federal theology and talking about corporate evil and responsibility for sin. It’s not as easy as we often make it to extrapolate Israel under the law to christians and culture today, especially given the person of work of Jesus and the role of the local church in the Kingdom of God. There is a lot of nuance to work through. Again, thank you for being so charitable and writing such a thoughtful piece. Bless you, brother.

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      • marble says:

        I have really appreciated the level of dialogue taking place in these comments – and what feels like open and honest and vulnerable communication. The questions you raise, Mr. Turner, are important ones, and I look forward to seeing Mr. Berry’s thoughts on them. I’ve also wondered just how helpful the category of victim continues to be to us in the body of Christ. Perhaps if we view this more carefully through the analogy Paul gives us AS the body of Christ, rather than continuing to host the possibility (or implied threat) of separation at the local level?

        I think one difficulty might lie in what we see as unity-makers. Our ultimate unity is to be in Christ, not in the color of our skin, the culture of our birth, the nation of our passport. . . . In Christ, then, it seems we ought to have some unity with where and when we are – in other words: the here and now.

        To that end, we can repent of current sin. Where race is concerned, it appears that all races can now repent of some degree of racial dislike (at least) towards other races. I recognize that this might be objectionable along the same lines that the claim that “All Lives Matter” is objectionable to those who wish to emphasize that Black Lives Matter.

        Having attempted to do away with race as a significant factor in one’s identity as a person (leaving aside for the moment whether or not that effort has failed) does focusing on race – but now on the black race rather than the white – not put us in danger of being C.S. Lewis’ drunken man who falls off one side of the horse and climbs back on, only to fall off the other side?

        I am genuinely perplexed that it is offensive to have a white student union, for example, but it is not offensive to have a black student union. It is offensive to have a men’s club, but not to have a women’s club. In that regard, it seems as if certain identities seek to retain those identifying features, while yet demanding that the ‘other’ give up their identity, which is seen as being in opposition (and as having had ‘privilege’) – if that makes sense. The identities that are being disavowed – white, male, heterosexual – however, will undoubtedly start to feel a sense of resentment. Is it enough to have an identity in Christ? Certainly. But if that is so for the white and the male, it is also so for the black and the female. Must we disavow the white male to affirm the black male? I don’t think so.

        Perhaps we could consider accepting our identity as God has made us: as black, red, white, yellow – whatever color – and whatever sex. We should not demand that all be identical – but understand that, before God, we are “equal”, as God does not show favoritism. His Word demands that we accept the [godly] foreigner, as we were once foreigners. I don’t believe that he demands that a people turn themselves inside-out to try and become as nothing, so that the foreigner won’t feel foreign. . . .

        Having lived as foreigner in a foreign land, I know a little of what that’s like. . . . Perhaps we will never know what the ‘other’ experiences, but I certainly do appreciate this attempt to communicate across the divide.

        Blessings to all – and may our Father guide our talk! ‘Hinneh mah tov u-mah naim shevet achim gam yachad’. . . . (Psalm 133:1)

