Christian faith is under attack in America.
No, I’m not talking about the annual fabricated “War on Christmas.” I’m talking about the deeply held faith of millions of Black Americans who worship in churches aligned with a prophetic, liberating gospel.
The type of gospel found in Luke 4:18, one that brings good news to the poor and frees the oppressed.
Granted, not all Black Christians ascribe to such theology, but Black pastors and churches who believe their faith has something to say about rampant social injustice and who feel called to challenge empires are certainly under attack. They always have been in this country.
There are numerous historical examples to support this fact.
We could begin with the “slave Bible” that white masters provided their slaves, which stripped out scriptures that might promise equality or give hope for liberation.
We could also lift up the dangerous and illegal work of the underground railroad and the devoutly Christian Harriett Tubman or the rebellion led by preacher Nat Turner. Their faith fueled a fight for freedom for which they were attacked.
It was under attack when pastors like Martin Luther King Jr. and lay leaders like Fannie Lou Hamer organized the civil rights movement and were beaten or assassinated, had crosses burned on their lawns, and their churches and homes burned or bombed.
It was under attack when the vast majority of good white Christians stood by and did nothing or stood up to defend segregation.
It is still under attack when Christian pastors working for racial justice today are labeled as radical Marxists.
This faith was under attack when Dylan Roof walked into Mother Emanuel, attended Bible study and then murdered nine members, including the pastor, in their very sanctuary.
This faith was attacked on Nov. 25 of this year when racist vandals shot up and severely damaged Mount Vernon Missionary Baptist Church in Holts Summit, Missouri. The church, founded and built by slaves, has endured numerous such attacks through the years.
Their faith was under attack two weekends ago in Washington, D.C., when racist “Proud Boys” ripped Black Lives Matter signs from historically Black churches and set them on fire.
Raphael Warnock’s faith is under attack when his opponent for the U.S. Senate seat in Georgia abuses and misuses mere snippets of his sermons for political gain.
Last month, six white male presidents of Southern Baptist seminaries declared an academic method of analyzing systemic racism, Critical Race Theory, incompatible with the basic tenets of the faith.
By doing so, they attack the very faith of those who see value in the theory, deeming them no longer true Christians, or at least not real Southern Baptists. They made this declaration without defining Critical Race Theory, describing how it is a threat or explaining what makes it antithetical to the gospel.
One of those presidents, Al Mohler, has at various times both claimed that racial superiority is a Christian heresy and affirmed the Baptist orthodoxy of the slave-owning founders of his seminary, calling them titans of the faith.
Words denouncing racism ring hollow when condemning as anti-Christian the methods meant to combat racism.
The prophetic faith of Black Christians is under attack and discounted when white evangelical leaders declare that true Christians would only vote for Republican candidates, thereby ignoring the faith of millions of devout Black Christians whose faith regularly leads them to vote for Democrats.
This faith is disrespected when white Christian leaders talk about “the church” and what they really mean is the white church.
Meanwhile, many of those same white evangelical leaders enjoy unfettered access to the highest levels of power in this country and turn around and scream persecution at any change perceived to threaten their privileged status.
Cultural change is scary, and fear is a powerful drug, but loss of privilege or preferred status is not persecution. A faith is attacked because it challenges the powerful and afflicts the comfortable, not because it coddles the easily offended in service to the status quo.
In my years working in advocacy and public policy, I have been blessed and fortunate to work with, learn from and get to know many Black preachers in the prophetic tradition.
I am in awe of their faith and grateful for the ways they remain committed to working to make this a better country. I wouldn’t blame them if, in the face of such momentous evidence, they gave up on America’s potential to live up to our noble ideal of equality.
I firmly believe that we comfortable white Christians have much to learn from the faith exhibited by the Black prophetic tradition if we are humble enough to listen and be led.
We might learn more about the kind of community the gospel calls us to create for all God’s children, or how we can better love our neighbors rather than protect ourselves and our certainty of right belief.
The least we can do is stand alongside and defend our fellow believers who are targets of hatred and violence.
Maybe more white evangelical Christians don’t do so because they don’t really see them as sisters and brothers sharing the same faith. Maybe they’re right, but we’d probably disagree on whose faith is more Christ-like.
Associate Coordinator for Advocacy at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. He is a member of the Good Faith Media strategic advisory board.