On Monday, June 22, Twitter came to talk about Christianity after Jenna Ellis, a senior legal advisor, constitutional lawyer, and attorney to President Donald Trump talked about a form of cancellation coming to Christianity. This happened after activist Shaun King discussed how statues of Jesus Christ are forms of white supremacy that need to be taken down.
2020 has been a year — like many others — where race is brought up. However, with the recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor occurring, many are finally waking up to see the reality that racism in both macro and micro levels still exist, despite the existence of colorblind philosophy. This doesn’t end when it comes to religion. When it comes to church and religion, specifically Christianity, whiteness has been used as a weapon to conquer, promote greed, and engage in violence, regardless of the peaceful teachings that exist within the Bible.
According to the Pew Research Center, Black people in America are more likely to be Christian compared to other races, with 79% identifying as so. So, that doesn’t mean the teachings found in the Bible about courageousness, faith, compassion, strength, justice, and hope don’t connect with them — it shows the opposite. Many argue that Black people transformed Christianity into a catalyst for good that has supported civil rights. God sees everyone that chooses to follow Him as His Child, so that’s enough. Our purpose is to be with the Father in heaven, not to dwell or even progressively change things here on Earth. Further on, there have been white allies such as William Lloyd Garrison. While all of this is true, Christianity has unfortunately been used as an outlet to maintain a status quo that is both harmful and hypocritical to those who are marginalized, specifically in the United States.
Going back to the exploration age, Christianity was used in the process of enslaving and forcing Native Americans to lose not only their land and resources but their lives, especially with the brutal encomienda system. This was one of the starting points where people of the past, and some now, started to believe that cultures that did not practice Christianity were savages or uncivilized.
Friar Bartolomé de las Casas, in A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, even wrote about the mistreatment that Indigenous people were going through under Christopher Columbus’ rule in the West Indies, such as rape, murder, forced labor and theft.
When it came to American slavery, slave owners would force enslaved Africans and their descendants to forsake their religions to follow Christianity. They depicted Jesus as someone who was white. Through art, media and teachings, being white is pure, celebratory and good — which, of course, means God is white — while being black is ugly, brutish and bad. However, that didn’t stop Black people and their allies from transforming the hardships of slavery and its evil hands into a form of revolution.
There was a reclamation. It’s seen through pastor Nat Turner, who created a rebellion to free his fellow black companions. It’s seen through the Civil Rights Movement, where many leaders, such as the inspiring Martin Luther King Jr., marched, did sit-ins, registered people to vote, and educated the importance of true equality. He condemned the white moderate which still rings true today and said:
“I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
But even with reclamation came pain — pain from racist Christians, in fact. Lynchings took place on Sundays before or after church services. Church bombings such as the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing occurred. On June 17, 2015, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina had a shooting from a far-right, white supremacist, who killed nine of his fellow members. He attended services with them and prayed along with them, only to harm them at the end. And it doesn’t stop there. In fact, most terrorism in our country comes from far-right reactionary people, according to the Center for Strategic & International Studies.
But Black people and their allies kept their stride, knowing that the problems did not lie with God, Himself, but within the people who kept an oppressive ideology or system and hid behind Bible to make it righteous.
Traditionalism should not be kept from being challenged, especially where in one perspective it can be seen that the Bible argues that some ideals that are present in society are incorrect such as through the existence of statues of Jesus, when speaking about Exodus 20:4-5, which states:
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.”
It can be seen that there’s a lack of sympathy coming from a loud minority who proclaim to follow a God of love, righteousness and truth. Instead of being mad about the injustice of police brutality and systemic oppression, one sees anger toward people kneeling during the National Anthem, stating that it is disgraceful and unpatriotic.
Sometimes veterans are used to defend this point. However, it seems there’s not enough discussion of veterans receiving healthcare and housing benefits. There’s anger from some calling others who get abortions baby killers, without understanding the why or providing preventative measures such as family planning and sex education.
A loud minority of American Evangelism condemns and passes hateful laws toward those who are LGBTQ+, such as through healthcare, marriage and the job market, even though our laws are meant to see everyone as equal. When challenged and condemned for this, the argument of persecution against Christians within this country is mentioned, even though ironically it’s being done to those who do not fit these standards. Growing up in church, the Bible verse of Jesus saying “I never knew you” is mentioned. It’s been applied to people who are more liberal in nature.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”- Matthew 7:21-23
But why isn’t the same energy applied to churches that do not give back to their communities but perform these “miracles” for money, success and recognition? Why isn’t this applied to the racist man who treats his people of color workers with no respect but goes to his all-white church and is nice to everyone?
Why isn’t it applied to rich people, including politicians in all parties, where a Bible verse says it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich person to have access to heaven (Matthew 19:24)? Why isn’t it applied to the rich CEO who exploits their employees, steals their wages and uses the tax code to reap even more than they sowed? What about the judgments made against poor people who have been working hard but are just called lazy and incompetent?
It can be argued that Jesus didn’t knock over a table at the temple because of people being over-liberal or because they didn’t shame gay people or force people into a theocracy. But, some of the reasons in the previous paragraph were one of his many criticisms. But the great part was that he was objective, forgiving, and understanding.
Yes, stores are being looted, places are burning and unfortunately, violence is taking place. But there should be conversation to end the pain and build communities and relationships up.
To simply ignore history is the same mistake that causes it to regenerate and procreate. This is something we’ve heard in our classrooms while being educated about history, but unfortunately, this same phenomenon is occurring now. Pretending to create a new slate when generational problems keep popping up in new forms and stating that people are race-baiting is a form of gaslighting.
Saying people nowadays aren’t the cause so they shouldn’t be “punished,” when people are still being punished because of the oppression their ancestors faced means we aren’t looking at the full picture. Instead, we should ask ourselves: Why are people treating and supporting Earth like a temporary hell, when it could be temporary heaven?
The detrimental relationship between white supremacy and Christianity doesn’t mean to stop being a follower of Christ or to hate being white. Everyone should be accepted and respected for who they are. It means to rise to the occasion by truly loving those around you; to not hide behind the notion of being holier than thou. It means speaking up when bad things are happening to those around you, even if they don’t believe in what you preach.
Proverbs 31:8-9 says it best when it says to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Speak up for the poor and helpless and see that they get justice. Unfortunately, we are not seeing a whole lot of that right now. But that can change.