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      • Thanks for the reply. You raised the question above: “Perhaps if we view this more carefully through the analogy Paul gives us AS the body of Christ, rather than continuing to host the possibility (or implied threat) of separation at the local level?” … The implication is that someone “we” are not carefully viewing the analogy of ‘the body of Christ’ when “we” talk about race. You imply that black people have swung to the extreme of emphasizing race too much as a part of our identity. And not only have we swung too far over, but we have also, in your perspective, hypocritically disavow the ‘white, male heterosexual’ identity. “You ask “must we disavow the white male to affirm the black male?” These are important questions, in part because they are built on commonly held false assumptions. Ironically, the Body of Christ analogy is introduced in 1 Corinthians 12 precisely to respond to discrimination, privilege, and superiority complexes. In the case of the Corinthians, they prioritized sign gifts (prophesy and tongues) over other gifts. This false sense of superiority resulted in painful divisions in the church. He reminds them that we need all the parts of the Body to be complete, and whole. That’s EXACTLY what I’m attempting to do in this post. This post is an honest observation that white evangelicals tend to be unaware of the power, privilege, and superiority that is so damaging to people of color that they are needing to reconsider our investment in it in order to stay true to the Gospel similar to how Martin Luther reconsidered his position (but first tried to *reform* the Catholic church to stay true to the gospel or how Richard Allen, who first tried to *reform* the Methodists before departing from them to stay true to the Gospel or how Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had to abandon his efforts to *reform* the racism in the evangelical church in order to continue the Kingdom agenda (innate in the Gospel) of proclaiming liberty to the captive. You misunderstand the intentions and goals of this work if you think that it isn’t about seeking unity in the Body of Christ. But part of the reason you misunderstand is because you are not doing what Peter and the disciples did in Acts 6. Observe how they respond to the grievance from the Hellenistic Jews when they complained: “Hey, our widows are being left out of the distribution by the Hebraic Jews!!!” They didn’t say “You’re identity in Christ should be enough.” Or “Why is it okay to be a Hellenistic Jew but not a Hebraic Jew with privilege?” or “Why do widows lives matter, do you know how hard my life is as an apostle?” They heard the cries for justice and then decided to empower leaders of the Hellenistic Jews to do the job that hadn’t been done properly. My plea to you is that you would listen more and preach at us less. Some of the questions you have come from the fact that you simply don’t know what it’s like to be black in America. (And no, being overseas in a world shaped by white supremacy doesn’t give that perspective). Trust me on this. You need to hear what it’s like and assume for a minute there are some insights you can learn that you don’t naturally have. That is the beginning of laying aside privilege for the sake of the Gospel. Last thing: No one is asking anyone to disavow being a white male. What we are submitting to you is that the ‘white’ identity was forged by racist ideology that gave “whiteness” power and meaning. Because of that, it’s a problematic identity. “Black” identity was forged as a way to reject the unbiblical and racist idea of “whiteness” to reclaim what it means to be made in the image of God in a culture that blatantly told you “You are not fully human because of who you are black”. For over 200 years every student club at my alma mater, like almost every other university in America was a “white student club”. Whiteness was an identity used to keep people out. Because of the privilege you still experience, many of these clubs are still “white student clubs”. To then create an explicit “white student club” would be anachronistic, unaware and reactionary, because it is oblivious to the fact that organizing around race is something that was done to disadvantage people of color. But again, my appeal to you is to listen to those of us who have a complaint. Try to walk a mile in our shoes. Maybe you’ll understand something in a new way.

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      • Mr. Berry,
        I’d love to hear you address the Scriptures that Joseph Turner brought up, and that he disagrees with how you have handled them. Specifically, I’d love to hear you more clearly spell out the issue of collective responsibility (which, I take to mean that we are all, individually responsible within a broad group with shared guilt) under Adam versus our collective responsibility under white, racist founders of modern evangelical institutions, assuming. We are guilty in Adam, not in someone else’s racism, just because we inherited some of the resulting privileges, right? That’s not the sort of restitution that Zaccheus and Mephibosheth were doing, is it?

        In Acts 6, the concerns of the widows was a very immediate and specific grievance against the local church, and after hearing the case, was affirmed by the leaders and moved toward a resolution. From what I understand some fellow white evangelical friends of mine, isn’t that quite different than this situation? In this case, they feel like we are being called to bring restitution to grievances that are not immediate (we did not commit them), not aimed at the local church (but rather, to “white evangelicals”), and told to affirm these grievances, after hearing as much as we can hear and still being unable to affirm them. But, they say was must “listen more” and thus provide restitution.

        I’m honestly trying to understand, and I ask in total respect. I appreciate the tone and manner of this blog and subsequent dialogue. I’d love to hear your specific responses to those passages that I and that Joseph Turner referenced above.

        Thanks for your help, brother!

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      • Hi Scott, I just replied to Joseph’s comments at length and much of your questions are answered there. I will say this: the same blinders that allowed the scriptures to be distorted to support white supremacy are embedded in the hermeneutic assumptions and tools for interpretation that many of us have been exposed to. I would encourage you to ask the question many of us of color have wrestled with: Why did those like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield and too many other theologians too many to name miss it? How does your current approach to biblical interpretation and application respond to the issues of slavery and segregation? I have agreed with Dr. Carl Ellis’s conclusion (currently faculty at RTS) that the biblical tools developed and taught in white evangelicalism are inadequate to understand how the Scriptures reveal social justice is a key component to the Kingdom of God and the Gospel. I chose these texts to reveal the ethical principle they reveal. I think that approach has precedent in the Scriptures. So the point is how the disciples responded to grievance. They listened and heard. People of color usually receive pushback and challenge instead of engaged listening. Imagine if your daughter came to you crying because her big sister punched her in the face. You can see the whelp on her cheek. Her big sister complains she hit her because the little sister called her a name. Isn’t the immediate issue the injury, not an investigation on what exactly happened? Sadly, when we complain of our injury, we tend to get cross-examination instead of empathy and understanding. I’m not just talking about ‘restitution’. We are currently getting punched in the face by many who are under the umbrella of white evangelicalism on a regular basis. It’s an umbrella by the way that white evangelicals have constructed and continues to construct and then what to shed now that the implications of their creation have been identified and named. A quick glance at the comments will reveal the second trauma of having to explain and defend the fact that we’ve been traumatized. A helpful response I encourage you and others to have is to actually declare and proclaim biblical responses you find to the issues of racism we are currently experiencing. Perhaps, that process can result in some greater discovery. This book deals with some of what I’m referring to: https://www.amazon.com/Misreading-Scripture-Western-Eyes-Understand/dp/1522692908

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    • Hi Joseph, thanks for your thoughtful questions and comments. I’m replying here to both messages. First, I was using Adam and Achan as examples in a less technical sense than you are when you make distinctions of federal headship or the covenantal relationship Israel experienced with YHWH. The main point is that corporate responsibility is not foreign to a biblical expression of confession (as we see with Nehemiah and Isaiah as well). I think the bigger point here is that Western theology is influenced significantly by the individualism that is foreign to the Hebraic contexts. So I wasn’t appealing to covenantal theology as such, but the collective imagination that makes the covenant experienced as a corporate phenomenon make sense. We see this throughout the world in honor/shame cultures. And it is why the Japanese apologized for Pearl Harbor, and African presidents have confessed their role in the slave trade and called upon the tribal leaders to do the same. Each of these circumstances are somewhat different, but bear with me for a second. The point is that most cultures of the world recognize the value and need for corporate confession, and I believe the New Testament also reflects that (for example, the whole of the seven churches were referenced in Revelation not just individuals in that church). We often talk about the need for us to get better even when there are individuals that may be doing just fine. So I wasn’t trying to apply the implications of “theocratic monarchy” to the church at all, just more of a consideration that in many cultures it is quite appropriate for groups to realize “we have a problem” even if our church in particular in a specific location didn’t participate. I don’t think this concept is foreign to the New Testament or how God relates to his people either. 2) “White evangelicalism”. You raised an interesting point about the extent of ‘corporate’ or communal responsibility and this perhaps will make the first point a bit clearer. Evangelicalism, as I defined in the blog, has clear historical roots as does its pattern of racism: past and present. So for example, let’s say you’re a Southern Baptist. You’re part of a denomination that exists because it broke off from the Triennial Convention because it justified slavery on the deepest racist grounds. When slavery was abolished, there was no repentance from SBC churches. There was a clear acceptance of white supremacist ideology that existed and nurtured Jim Crow laws and segregation. The denomination as a whole, and largely as individual churches, were racist. When segregation was made illegal, there was no repentance, only attempts to get around the law. Finally, in 1995, the SBC formally apologized for slavery (though not segregation). Why would the denomination have apologized? Because it recognized its very existence as an institution, as well as its culture and policies were oppressive. The SBC is the largest denomination in the nation. It’s an evangelical denomination. And it’s not alone. The Presbyterian Church in America issued a public confession for its sinful racism though it wasn’t officially organized until 1971. They still acknowledged the fact that their leaders and parishioners largely supported racism. Why did they do that? Because they understood the importance of corporately confessing and repenting sin. In these cases, the link between supporting racism can be directly tied to restitution. For example, the SBC was formed because of its support of slavery and therefore was built using income from the slave trade. Based on the biblical model of repentance and restitution, the SBC body, therefore, has a fiduiary responsibility to rectify a wrong (like in the case of Zaccheus). Third, to be clear, I’m not just referring to history but the present. What people of color are saying is that we are suffering in very acute and specific ways from the type of discrimination experienced in the book of Acts when the theological, social and cultural prejudices of Hebraic Jews hindered the gospel from reaching the Gentiles. Their racist attitudes, (commonly referring to Gentiles as “dogs”) informed their theological blindspots and behaviors. We’re saying that this is current problem. Fourth and lastly, I work for one of the largest evangelical institutions in the world. I need to state that again: I am in the white evangelical space and have been for 17 years. That is important for several reasons. I am hoping to bring about repentance from white brothers and sisters so we can all become more like Christ and move toward conciliation. Second, in my position, I’ve seen how policies and personal behavior have deeply wounded many people of color within the institutions. White evangelicalism, and therefore many evangelicals, still have the racist blind spots inherited by this nation and its spiritual heritage. George Whitefield, considered to be one of the first evangelicals, successfully advocated for the legalization of slavery in Georgia. Jonathan Edwards, owned slaves, as did Puritans, Presbyterians, Methodists, and most of those who would form the legacy of evangelicalism. They argued for segregation, and in the present many of us who thought we’d find refuge from racism in these institutions because of our bond in Christ, find instead a deeper pain that not only do we experience marginalization but then when we speak out instead of empathy we find defensiveness and explanations why we can’t even name our pain. Just look at this thread, and you’ll see more of the same. Lastly, as I mentioned in the post, white evangelicals are the group most linked in support of Donald Trump. 81% of white evangelicals who voted, voted for him, a person who directly and indirectly has consistently said racist things or implied them, or employed people who have. And how many white evangelical leaders have condemned him *for racism*? Yes, the way to say racist things is more subtle now but still there. And just to be clear, this not about the election but the *silence* toward his racist statements. So yeah, there’s some criticism toward white evangelicalism now. But I graciously submit to you that it might be needed as a tool of sanctification. And as my proximity within it clearly shows, I’m speaking as a friend not a harsh critic. Thanks for your thoughts. Blessings to you too.

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      • Hey brother, thank you so much for the thoughtful and thorough response. I can see more clearly where you (and many others) are coming from. I agree with the biblical and ethical principle of belonging to a particular culture, and thus feeling responsibility for it’s actions. I wasn’t trying to deny that. I am more concerned with the degree and confidence people are applying “corporate responsibility” to white Christians in America, and how such hermeneutical application stands in contrast to other theological views on how we might understand and address systemic sin and oppression in culture. As a white man, I am often embarrassed by the speech and actions of other whites when it comes to issues of race and racism. My embarrassment obviously reveals that I feel some level of responsibility for it, but responsibility and guilt are two radically different things. Often times, I think “corporate responsibility” is synonymous with “corporate guilt.” I don’t believe the New Covenant supports such an idea, aside from our guilt as descendants of Adam.

        As I said in my original post, I don’t try to distance myself from the past or present racism of whites, or the systemic structures of oppression that still exist. I do everything I can to not only listen to the plight of African Americans and other minorities, but respond with a prophetic voice to sin in our culture and use my time, energy and resources in a way that serves the oppressed in my community. I have spent years of my life serving in South Africa (soon after apartheid), have adopted an African son and now live in a community where my wife and I are definitely the minorites. We often feel like foreigners when among predominantly white culture. This, again, is what makes it hard to accept being considered part of “white evangelicalism” when the term is being used in a pejorative way, often describing only the faults and folly of white Christians. The term is just too loaded with it’s own bias and assumptions, and it means too many different things to too many people to accept it as an accurate term to describe the position and role of every white Christian in America. While I appreciate you clarifying the definition of Evangelicalism — and I can’t argue with the sordid position many white evangelical institutions have held — I still can’t get past the theological implications of putting a whole race of people into a broader (loosely defined) institution or movement (with no centralized form of authority) they may not all agree with or support. Because of our nation’s history of discrimination, I am suspicious of any term or classification that absorbs people into it simply because of their race or culture, especially when they have no means to formally part ways with it. I have a particularly hard time believing I “put myself” in a bed that wreaks of a sin I personally can’t stand as the father of a black child.

        I really do hope you see what I’m getting at here, brother. Unlike many, I’m not trying to abdicate my personal need to humble myself, listen, learn and respond to the plight of African Americans. I am trying to understand, but do so from a place of genuine clarity, compassion and conviction. I’m really just trying to come to grips with how making sure everyone is put in their place in “White Evangelicalism” is helpful when it comes to clarifying the burden all Christians ought to share when it comes to seeking justice in our country. I believe Dr. Piper was simply saying, “Not all white Christians in America share the same views,” particularly when it comes to the matters he outlined in his response to Lecrae.

        Please don’t feel pressure to respond again. I don’t want to take up too much of your time. I can just try to look you up next time in NYC and maybe we can get a cup of coffee?

        Post Script: As a missionary that studied cultural perspectives in biblical interpretation for years (not just by white evangelical authors ;-)), I can say that hermeneutics are ALWAYS shaped by our culture, experience and tradition. We all have blind spots in how we interpret and apply Scripture to current matters… I wouldn’t deny that for one minute. This is what made me question the perspective you laid out. That being said, this dialogue will definitely lead me to do some more study and reflection. Thanks again for engaging with me.

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      • I just wrote a book, and it got deleted. Ouch. I’ll try this again. As I read your post, I believe that part of the reason why we’re missing each other is that you are primarily using a western, formal theological training to analyze and evaluate my words and concepts. As an urban apologist reaching marginalized groups, it is necessary for me to diversify my epistemological toolkit. Because the same Western epistemology that gave birth to white supremacy, neo-Platonism, Decartian dualism, and social Darwinism, also gave us the Reformation, fundamentalism, and evangelicalism. While many of these ideas have usefulness (some like white supremacy & social Darwinism only have the value of demonstrating total depravity), they are inadequate of critiquing their own cultural assumptions. Therefore, those of us from subdominant groups who have been marginalized (and whose cultural contributions have been ignored) by the hegemony of the Western school of thought, pull upon a creative array of disciplines to get to the most helpful insights about race and the Gospel. In other words, subdominant groups have unique insights and tools to talk about race and social dynamics that are drawn from schemas beyond theological ones. So, white evangelicalism, for example, is more of a socio-historical term than it is a theological one. It can no less be rejected than the “Religious Right”. Religious Right has a context in history (1970’s-2000’s) and causes without being explicitly tied to an organization per se. White evangelicalism, similarly, is a particular stream. It’s not white mainline Christians, or white Catholics. They each have their own trajectory. White Evangelicalism has it’s own and it has very intentionally in history made choice that make it “white”.

        Your unique experiences have given you discomfort and disassociation with that term. Based on the added information you’ve shared about your time in South Africa and adopting a black child, that’s understandable. And yet, I would encourage you to suspend disbelief and objections for a moment. And take it from someone who has been in “white evangelicalism” for 17 years and have commiserated with other people of color … it’s a thing. It has positive and negative connotations. My goal isn’t to get you to disavow or part ways with it. Just to see it. I made it clear that I know “not all white Christians share the same views”. Just like not all Religious Right people share the same views (or those in any movement really). White evangelicalism is what has been created through centuries. It is the cultural context of much of evangelicalism in America and globally, but there are other forms of evangelicalism growing as well. Because we have what DuBois called “double consciousness”, subdominant cultural apologists are familiar with the dominant culture’s epistemology and others. It is in that context that I humbly tell you, that we can see what those in white evangelicalism can’t. That it is a movement, with a culture of white dominance. This isn’t about assigning corporate guilt at all. Guilt is not the point. I’m not sure how you accept that just about every evangelical institution in this country’s history (seminaries, mission agencies, denominations, publications, parachurch ministries) was either complicit in racism or silent about racism and simultaneously argue there is no such thing as white evangelicalism which sociologically speaking, best refers to the common thread of all of those institutions. You mentioned several times the discomfort you feel with the pejorative use of the word. Others on this comment section have also mentioned the way they feel ‘white evangelicals’ are beleaguered. Don’t underestimate how that sense of being under attack may be impacting your reaction. Just because a term has some negative connotations doesn’t mean it ought to be rejected. In fact, I think owning it has powerful gospel ramifications. Just know my prayer even as I serve within a white evangelical movement is that change would happen. I know and have dear friends who I consider family who are culturally and socially blind because they are in a movement that is stuck when it comes to race: occasionally soothing itself with shallow, symbolic acts (like making a black friend) while the nation grows more divided (based on systemic issues) and the cults that we contend again continue to mislead our people because the church’s approach is so anemic. So as I close, I just would say, that I don’t think you have the full complement of analytical tools to evaluate my claim that there is something called “white evangelicalism”. You’re using an inadequate theological system that justified racism, and can’t see itself, to refute the existence of itself. The ethical principles, meta-narrative approach, interdisciplinary training and subdominant insights into scripture all have equipped me with analytical tools to make such a statement. I invite you to do that. I recommend Free At Last? by Dr. Carl Ellis, Jr. He is a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary and has significantly developed the ability of many subdominant apologists to help promote the Gospel. and yes, I’d be open to getting tea (I don’t drink coffee if you stop by in NYC at some point.) Grace and peace.

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  5. Chris Chambers says:

    Hey Rasool –

    We met at a Milwaukee fall retreat a few years back. I’m the guy who discipled the Marine. Anyway, I have lived my life entirely opposed to racism, and have always been devoted to racial reconciliation. In the last couple years or so, I have come to learn that the rules have changed, and I have somehow become a white supremacist (simply because I believe in law enforcement; because I believe in having some kind of immigration policy; because I am white, because I am “color-blind,” etc.).

    So I decided to dive into it. I started with Tony Evans book “Oneness Embraced.” It broke my heart to hear what he went through. He offered good criticisms for both white and black Christians.

    I am always curious to hear from people who says things you would expect coming from the other side. I started looking into things black conservatives are saying. I read Jason Riley’s “Please Stop Helping Us.” His argument is that blacks are holding themselves down, because of a rejection of middle class values which they reject as white values. Other black conservatives argue liberal politics, victimization, absent fathers are all much more relevant problems than “perceived” racism. Much of the problem is self-inflicted.

    But I am also currently reading Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crowe.” There is a lot to process, since she comes strong against law enforcement, and I spent 10 years as a military cop. I am only a third through the book, so I can’t comment too much. But I find her conclusions so far to be overly broad.

    I am thankful you made the distinction between white evangelicals and “white evangelicalism.” I am wondering if you would say there is a corresponding distinction between black evangelicals and “black evangelicalism?” (You may recall the buzz about President Obama being the Black Messiah.) While everyone hears about what whites need to do to move towards reconciliation, what would you say are the sins that blacks should own up to (that make reconciliation difficult)? What is it all supposed to look like when reconciliation occurs? When will whites finally be forgiven, debt paid in full? Or will there always be payback?

    I am finding the problem is much more complex. Actual Evangelicals are not the evangelicals portrayed in the media. White evangelicals are not evangelicals. Black conservatives have compelling arguments, but are disregarded as sell-outs. And to be honest no race is morally pure. Slavery has existed in every race throughout history, including approx. 3000 black slave owners in America. Racism is not just an American thing, and when one looks around the globe things are still much better here than most places.

    I am encouraged by you (and those of like mind), and would welcome future correspondence in moving more towards racial reconciliation.

    Your Brother,
    Chris Chambers

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    • Hi Chris. We know each other, so I’m gonna be more direct (because you know my heart). There are some assumptions I read in your reply that are important to identify. The basic assumptions in your commentary are that Blacks are being unforgiving, we are as guilty of whites of racism, and are unfairly holding whites responsible for injustices like slavery and racism that have been global phenomena throughout history. This is problematic for several reasons. 1)The biblical response when complaints of injustice are raised is never “Well, you guys do bad stuff too.” Or, “Others including some of your own people have done things just as bad.” The biblical response I see is confession (I agree with you that we have sinned against you and done (named) injustices. And then repentance (Zaccheus giving back four times what he stole, Nehemiah 5, etc.). In Acts 6, the response was to listen and to come up with a solution. The first solution is empathy. Your post focused on excuses that explain away the injustice. If you don’t know where to start with confession, I would suggest starting with your post which puts the burden on the injured party to defend the fact they have been injured. 2) While slavery and racism have been part of global human history, racial injustice in the United States has been like the iPhone in comparison to a rotary phone. Though it wasn’t the first, telephone, the iPhone revolutionized the very concept of a phone and actually re-envisioned it as a pocket computer. American chattel slavery ushered in a new era of brutal effectiveness, with lasting ripple effects that is unlike anything ever seen before. I just researched the history of slavery in the world. Prior to the transatlantic slave trade which birthed the USA, slaves were mostly acquired from wars. The transaharan slave trade took place from 800-1900’s and involved 12 million enslaved Africans. The European transatlantic slave trade, enslaved 14 million people in just 300 years (1500-1800). Think about that. It’s unlike anything the world has ever seen. Furthermore, the USA was uniquely infected because the mythology of its origins as a “City on a hill” gave birth to it’s “Manifest Destiny” myth which justified the Native American genocide and brutality of slavery. Every major legislative compromise from the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850 all were made to keep the ‘peculiar institution’ of slavery intact. Now, how would a nation which saw itself as a Christian beacon of light justify such a contradiction? By defending it with a white supremacist reading of the Bible and of the world. But as Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy notes, “Slavery didn’t end in 1865, it just evolved.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. suggested the same thing when he claimed at the March on Washington that the check the forefathers wrote “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal …” bounced back for black people “insufficient funds”. The injustice forged from slavery and racism didn’t end in 1963 … and it still hasn’t now. No one is claiming any race to be “morally pure”. But that was never said which leads to the 3rd point: 3) Your reluctance to embrace the depth of the problem is the problem. That was my initial point with Dr. John Piper’s comments and they’ve manifested on this comment thread consistently. Instead of taking in the experiences of those of us with the complaints, there’s a tendency for people to resist the basic claim that we have a problem. Not a vague ‘race problem’, but a very specific ‘white evangelicalism’ problem. This is hindering the gospel in our own midst and hindering the church speaking prophetically to the racially divisive times in which we live. Instead of processing that, it seems people would rather reject the very premise that there is a problem. That’s denial, and that’s a solution stopper. So, no, a conversation about what “blacks should own up to” is not helpful or relevant, neither is a statement about how 3000 blacks owned slaves, nor how racism isn’t solely an American thing. All of these obfuscations actually prove the point that, tragically, instead of acknowledging the depth of the sin issue of racism (see lynching, black codes, jim crow, “separate vs. equal”, redlining, Tuskegee experiments, forced sterilizations, etc.) you would rather it be stated that “blacks are guilty of some things too”. That’s not helpful. To give you a sense of the depth of the problem, ‘racial reconciliation’ doesn’t apply because there was never a relationship to be reconciled. This is actually about something much deeper and difficult: conciliation which comes by accepting that from the start of the American experiment, racism has been foundational. When white brothers like you can accept that without qualifications, then we can move forward. Thanks for the post.

