These are excerpts from the chapter "All is Well in America" and in this book bubble, I compare the excerpts to the comments of prominent Christian leader who has reversed his position on the President, withdrawn his condemnation and given him an endorsement.
Chapter Highlights: Black vs. White Evangelical Perceptions
A recent survey of evangelical Christians featured in Christianity Today, empirically captured the differences between how I felt and how this pastor felt. The survey showed a dramatic difference between how African American evangelicals view the racial climate in America as opposed to white evangelicals.
“…according to the study’s data, not many White evangelicals are disturbed by President Trump’s comments about minorities.
When asked whether they agreed with the statement: ‘I am disturbed by comments President Trump has made about minorities,’ 55% of evangelicals by belief agreed.
Interestingly, when broken down by race the numbers tell a different story. 82% of African-Americans who are evangelical by belief agree with the statement, while only 42% of Whites who are evangelical by belief agree with the statement.
Why such a disparity? What does this mean?
Moving the Bar
Here’s the disconnect—I think.
When asked about the single most important reason they voted for their candidate, African-American evangelicals by belief thought that personal character was the fourth most important factor. On the other hand, White evangelicals by belief did not find it as important as five other key issues, including abortion and likely Supreme Court nominees.
While white evangelicals by belief overall have moved the bar on the importance of the personal life of political leaders, African-American evangelicals by belief have held their ground on the importance of character for political leaders.
This is not to say that white evangelicals don’t care at all about character for political leaders. Just that they have lowered the bar a bit. I fear that doing so has lowered the bar when it comes to race relations among Christians.
In the analysis, Stetzer and MacDonald explain from that data, ‘many evangelicals voted for Trump for the future while overlooking the present.’ As such, I fear evangelicals have risked years of processing past racial trauma for a future devoid of Black voices among them.” (Richards(Jr.), 2018)…
What do I mean specifically? 1 Corinthians 12 spoke of many “parts,” making up the body of Christ. It references hands, ears, eyes as particular body parts. I would propose to you that as an African American Christian, I am going to see and hear things that my white Christian parts of the body will not. I am going to feel things that they will not.
Only in a setting where all the different parts of the body are free to share what they see, hear and feel, will blind spots be diminished. That is without question why the political polls for evangelicals can be so deeply divided over the president. Though we are all part of the body, we are not seeing with the same eyes, hearing with the same ears, nor our hearts capable of feeling the same feelings.
A recent Washington Post-Ipsos Poll corroborates what I’m trying to convey and shows that “nearly two-thirds of black Americans say it is a bad time to be a black person in the U.S.”:
“More than 8 in 10 black Americans say they believe Trump is a racist and that he has made racism a bigger problem in the country. Nine in 10 disapprove of his job performance overall. The pessimism goes well beyond assessments of the president. A 65 percent majority of African Americans say it is a “bad time” to be a black person in America. That view is widely shared by clear majorities of black adults across income, generational and political lines. By contrast, 77 percent of black Americans say it is a “good time” to be a white person, with a wide majority saying white people don’t understand the discrimination faced by black Americans.” (Cleve R. Wootson Jr., 2020)
What I experienced on a local level is also true of the larger body of Christ in America. I believe the same blind spots exist in America’s national Christian leaders for the same reasons. Residing in these blind spots keeps these leaders from being revolted by divisive MAGA sentiments and from seeing, hearing, and feeling the racism in them. Instead, they see, hear, and feel other things that result in them valuing other things (as the research pointed out) as a higher priority than destroying racism and division along racial lines in the body of Christ.
A recent NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist poll showed that “75 percent of white evangelicals approved of Trump, compared with 42 percent of Americans overall.” (Bailey, 2020)
This statistic could be interpreted to mean that white evangelicals have a rosier view of the Trump-led America than everyone else, nearly twice that of other Americans. Truly for them, “all is well in America.”
My white evangelical counterpart’s blind spot keeps them from seeing what the NPR-PBS poll refers to as “a sharp divide among evangelicals across generational and racial lines” as it pertains to the Trump presidency. (Bailey, 2020)
In their blind spot, white evangelicals don’t see and likely understand that “many younger evangelicals and evangelicals of color are less likely to support the president on issues like immigration.” (Bailey, 2020)
The polls suggest, and I assert that evangelicals in their support of President Trump are no less susceptible to MAGA-type appeals than non-evangelical Trump supporters. The survey data shows that they may be more susceptible to these appeals as their approval of the president is much higher than that of other Americans.
This statement sounds like an indictment, and it is. It’s an indictment as old as the Founding Fathers and the history of the Church in America. Making matters of race subservient to other matters has consistently been a shortcoming of national and religious leaders since America’s independence.
Downplaying the vileness of racism, failing to denounce it, and whoever espouses it, is the greatest blemish on the history of Democracy and Christianity in America, from the establishment of slavery to the support of MAGA. As a nation founded on Christian principles, America needs its Christian leaders to point the way to the truth and help lead our nation in that direction.
Sadly, this is not likely to happen as many of our Christian leaders have the same blind spots in the area of racism that our political leaders have. It was the reason slavery thrived for as long as it did, that it took as long as it did for civil rights to become law and why MAGA ideals can continue to flourish on national television networks and even from pulpits.
If white evangelical voters heard something different in church, perhaps they’d see, hear, and feel differently. Perhaps if they saw, heard, and felt differently, blind spots would disappear, and they’d be more disturbed when the president says disparaging things about minorities.
Perhaps if they were more disturbed and unhindered by blind spots, they’d also vote differently and remove the source of the disturbances altogether.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish