- The American Conservative - https://www.theamericanconservative.com -

Whiteness And Godliness

Lisa Robinson, a black Evangelical Christians, offers “Some Questions I’m Asking While Off To My White Evangelical Church.” [1] She says that yes, it’s true that white Christians have historically been complicit with injustice against black Christians, and though things have gotten better, there’s still a ways to go with racial reconciliation. But these days, she says, church circles are buzzing with talk of overthrowing “white supremacy” in the church. And this has Robinson wondering:

What exactly do people want to see with respect to this dismantling of white supremacy in the church? Is it simply wanting for non-whites to have a seat at the table, invited to have a voice and valuable contribution? I think that’s an admirable and goal and in line with Scripture if we truly are regarding others as more important than ourselves (Phil 2:3). Or is it ensuring that white leaders are removed from power over the church and transplanted with people of color? Do we want to remove their presence altogether?

Is this a power struggle? Because it’s one thing to actually want reconciliation. It’s quite another to want to subjugate a group to an inferior status in the interest of dismantling white supremacy. Is the goal for our white brothers and sisters to suffer the same plight of marginalization that minorities suffered? Is our goal to silence their voices unless they capitulate to every sociological demand, including support of groups like Black Lives Matter who have no foundation or roots in Christian orthodoxy and prescribe anti-Christian sentiments? Because it is possible in the course of dismantling this domination to turn the tables. I was struck by this article from a few days ago from a self-professed social justice activist regarding concerns about present day activism; social justice activism;

Postcolonialist black Caribbean philosopher Frantz Fanon in his 1961 book Wretched of the Earth writes about the volatile relationship between the colonizer and the colonized, and the conditions of decolonization. In it, he sharply warns the colonized against reproducing and maintaining the oppressive systems of colonization by replacing those at top by those previously at the bottom after a successful revolution . . . The experiences of oppression do not grant supremacy, in the same way that being a powerful colonizer does not. Justice will never look like supremacy.

He speaks from a non-Christian perspective, but there is a warning there, I think.

Robinson goes on to say that the jargon of this movement — whiteness, white supremacy, oppression, marginalization, colonization — is designed to put you into a hostile mindset, to teach you to start seeing your white fellow churchgoers with suspicion. And if you try to question any of this language, “you will be branded as endorsing whiteness and maybe even treated like an enemy…like them.” She asks what it does to her to start seeing the white people in her church as potential threats instead of fellow believers.

Read the whole thing. [1] Talking across racial lines about issues of race and racial conflict will never, ever be easy, but if the church isn’t a place we can do this productively, where is? To do it productively requires humility on all sides. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. If you want people to change, you have to show them mercy and grace. A white Evangelical friend of mine dropped out of a racial reconciliation group in his city — a group he joined because he’s serious about it — because it turned into a weekly ritual denunciation of Whiteness™.

If that’s what the encounter in church between blacks and whites comes down to, then there will never, ever be racial reconciliation. If facing the legacy of racism in the church in a healing way can only be done by whites hating themselves for being white, then all you will get is bitterness and defensiveness.

Christians ought to find this easier than most, given the faith’s teachings about humility and mercy. But we don’t. This is our failing, but this is also our challenge. To bring in the SJW rhetoric and categories into the church, though, is pure poison. Lisa Robinson recognizes that, bless her.

Advertisement
61 Comments (Open | Close)

61 Comments To "Whiteness And Godliness"

#1 Comment By George On July 20, 2017 @ 10:52 am

There is a group of blacks who neither like what BLM is doing or Trump. Lisa and I fit into that category. You will not see us on MSNBC or FOX because we do not comfortably fit into the nice radical or conservative political narrative. But I believe we have insight and answers that others are ignoring. Thanks Rod for bringing Lisa’s writing to the public. This conversation is useful even is some of the comments are asinine. At least we are not discussing the false dichotomy of ignoring race altogether or implementing some type of Afrocentric radical order. There is something in the middle and in that is where I think we have potential solutions.

[NFR: Thanks, George, for your witness. — RD]

#2 Comment By kgasmart On July 20, 2017 @ 11:33 am

Even the most radical SJW-type wouldn’t say that ALL whites are completly and intentionally complicit in racial injustice.

The key word in your sentence is “intentionally.”

Take that out and tell me, do you believe all whites are completely complicit in racial injustice – on the basis of their skin color?

And being “complicit” in this injustice, what shall their punishment be? I mean, other than listening to oh-so-moral SJW lectures?

#3 Comment By Karen On July 20, 2017 @ 1:31 pm

Glad to see Robinson’s piece featured. Her writing is consistently well-researched, thoughtful, biblically-centered and balanced. I echo her desire for discussion that’s not dominated by rhetoric, or that elevates human opinion as the arbiter of Blackness, Whiteness, or even Christianity. There are many of us who don’t fit into the more extreme conservative or progressive narratives, and we are hungry for a much more unifying conversation than either pole currently provides.

#4 Comment By Lisa Robinson On July 20, 2017 @ 1:32 pm

To Daniel Waweru’s comment

“She says we should ignore or oppose what Black Lives Matter has to say about race relations because it’s opposed to Christianity — while relying on Frantz Fanon’s warning about the consequences of simply replacing one oppressor with those he previously oppressed.”

I think you’re drawing a false equivalency. I’m not endorsing Fanon’s Marxist paradigm. If anything, I’m challenging the similar foundation of BLM and pointing out a specific warning in it’s application. Pointing out a warning is not the same thing as endorsing the foundation.

Also, I am concerned with the binary way in which BLM support is considered as if the only way to endorse racial reconciliation in the church is to support it. Here are some more thoughts on that issue I wrote last year.

[2]

#5 Comment By Lisa Robinson On July 20, 2017 @ 1:45 pm

“So the only right way for non-whites to discuss white domination is to allow whites to control the language and concepts under discussion? That’s… uh… problematic.”

No, that misses the point of my concern. The goal of reconciliation is to talk together without power dynamics. Yes, that does mean that white Christians should listen more. But I observe that it moving beyond just wanting white people to listen and possibly turning into a flipped power structure so that people of color control the conversation and shut down anyone who doesn’t oblige with every jot and tittle of demands. I’m not saying it is definitely the case but asking if that is what is going on. Hope that makes sense.

[NFR: It makes sense to me. — RD]

#6 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 20, 2017 @ 1:53 pm

But the very fact that so much of it was public policy in all sections of the country for a very long time suggests the white Christians were (and sometimes are still) complicit in or indifferent to it. How else could you define “generally”?

But how is public policy made? If you believe, or observe since its patently obvious, that an elite minority with control of most of the wealth and access to the best education actually dominates the conversation, those outside the elite are not complicit in public policy in the same sense. On the other hand, some of the most impoverished and uneducated whites were the most vicious racists. But others watched it, said tut, tut, and laughed all the way to the bank. There aren’t neat divisions, or lines easily drawn, between the “good whites” and the “bad whites.” Then, there are the enslaved black males who were happy to take advantage of massa’s injunction to go impregnate all the females, without regard to marriage bonds, so that a rich harvest could be reaped nine months later. Their ideological descendants are running drug dealing gangs in major cities all over the country, no? And crying “racism” when the cops come after them — which is a pretty good cover, since the same cops brutalize innocent people who happen to be black, so its an easy lie to get someone to believe.

I wrote that Robinson resembles Rachel Dolezal. I meant physically. I did not claim that Robinson has no African ancestry.

So what? I don’t care if Dolezal does or doesn’t have African ancestry, and I’m not entirely sure she doesn’t. It just wasn’t within 2-3 generations. Its entirely irrelevant in my book, and I had no intention of speculating about it.

I received a letter this morning from a white brother in Texas which said, “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but is it possible that you are in too great of a religious hurry?

Well, that is certainly an assinine thing to say. To say “will receive equal rights” is patronizing in itself. Who will “receive” this implied gift from whom? (Is that what who/whom is about?) Its true that the world will never be perfect, but it doesn’t mean we have to wait on things we COULD be doing because someone will find it inconvenient to see justice done, as it can be done.

It’s very easy to feel like a victim when you’re held to account for your ancestors’ misdeeds or the misdeeds of your contemporaries.

Its also just plain wrong, no matter who is doing it to who. Collective guilt is wrong, always. Guilt by association is wrong, everywhere. Some years ago, I was doing some summer tutoring with the children of two friends of mine (who were sisters). One young man looked at the various books I put on the table, and announced “I’m not going to read any books about slavery.”

To me this was an eye-opener. This child was four generations removed from Jim Crow, much less slavery. His well-meaning teachers, glad that at last we can teach some buried truths of American history, and pressed upon him ‘you’re black, this is your history.’ And he insisted, I’m me, I insist on being treated as a unique individual, not as The Descendant Of Slaves. And that’s really what the civil rights movement was all about.

Now this kid is a hard cord inner-city young black man, not a thug, not with a criminal record, but nobody could call him anything but black. But he’s not going to have his life defined by what his ancestors were, or are described in books as. That’s part of the equation too. Hopefully in a few more generations most Americans will be able to say “Two of my great…. great grandparents owned five of my other great… great grandparents. How wierd. I wonder what they’d all think of me.”

But that happens to black people all the time, every day. What makes white people so special that they should not experience it?

What makes white people so special that they should be singled out to have the experience deliberately pressed upon them? On the other hand, when I hear people complain about ‘reverse racism,’ my first response is generally “So, stop continuing to choose to think of yourself as ‘white.’ [The phrase is from a James Baldwin essay]. Ain’t nobody “white” except lepers and albinos. Eventually, “black” people cannot be free without throwing away the identity “black,” not by “becoming white” but by living life as unique individuals. What people with congenital melanin deficiencies have to come to terms with is, as long as you think of certain people as “black” and treat them differently, they can’t let go of it. For those with dark skin, its an essentially defensive identity.

Nobody in Africa called themselves “black.” Not until someone showed up from Europe and TOLD them they were black. (“Negro” is Spanish, and Portuguese, for “black”).

Yup, “white moderates” were a real obstacle to the civil rights movement. Phil Ochs wrote a song about it, “Love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal.” But “white radicals” slavishly devoted to any loud mouthed sophist with a black skin weren’t helpful either. Dr, King took some real care in setting his tactics and strategy, he didn’t just react emotively, and he did push hard, but when he made an effort, more often than not he pushed effectively.

#7 Comment By Ellimist000 On July 20, 2017 @ 2:41 pm

kgasmart,

“The key word in your sentence is “intentionally.”

Take that out and tell me, do you believe all whites are completely complicit in racial injustice – on the basis of their skin color?”

No and my point was nor does any SJW of note, at least based on what they actually say and not the fantasies of conservative nervous nellies.

There are four key words: all, completely, intentionally, and complicit. You seem to think that the “woke” believe these are true of all whites as individuals. But facets of these words do describe many of them from time to time. Such as the inability to humbly accept criticism by historically oppressed groups.

#8 Comment By Ellimist000 On July 20, 2017 @ 2:49 pm

Lisa,

“Yes, that does mean that white Christians should listen more.”

All that I ask 🙂

And your criticisms of BLM are entirely fair. What isn’t fair is the way that some people demanding humility and understanding torture English to make “Black lives matter” into “White lives don’t matter” order to avoid an uncomfortable criticism. That is what I think drives the often stupid (towards Sanders, as an example) defensiveness by BLM supporters.

#9 Comment By Mia On July 21, 2017 @ 12:29 pm

“Even the most radical SJW-type wouldn’t say that ALL whites are completly and intentionally complicit in racial injustice.”

Yeah, but I wonder sometimes if they’ve ever actually been around white people enough to know that the power dynamic isn’t what they assume within our community. Just as it isn’t uniform throughout the black community either. It’s certain defined elites in either group that oppresses their internal rejects, and in the white community’s case, has carried that over to the black community. The worst treated whites within the white community aren’t necessarily treated better than blacks as a whole. Perhaps they never bothered to look into the issue, or it just doesn’t suit their power grab, which is what this is right now.

“What isn’t fair is the way that some people demanding humility and understanding torture English to make “Black lives matter” into “White lives don’t matter” order to avoid an uncomfortable criticism.”

I absolutely agree, and this is why I have decided to start talking more openly about my police brutality experience as a white person. My community sticks their heads in the sand on the issue or finds it too lucrative to let it go without comment or effective reform. What drives me nuts is the way too many in the white community look at cases like that Australian woman who was shot by the police recently and turn to the black community and jeer: well, where are all of your riots now over this case of a white person? I think the black community finds it incomprehensible that the white community isn’t up in arms about her death. If it’s happening in your community, don’t you take the lead in complaining? Except the white community doesn’t. “Good” people don’t protest. Until that happens, the divide and conquer over race will continue.

#10 Comment By Anonne On July 22, 2017 @ 12:38 am

Siarlys,

I received a letter this morning from a white brother in Texas which said, “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but is it possible that you are in too great of a religious hurry?