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  6. Mr. Berry sir, thanks. You’re loving these bloggers, as all of us are dealing with the obvious truths in what you said, some with more words than others.

    God has clearly given you space and grace to do this. Keep doing it for his glory, and know that conversations like these make space for the Gospel of (not cheap) grace.

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  8. Thank you for writing this. I’m just starting to understand these issues more clearly. Trusting and depending on God to open my eyes to the depth of what you’re talking about.
    Personally as a white male this rabbit hole goes really deep. One of the big issues I see in white evangelicalism that Dr. Piper or myself can do is call out those things that run contrary to Christ. These things are mainly politically motivated
    An example: Many evangelical churches partner with Operation Christmas Child. Franklin Graham heads OCC. Franklin Graham also advocates and supports building a boarder wall and other conservative policies. I may be wrong but I see these as hypocritical and contrary to the Spirit. As one extends the compassionate hand of Christ while the other extends a secular hand of force and division.
    My intent is not to make this about politics as many churches deny Christian ethics in liberal causes as well. I simply see a much higher percentage of white evangelicalism linked with conservative politics echoing Paul’s plea not to be yoked with unbelievers. The much bigger issue I see is a strong unwillingness to even address these issues as the enemy has seem to politicized (secularized) human rights (imago dei) issues i.e. Kneeling for the Anthem and demonizing the Black Lives Matter movement.
    So where do we go from here? What God has been putting on my heart, is that it needs to be the white church reaching out to black churches and their community specifically over these issues and starting some really difficult discussions. Would you agree with this or have other ideas on where to go from here?

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  9. Reagan Banasky says:

    RASOOLBERRY, thanks for this post and all the feedback in the comments section. A friend sent me a link to your article and I am grateful that he did. Your comments on “the Hebraic understanding of corporate sin/injustice” were particularly convicting. It makes me think of Daniel’s confession in Daniel 9. I grew up with an understanding of the failures of the church, but am only beginning to grasp my need to address those sins, repent of them, and seek God’s grace for the future. There is a reason that we need “strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:18-19). I’m not sure what else to say. I’m still trying process where we are at and what God is doing in my life, the church, and the U.S.

    Thank you, brother!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ben Burke says:

    Rasool, I have always been incredibly blessed, impressed, and grateful for your input on anything… But brother… This article and thread of responses continues to blow me away. Your grace, patience, clarity, and devotion to God’s Word for every response continues to inspire and encourage me! I thank God for you brother. Praying for you and glad to continue to follow you. Thanks for your investment, even if through your voice alone, into young, white evangelicals such as myself! Grace and Peace Fam

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pat Bain says:

    I am thankful for John Piper’s article and this one.
    I did not vote for Trump Or Hillary and am alarmed at how many evangelicals have bought in hook, line and sinker without thinking through our true Biblical responsibilities and the love and respect Jesus modelled and taught us.
    I liked you reference to Acts 6.
    I happen to be white.
    We are out here.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I agree with this article. I too was enthused, encouraged, yet perplexed after reading Piper’s article last month. One of the things I like about Piper is that he is willing to have these open talks about issues that touch on race. I can understand why he wouldn’t want to be lumped in or “in the same bed as other white evangelicals” because some white evangelicals are NOT willing to have these kinds of conversations beyond the surface.

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  13. Chris Chambers says:

    Hey Rasool –

    I think you misunderstand my heart (or perhaps I didn’t communicate it very well). I don’t deny or make any excuses for what has been done on the part of whites to blacks (and other races). And I fully own my part in it. What I was trying to point out is there are different opinions within the black community as to what the actual problems of racism are (conservative vs. liberal), and there are different responses to white confession and repentance from within the black community. It is not helpful to a white evangelical when the black community cannot even agree as to where actual guilt is. I can be responsible for myself, and I can pray against corporate sin, I can be proactive with biblical solutions, and I can ask for forgiveness. My black Brothers and Sisters are forgiving, and don’t treat me as if I have this racist cloud over my head. Others will call me racist simply because I support law enforcement (but not police brutality). I stand up against racism when I see it. What I haven’t seen is black evangelicals standing beside white evangelicals defending them against claims of racism (because of forgiveness). I think reconciliation would move forward when progress is recognized and affirmed. I would love to hear, “Yes, there is a lot of racism out there, and a lot of progress still needs to be made. But my white Brother here is not a racist.” I have lived my whole life with a wounded heart, because of how others have acted. And in this regard, I feel that there will never be enough I can do to earn forgiveness for something I haven’t done.

    All the best, and God Bless,
    Chris

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    • Thanks for sharing your response. I can sense the burden you have for change and that’s important. I’m confused about what you are saying is the problem. On the one hand, you wrote that you are not treated with a “racist cloud over your head” but on the other hand you feel like you can never do enough to “earn forgiveness”. My observation is that African Americans have been quite liberal with offering forgiveness. I recall how the family of the Charleston 9 martyrs forgave Dylan Roof while still grieving their families murders. Or how Rodney King after being beaten senseless just pled for peace or even Dr. King and Civil Rights champions preached love and forgiveness as they were being attacked with dogs, hoses and fists and as many of their friends and families and even little girls in Little Rock were being bombed. Our own organization has the same history of horrendous offenses being generously forgiven. You seem to place the blame for lack of more progress on the lack of forgiveness or black support of likeminded brothers and sisters in Christ. I strongly disagree with that perspective. If that were the case we still wouldn’t be in every evangelical institution and willing to spend hours in dialogue with the hope of progress. But I submit to you an alternative explanation. There’s a concept called “white fragility” which articulates how the burden and sense of guilt associated with racial justice subject matter has a different and dynamic impact of whites. It is a jarring thing for many to go from unaware of privilege to absorbing that reality in all its historic context. Often, my experiences have reminded me of a battered wife who is being questioned: “What did you do to set him off?” The cumulative impact on that undoubtedly impacted my perspective on your reply. I hope to convey my appreciation for your posts. I also hope to express that nestled in your reaction is a perspective that is different precisely because it doesn’t come from the context of fighting to get people to accept that what has happened was and is happening is even a problem. I encourage you to center the conversation on the issue of white supremacy and it’s legacy in the church and not the confusingly diverse opinions that exist on how to fix it. Hear people’s stories, but don’t rely on peoples opinions (black or white) but facts. They are out there. You don’t need black consensus to have an informed view. Just a commitment to learn and act. Let’s hang in there with each other. And for the record anytime I’ve heard someone unfairly criticize a white brother or sister or label them racist, I have defended them and so have the people I know who care about this work. But the racism in the white evangelicalism is exponentially a more significant problem similar to how men assaulting women is a much bigger problem then women being unforgiving about guilty or innocent men. If you’d like we can keep talking offline. You got my info. Appreciate your thoughts.

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  14. Robert says:

    It is very troubling for you to infer that all whites are in favor of white supremacy. I am not a white supremacist, and do resent being labeled as one. That label is not very helpful in getting to reconciliation and trust.

    You label the president as a white supremacist, I highly doubt that and strongly feel that unjust accusations are not helpful in solving injustices. Do I agree with the president’s lack of emotional intelligence? Of course not!

    By the way, we have never had perfect leaders at any time, nor at any place. As MLK once said, that if you play the old testament game of retaliation for every injustice you’re going to have a lot of toothless, blind people.

    I had no problem with President Obama’s race, but I did have problems with his persistent attack on Christians and Christian values. He did not respect views other than his own and used government power in an unethical way to force social change.

    I do find your ideas and insights useful and thoughtful. I don’t fully understand your premise yet, but admit that there are points for good discussions.

    I’m not real eager to share my email address, because I have been a victim of hate mail and threats before.

    Like

    • Thanks for commenting Robert. You misunderstood my post. I never wrote nor do I believe that “all whites are in favor of white supremacy”. I didn’t write that the president was a white supremacist. I wrote that he pandered to them which is a fact that known KKK leader David Duke acknowledged on multiple occasions (including at Charlottesville incident- you can find it on YouTube). Christian silence in the midst of that pandering is very disturbing. I never suggested someone voting for Obama was a racist, I observed that the accusations that he was the “anti-christ” (along with images of him in nooses at rallies, etc.) were. I would encourage you to read the post again as I just did to make sure I represented my words accurately. I also would encourage you to research what white supremacy is. I’m not talking about men in hoods and burning crosses, but something more nefarious and subtle. Hate mail is a terrible thing and I’m sorry you’ve experienced that before. Blessings!

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