A Revival of Racism
A revival is coming to America, but it’s not a revival like at Azusa. A revival is coming, and it’s not what you think. A revival is coming, and like any good revival, it’s being ushered in with the help of the Church. A revival is coming and has already started with fire. Not Holy Ghost fire but with the fire of hatred and racial division. I believe this fire started when the Church ignored candidate Donald Trump’s racist rants about immigrants and his veiled insinuations that Making America Great Again meant making her white again, and that taking “our” country back meant taking it from immigrants and black and brown people that don’t look and sound like us.
To revive something means to bring it back to life. Earlier in this book, I did a side by side comparison of the speeches of George Wallace and President Trump. They were remarkably similar. The president was merely reviving many of the same sentiments as Governor Wallace. Governors Orval Faubus and Ross Barnett were the governors of Arkansas and Mississippi, respectively, in 1965. I honestly didn’t know who they were until I started writing this book. But as I heard President Trump speak with fondness of the “beautiful monuments” and the great “heritage” of the South, I could hear the same spirit being revived in their words.
Every great revival stirs people to action. We can see that action increasingly by ardent President Trump supporters like the III Percenters, Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and white nationalists. We see it in droves of people with MAGA hats on heading off to cities already bustling with the revival of racial division that has already been stirred there.
The Church has compromised with the president’s overtures to the far-right militant groups and his racist rants and tweets in exchange for his continued pledge to end abortion and his stance on law and order regardless of its implementation and residual effect on African Americans. The consequences of continued disproportionate police brutality and death experienced by African Americans are part of the collateral damage, the acceptable losses by the white Church.
That may be the harshest thing that I have ever written in any of the sixteen books I have authored. But is it a new complaint or a revived one? The Bible says that there is “nothing new under the sun.” I’m saying the same thing that Dr. King said to the “white moderate” church leaders of his day as he sought help to combat the evils of racism. I thought Dr. King’s I have a dream speech was prophetic, but I can see that his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” is too. We are in a revival of racism and the same thing that was needed then is the same thing that is needed now, unity and action.
“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 despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.
So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent-and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are.
But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.
Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world?” (King, 1963)
I shared in MGA (Vol I) that I believed that the greatest revival that may have ever been seen in America failed because the Christians could not come together over matters of race. In MGA (Vol I), I said that because the Church valued the manifestation of the Spirit more than the unity of the body across racial lines, the revival failed:
“When I thought about having an Azusa-like revival in 2020, this question entered my heart: Why would revival be today's answer to division, specifically across racial lines, if it was not the answer after the Azusa Street Revival which occurred 114 years ago (1906-1909)? If it wasn’t the answer, then why would it be the answer now? I do believe in the power of God and revival, but I don’t believe that’s the reason revival in 1906 didn’t heal the racial division in America at that time.
I believe the reason revival wasn't the answer then is that the Church, the body of Christ in America in 1906, missed the most important revelation of the revival. I propose to you that the revelation that the Holy Ghost could still be poured out in power upon men, specifically with the manifestation of speaking in tongues, as it was in the days of the early Church, was not the greatest revelation of Azusa.
I believe that the greater revelation was that the Holy Spirit is poured out in great power when unity is present, especially among the races. The Church at that time heralded the great manifestation of the Holy Spirit that they saw at Azusa. They made this revelation the focus of the revival. Looking back, I do not believe that they had the revelation that unity in the Spirit across the races was the key ingredient for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the measure that was seen at Azusa.” (Thompson, The Making of a Great America: Where the Founding Fathers and the Church Fell Short (Vol I), 2020)
Over 100 years later, we are helping to nurture the wrong revival by not condemning the revival of racism and moving towards unity. We may not agree on parties and politics, but why can’t the Church of the living God agree that racism is wrong, deadly, and should be condemned? Why can’t leaders from every denomination that names Jesus as Lord agree that the only thing powerful enough to tear this country apart is being fanned into a flame?
I feel like the “small boy” yelling. I feel the frustration in Dr. King’s letter. As it pertains to today, I feel like the Church has sacrificed the civil and human rights of African Americans on the altar of the promised end of abortion, fewer troublesome immigrants, and safety in my zip code.
As a person that has voted Republican in every election but 2016, I don’t believe the Church’s embrace of the Republican Party was a bad thing in and of itself because of our two-party system. But when the Republican Party started embracing racist ideologies, instead of offering up a rebuke, Christian leaders offered up a wink and turned a blind eye. Instead of using their considerable ballot power to force the party to change its platform, it abdicated its leadership role in America and acquiesced and allowed racism to become associated with the Christian platform.
We have had a history of compromise in America with racism, and it has never worked. We kept compromising with the racism of relocating the indigenous people until we got so far west that there was no place left for them to go but the ocean, so forced relocation became genocide.
I learned that the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was part of the Compromise of 1850 and that the Missouri Compromise and the Nebraska Act were compromises that America tried to make with slavery. But slavery just spread further and further west and north until a Civil War was needed to stop it.
President Eisenhower tried to compromise with Governor Orval Faubus on the integration of Arkansas’ public schools (the Little Rock Nine). President John F. Kennedy tried to compromise with Governor Ross Barnet on integrating the University of Mississippi. In both cases, federal troops had to be called in because racism doesn’t easily relinquish the ground it has gained.
Now President Trump is trying to compromise with racism in 2020 by:
Advocating the keeping of the historic symbols of racism, the rebel flags, and monuments, and calling them “part of our great heritage”
Railing on Antifa and Black Lives Matter movements and calling them a threat while encouraging armed white nationalist groups to go to cities like Kenosha and Portland
Encouraging white people to take up arms against peaceful protesters as the McCloskey’s did in St. Louis
Doubling down on the most racist lie in American history that America can only be great again by becoming white again and getting rid of immigrants and the descendants of immigrants (DACA)
Giving lip service to ending the police brutality and deaths suffered by African Americans, by saying that they are the result of a “few bad apples” vs. the negative consequence of the remnants of the war on drugs and the systemic racism that is built into the search for drugs
Planning a rally in Tulsa, OK, the site of one of the largest post-slavery massacres of black people in U.S. history, and originally scheduling "Juneteenth" as the rally date
Following that up with plans for a rally in Jacksonville on Aug 27th, the anniversary of the largest attack on black people in Jacksonville history, known as "Ax Handle Saturday." Only COVID could stop the rally
Continuing to hijack the narrative on police brutality by diverting attention to kneeling during the anthem but not doing more to change policing practices that result in the shooting of unarmed black men
Hijacking the narrative of the initially peaceful protests by exaggerating the scope of Antifa involvement and by minimizing the role of counter-protesters in the escalation of their armed violence
Being part of the problem with peaceful protests: using tear gas and rubber bullets on peaceful protesters to support a brief, unscheduled, photo op
Being America’s Chief Racism Marketing Executive, spending more time sending divisive tweets, making divisive remarks on Fox news than on trying to bring healing along racial lines.
Trying to take America’s great melting pot and pour all the immigrants out of it
Echoing the racist yet familiar “law and order narrative” of the 1960s while letting white mobs run unchecked alongside law enforcement as they did in the 1960s resulting in loss of life then and now
I shared in MGA (Vol I) that I believed there would be consequences for America choosing Donald Trump as president and why I felt that way:
“If there were consequences for Israel's choosing a leader whose external portrayal of strength was greater than the strength of his character, what makes us think America will be any different? God told Israel, ‘And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the LORD will not hear you in that day’ I believe the cries of regret have already begun to ring out in America over the choice that has been made in President Trump, and his term is not over yet.”
(Thompson, The Making of a Great America: Where the Founding Fathers and the Church Fell Short (Vol I), 2020)
I believe this revival of racism is one of the consequences of the Church abdicating its leadership role in not challenging President Trump sooner. Even if the Church supported him as the republican candidate, it still could have blasted his early racist overtones disguised as immigration reform and respect for the flag.
I understand the appeal of racism to non-Christians. This book isn’t written for them. The devil knows that you can’t beat racism in America while embracing racism in the Church. But the Church will never learn that lesson if we take the same failed stances against racism that have been taken in the past.
I’d like to close this book with a look back at a president who was faced with a national race crisis. I’d like to use him as an example of the hope of what can happen when a leader that tries to unify vs. divide is in office. He wasn’t a perfect man, and he didn’t offer a perfect solution, but he understood that the nation needed healing, not division—something President Trump has yet to grasp.
“The Republican President who Called for Racial Justice in America after Tulsa Massacre
Warren G. Harding’s comments about race and equality were remarkable for 1921
It was just three days after the horrific violence in Tulsa, where hundreds of African Americans had been killed and the city’s segregated black neighborhood — including 35 square blocks of prosperous businesses — had been destroyed by rampaging whites. Some buildings had even been firebombed from planes.
President Warren G. Harding spent the weekend worrying over how to respond to the massacre. Finally, he decided to accept a commencement invitation from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, the nation’s first degree-granting historically black institution.
