America is not “becoming more divided.” With politicians spouting racism “as plain as day,” if you have ears to hear it, then you know that this goes back to America’s founding.

Racism in America isn’t new, and neither is the country’s denial of it. Though deeply embedded in American life, many of its citizens continue to tiptoe around the subject. But where has that gotten us?

Before the Underground Railroad, the abolitionist movement, and the Civil War, the country was united over slavery. All on one accord, the church was complicit from the start.

“It is enacted and declared by this Grand Assembly, and the authority thereof, that the conferring of baptism does not alter the condition of the person as to his bondage and freedom,” read the Virginia Slave Law of 1667. The members of “this Grand Assembly,” comprised of Anglican men, wanted to ensure that the “masters” could share Christianity with the Africans they enslaved without altering their social condition.

“Things could have been different,” wrote Jemar Tisby in The Color of Compromise: The Truth About the American Church’s Complicity in Racism. “At several points in American history—the colonial era, Reconstruction, the demise of Jim Crow—Christians could have confronted racism instead of compromising.”

Instead, the North American church went along with and provided theological support for the idea of a hierarchy of being. It was called the Great Chain of Being and despite the Sunday school memory verse that touted God’s love for the world, Christians were identified by complexion. Africans and the indigenous, the First Nation people, were reimagined as heathens.

The conflating of racial, national, and religious identities began during American slavery. In fact, Samuel L. Perry, a sociologist who works at the University of Oklahoma, traces white Christian nationalism to the late 1600s.

“White Christian nationalism is one of the oldest and most powerful currents in American politics. But until the insurrection, it was invisible to most Americans. It was invisible to most conservative white Christians, because for decades it has been the water they swim in and the air they breathe,” he wrote in The Flag and the Cross: White Christian Nationalism and the Threat to American Democracy, a book he co-authored with Philip S. Gorski.

Before blue and red states, there were free and slave states. Don’t blame the politicians solely for our divisions. Just look at our history.

Slavery, the Civil War, Jim and Jane Crow segregation, redliningall of these ensured that American citizens remained divided along “the color line.” Not even Christians, despite their convictions, refused to tow it.

These divisions were legal, and some argued, biblical. They are the same old differences though hyper-politicized. From black and white to red and blue, it is the same old lines.

To be clear, racism shouldn’t be oversimplified. “Whereas for most whites, racism is prejudice, for most people of color, racism is systemic or institutionalized,” wrote Eduardo Bonilla-Silva in Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States.

Still, when we talk about racism, some view it as a personal attack. “I didn’t enslave anybody.”

But what’s that in your “invisible knapsack”? Let’s unpack that or is talking about white privilege where you draw the line?

“For a long time, the Christian Church has profoundly compromised with the demands of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, especially with respect to the meaning and practice of love,” Howard Thurman wrote in The Luminous Darkness: A Personal Interpretation of the Anatomy of Segregation and the Ground of Hope. It undermines its credibility today with victims claiming, “There’s no hate like Christian love.”

Still, no amount of book banning could erase the cultural memory of this country. Segregated from the cradle to the grave, our divisions were legal and are still clearly visible on Sundays.

“I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other,” Abraham Lincoln said at the Illinois Republican State Convention in Springfield, Illinois on June 16, 1858.

America is not “becoming more divided.” “Half slave and half free,” “all one thing, or all the other” where the lines are drawn are just easier to see.

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