Well, that is certainly an assinine thing to say. To say “will receive equal rights” is patronizing in itself. Who will “receive” this implied gift from whom? (Is that what who/whom is about?) Its true that the world will never be perfect, but it doesn’t mean we have to wait on things we COULD be doing because someone will find it inconvenient to see justice done, as it can be done.

That was a quote inside Dr. King’s letter. It’s rather asinine, yes, because of what Dr. King calls “the myth of time,” that time will take care of the problem of racism without white people having to get their hands dirty to do anything about it. This is precisely about that: a commitment to doing nothing.

But that happens to black people all the time, every day. What makes white people so special that they should not experience it?

What makes white people so special that they should be singled out to have the experience deliberately pressed upon them? On the other hand, when I hear people complain about ‘reverse racism,’ my first response is generally “So, stop continuing to choose to think of yourself as ‘white.’ [The phrase is from a James Baldwin essay]. Ain’t nobody “white” except lepers and albinos. Eventually, “black” people cannot be free without throwing away the identity “black,” not by “becoming white” but by living life as unique individuals. What people with congenital melanin deficiencies have to come to terms with is, as long as you think of certain people as “black” and treat them differently, they can’t let go of it. For those with dark skin, its an essentially defensive identity.

Interesting take, and you are right about a lot of this but white people are not being “singled out” any more than any other group for the misdeeds of their own. They are the ones killing police the most, and yet it’s blacks being scandalized for it, to justify buying more guns and keeping the feeding trough full for the NRA. Have you seen the ridiculous new NRA commercials? Most mass-murderers are white, most serial killers are white. You don’t see fearmongering commercials about buying guns to protect yourself from white people, even though we probably should.

Having to face reality is just parity for the treatment they render to others, a wake-up call.

#11 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 22, 2017 @ 1:05 pm

white people are not being “singled out”

Certain rhetoric, and certain actions, ARE singling “white people” out. Your own comment to which I was responding was ” It’s very easy to feel like a victim when you’re held to account for your ancestors’ misdeeds or the misdeeds of your contemporaries… What makes white people so special that they should not experience it?” That sounds like, “let’s give “white people” AS “white people” a taste of “what its like.” The fact is, nobody is going to respond positively to that, and for most, its not even justice.

And, as a young black man made clear to me that summer fifteen years ago, why should he be pegged as “Descendant Of Slaves” rather than being free to live his own individual life as a unique individual? This cuts several different ways.

Truth is an easy pill to swallow, although I admit, I enjoy throwing unexpected truths in the face of people who had a more rosy (or dark) view of the world. When you get the WHOLE truth on the table, it is evident that there are NO pure heroes, NO pure victims, and NO consistent practice over 400 years of anything. So we can all relax a bit about who is “to blame.”

I can still vilify John C. Calhoun though. My great great grandfather fought in the 11th Tennessee Cavalry, United States Army, because he admired Andrew Jackson’s threat to hang Calhoun from the highest tree in South Carolina if he attempted secession. And no, this ancestor of mine was not an abolitionist, but the KKK did try to burn his house down several times.

For starters, a lot of today’s Southern Baptists had ancestors who were baptized during Great Awakening revivals by black preachers. The Great Awakening, like the early AZUSA movement was a very inter-racial affair. Both, of course, settled down into a kind of “respectability” where congregations started sorting out by race. “White” Methodists relegated their “black” brethren to the galleries, motivating the latter to depart. General Baptists were anti-slavery, motivating the SBC founders to depart. “White” Pentecostals woke up from their charismatic experience to exclaim, like the fawn to Alice in Through The Looking Glass, “I’m white! And, dear me, I’m sitting in the pew with a [colored person], and left the Church of God in Christ, leaving it a Black Church to this day.

It is true, as far as I know, that most killings of police are committed by white people — this year, I believe all such events. One might even speculate that some of those officers would be alive today if they weren’t a bit careless about “white” motorists they’ve pulled over, compared to the common, although not universal, reflex to treat “black” motorists as dangerous until proven otherwise.

If I buy a gun to protect my home, chances are anyone I might have occasion to shoot with it would be black — but then, that’s true of most of the black people who own guns to protect their homes. When I was a child, I didn’t have any problem with black bullies, just white ones — albeit, there simply weren’t any black families within 100 miles.

When you speak of “parity” for the “treatment they render to others,” you either need to get very specific about individual names and deeds, OR you are in at least a limited sense being racist. I’m perfectly comfortable with facing reality, all 360 degrees of it.