He would use that moment in 1921 to seek healing and harmony — and several months later in Alabama, he would go much further with daring remarks about equality.
That was how a Republican president addressed racially fraught events nearly a century ago.
‘Despite the demagogues, the idea of our oneness as Americans has risen superior to every appeal to mere class and group,’ Harding declared. ‘And so, I wish it might be in this matter of our national problem of races.’
Few people could have missed the symbolism of Harding’s June 6 visit to Lincoln, PA, near the small town of Oxford, about five miles north of the Maryland border. The university had been founded as the Ashmun Institute in 1854 but changed its name after the Civil War in tribute to the assassinated president. Early on, it was known as ‘the Black Princeton.’
Harding wanted to acknowledge the searing anguish of Tulsa — the city where President Trump held a controversial rally Saturday night — not just for African Americans there but also across the nation. He also wanted to praise and honor Lincoln alumni who had been among the more than 367,000 black servicemen to fight in the Great War. One Lincoln graduate led the 370th U.S. Infantry, the ‘Black Devils.’ Col. F.A. Denison was the sole black commander of a regiment in France…
In Tulsa, Army veterans were among the African Americans who sought to protect their homes and businesses from the white mobs — although newspaper accounts largely and falsely blamed the city’s black population for the upheaval. It would be decades before the true scope and causes of the massacre were analyzed and understood.
Harding and his four-car caravan set off before dawn on that Monday, heading southwest from Valley Forge, PA, where he and the first lady had been guests at a farmhouse owned by Sen. Philander Knox. When the entourage arrived at the campus, it stopped in front of a granite arch that had recently been erected in memory of “Lincoln men” who had fought and died in the war.
According to the university newspaper, the visit represented ‘the high-water mark in the history of the institution.’ Harding spoke extemporaneously in the sun-dappled setting, addressing the graduating class as ‘my fellow countrymen.’ He was there not just for their commencement but also to help dedicate the arch, and his words reflected a theme he sounded repeatedly during his presidency: that African American servicemen had paid through service and sacrifice for the nation to ‘make the world safe for democracy.’ They were due.
Then he turned to two of the day’s most controversial subjects.
He called education critical to solving the issues of racial inequality, but he challenged the students to shoulder their shared responsibility to advance freedom. The government alone, he said, could not magically ‘take a race from bondage to citizenship in half a century.’
He also spoke briefly about Tulsa and offered up a simple prayer: ‘God grant that, in the soberness, the fairness, and the justice of this country, we never see another spectacle like it.’
The fact that Harding chose a black university to make his only comments about the catastrophe spoke volumes about his intentions.
After he concluded, eyewitnesses reported, he congratulated every graduate individually ‘and shook hands with each one of them.’
That fall Harding became the first president to go into the Deep South since the Civil War. And in a speech that the city of Birmingham, AL, thought would help celebrate its semicentennial, he instead veered dramatically.
Before a crowd of 100,000 — blacks and whites separated by a fence — he made a full-throated case for political, economic and educational equality among the races. He only stopped short of advocating for social equality. “Let the black man vote when he is fit to vote; and prohibit the white man voting when he is unfit to vote,” Harding proclaimed.
Half of his audience erupted in cheers. The other half was thunderstruck. Some whites openly booed and hissed. A Mississippi congressman in attendance denounced Harding’s words as ‘a blow to the white civilization of America.’
The nation’s 29th president died less than two years later, collapsing with a heart attack after a grueling speaking tour through the West and up into the Alaska Territory. For decades, his record on racial equality — a core belief — remained largely unexplored.
‘No majority shall abridge the rights of a minority,’ he stressed when accepting his party’s nomination in 1920. ‘I believe the Negro citizens of America should be guaranteed the enjoyment of all their rights, that they have earned their full measure of citizenship bestowed, that their sacrifices in blood on the battlefields of the republic have entitled them to all of freedom and opportunity, all of sympathy and aid that the American spirit of fairness and justice demands.’
But America was not ready then, and today’s protests and counterprotests reveal the progress still to be made. Almost a century ago, Harding asked Congress to pass an anti-lynching bill. The latest attempt just weeks ago was thwarted by another Republican, Sen. Rand Paul (KY).” (Robenalt, 2020)
I don’t know much about President Harding and his record on race or his politics, but I can see that he took some steps that were incredibly bold for 1921. I can see that he had the qualities of statesmanship and compassion that we have been gravely missing in the Office of the President of the United States. His leadership example brings me to the best way that I can think of to close this book: It’s time for America and even the Church to say to President Trump, “YOU’RE FIRED!”
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