Visions of White Evangelicals?
What thoughts come to mind when visions of white evangelicals dance in your head?
Do you envision a biblically-sound group of Christ followers who joyfully live and spread the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone?
Can you recall actual examples of individuals living up to their “evangelical” statement of faith? Do these individuals maintain a godly sense of self, while boldly standing up for the needs and concerns of the least of these?
At a minimum, do feelings of love, peace, harmony, justice fill your heart when you think about white evangelicals – even if you don’t personally know someone who identifies as an “evangelical”, who’s white?
If you answered “No” to any of these questions…
That’s a problem for the household of faith and the Christian brand. And, this must be of concern to Team Jesus, as we are to not only wear the name above every name – Jesus – but live the life of Christ by following His example and teachings.
On the other hand, perhaps a strong contributing factor to your “No” is the prolific media coverage of “white evangelicals” in our American society, especially after the 2016 Presidential election of Donald Trump. From your favorite news channel to national surveys by Pew Research, “white evangelicals” and their “leaders” have been given a prominent platform on the political stage, where their outspoken support of Trump and “conservative values” outweighs their cry against sin, racial discrimination, and social injustice.
If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions…
You’re not only blessed to know, be, or know of some amazing followers of Christ, perhaps you were introduced to them, like I, at the MLK50 Conference this past week, sponsored by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and The Gospel Coalition. There’s a growing community of white evangelicals, outside of the pathetic and apathetic norm, that we encourage you to get to know.
The Call to Repentance and Change at MLK50 Conference
Nearly 4,000 followers of Christ from diverse racial, ethnic, and denominational backgrounds converged upon the Memphis Cook Convention Center to reason together on the gospel and racial unity in the church and society.
As participants commemorated the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, it wasn’t a “tea and crumpets” moment for our white evangelical brethren in attendance.
Dr. Charlie Dates, The Most Segregated Hour in America: Overcoming Divisions to Pursue MLK’s Vision of Racial Harmony
Speaker after speaker unapologetically tore down the lies of white supremacy and the systematic oppression of people of color that had poisoned the Southern Baptist Convention and the “white” church for decades.
Gospel truths shared by Dr. Russell Moore, Dr. Charlie Dates, Dr. Eric Mason, Jackie Hill Perry, Matt Chandler, Trip Lee, and others pierced the enemy’s veil that tries to keep the church separated by race, and challenged “white evangelicals” to repent of their overt and increasingly covert lifestyle of racial discord and injustice.
How to Begin and Maintain Racial Unity in the Church
After the acceptance of truth and repentance, it’s time to act. Several speakers and panels offered recommendations on how to continue the work of racial unity.
Matt Chandler spoke on the inclusion of Africa’s early contribution to the gospel, like Michael the Deacon, in the curriculum of America’s seminaries. Bishop Ed Stephens spoke on the importance of “knowing your neighbor”, a call to branch outside of one’s community and really get to know people of other races and cultures.
There were a few caveats, however. White evangelicals were admonished not to simply “band or join together with African-Americans who agree with you.” Matt Chandler’s call to “let’s bleed together” espouses the reality that white evangelicals who fight for the gospel and racial unity will encounter opposition and “friendly” fire.
In our interview with Dr. Eric Mason, he spoke on the strategic approach white brethren in Christ should take towards racial harmony, and the importance of overcoming racial justice fatigue in the plight of racial unity.
Investing in Racial Unity and Change
As a show of support for minority students committed to the gospel, over $1 million dollars was raised for the MLK50 Dream Forward Scholarship Initiative.
The centerpiece of this effort is the creation of a pathway to a quality higher education through an array of full and partial tuition scholarships at participating Christian colleges and universities around the country, reserved exclusively for minority students in Memphis.
“We believe there are multiple reasons for Christian colleges and seminaries to participate in this program and we are grateful to these schools who have so generously joined this effort,” said Brent Leatherwood, ERLC director of strategic partnerships. “The city of Memphis was the scene of a brutal murder of the leading figure of the Civil Rights Movement. Unfortunately, even to this day, shockwaves from that terrible moment still reverberate in the community. But pastors, church leaders, and local activists are resolved to make racial unity a reality. This initiative reflects that good work being done and offers a way to come alongside and support it.”
Tearing Down ‘Baal’ and Proclaiming Jesus
So, who were these white Christians who carefully listened, agreed, and vowed to join their brothers, like Matt Chandler and Dr. Moore, to reject decades of “white” indoctrination of supremacy, racial discrimination, and silence in the church?
To the contrary of what we often see in mainstream media, God is raising up white evangelicals who will not bow to “Baal’s system” of white supremacy, racism, and white nationalism over the gospel of Jesus Christ. A remnant of followers of Jesus Christ everywhere are even more committed to the truth of the gospel and the cross.
Still, let’s not be deceived. Even “we” are not all that God has to work with.
“God does not need white evangelicals or an American evangelical movement. God does not need the Southern Baptist Convention…the Presbyterian Church, a Gospel Coalition. All of these things are good and right so far as they remind us of the purposes of God. But, even if they do not, God will still build His church.”, says Dr. Russell Moore.
And it is His church,
“9 that great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelations 7:9-10)
…that we humbly strive daily to be a part of.