I’ve been taking some deep breaths.
I was shocked but not surprised by the outcome of the 2016 election. I knew that Donald Trump could become president even though I honestly did not believe that he would. And to paraphrase Shakespeare’s Marc Antony, friends, Christians, and fellow Americans: lend me your ears: I’ve not come to bury Hillary Clinton or to praise her. I’m not about to argue policies or the relative trustworthiness of the two main candidates. That’s been done ad nauseam.
What I want to do is acknowledge a level of frustration as an African American Christian—who reluctantly allows himself to bear the label “evangelical”—and simultaneously try to remember the bigger picture.
“Biblical” or Just White?
I need to breathe deeply and admit there is an overwhelming sense of despair that many of us feel today, especially many of my younger family and friends. A brother, Esau McCaulley, has captured well the feeling that many of us African American Christians have. For nearly three decades I’ve been serving as a pastor and often also a seminary instructor.
My churches have all been in urban contexts but because of who I am and the places where I’ve been trained, I’ve been connected to white evangelicals. At times that has been just fine. We have often shared a high regard for the Bible and for living lives of moral integrity. But we have often simultaneously been separated because of race, class, and aspects of our culture.
For the most part, my white evangelical friends did not (and maybe still do not) think that we all do our biblical interpretation from a particular context, reading Scripture texts and world events through particular lenses. I’ve often heard white evangelicals argue that they’re just “biblical,” as if one can be “biblical” without any context.
I fear that ignoring contexts continues to leave a huge segment of evangelicalism blind to human realities. For example, the Black Lives Movement, which has awakened and motivated many young people to issues of police brutality and the often unfair treatment that people of color face from those in civil authority, has been vastly oversimplified and minimized by many white evangelicals. Rarely do I see white evangelicals even attempt to see the world through the eyes of others.
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