The holiday season can make us sentimental.
It’s natural to long for a time when we roasted marshmallows, warmed by the light of a fireplace rather than the dumpster fire the world around us has become. After all, marshmallows roasted over hot garbage don’t taste the same.
This is also a prime time for those from whom we’ve rightfully chosen to disengage to test our commitment to our established boundaries, seeking a relationship with us without a commitment to reform.
If the turmoil of the past few years caused you to reconsider any relationships, you’ve likely already found this to be particularly true regarding the evangelical church, especially concerning issues of race.
Before any holiday nostalgia leads us to repave roads to unhealthy relationships, let us remember Doctor Emmett Brown’s sage wisdom from the movie “Back to the Future”: “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”
Previously, I opined here that a central question for today’s church is not whether we know the words of our greatest Christmas carols, but whether we embody their central message.
In many disheartening ways, we’ve learned that the white evangelical church has lost its way. But is that still true? Or is it safe to come out now? Let’s consider the evidence.
On May 14, 2022, a white man previously flagged by the F.B.I. as a violent threat, visited a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, with the explicit purpose of killing as many Black patrons as possible.
When the news broke, talking heads urged the public not to draw the most instinctive of conclusions. Yet, we soon learned that the rifle used to kill 10 and wound three others was covered in white supremacist messaging.
As minorities and their allies were still reeling from this tragedy, another deadly mass shooting took place at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, a community that is 72.5% Latino.
Twenty-one lives were lost, as multiple police departments (which have historically proven to overzealously police minorities) literally stood by as these children were killed.
The national response from evangelical Christians to these tragedies has been wholly insufficient, quickly degrading into a debate about whether mass shootings can ever be prevented in nation that refuses to do anything about gun control.
In 2018, Kanye West was praised by evangelicals for donning a MAGA cap in the oval office as he endorsed the 45th President of the United States. In 2022, I didn’t see any major conservative religious leaders publicly denounce his antisemitic rhetoric or affiliation with white nationalists.
In April, Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation in Florida limiting instruction that he believes constitutes “woke” ideology, specifically Critical Race Theory. Evangelicals comprise 24% of the state in which DeSantis won his November gubernatorial bid for reelection handily.
How has the prophetic voice of evangelicalism responded to the nationwide debate over CRT? Largely with calls for panic.
Upon the release of his book Fault Lines: The Social Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe, Voddie Baucham has been working tirelessly to stoke fears against CRT.
Even after compelling evidence came to light suggesting he may have intentionally misattributed quotes and plagiarized portions of his writing, Baucham remains a crowd favorite among conservative Christians.
Much more could be said about the state of the church, including promotion of Christian nationalism, brandishing the Great Replacement Theory or demonization of Brittney Griner. But perhaps I’m being too harsh.
As we evaluate the response of the white evangelical congregations in our local communities, do we see a sustained call for lament of, and repentance from, the ways that marginalized groups have been overlooked?
Have the friends and relatives that caused so much strain in our relationships by embracing immorality to preserve their privilege and status come to their senses? Or have they doubled down on their commitments for the sake of political power?
The evidence is overwhelming: the body of Christ is not functioning as it should.
The evangelical church knows how to organize and speak into matters that are political, controversial and of cultural importance when it wants to. But in matters that are so significant to minorities and our allies, they have chosen silence. Or, in some cases, they have taken the most offensive position possible. In doing so, they have also communicated how they value us.
It is important to view this reality as an intentional decision. As such, we cannot function as a united body. Our circumstances have created irreconcilable differences that have destroyed the legitimate ends of the relationship with no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
The time for lunch meetings, coffees and “conversations” with an endless stream of believers who just can’t seem to be convinced to take the leap into love of God and neighbor without caveat has long passed.
As author Jenai Auman tells us, “Sometimes faith looks like walking away.” So, it’s time to move on. It is simply too late build bridges.
Our energies – our ministries – are best utilized in gathering those sheep who have been scattered without a shepherd and charting a path together toward healing and a robust understanding of Jesus, who identifies with the meek, lowly, downtrodden and oppressed.
The path ahead is clearly marked. We must turn and lead in hopes that evangelicals will one day follow.
An author and attorney, practicing criminal and family law in the law firm of Callahan & King, PLLC, based in Waco, Texas. As a writer and advocate, he performs center stage in the three-ring circus of law, race and religion. Robert and his wife celebrate an interracial marriage, which has gifted them with three beautiful children, two demanding dogs and a mountain of student loan debt.