White professing Christians are the main obstacle to overcoming white religious nationalism, white supremacy and racial injustice in the United States.
This is not a pleasant reality.
However, the US would not be in such pathetic shape if white people who claim to be followers of Jesus would admit truths about the injustices committed against Indigenous, Black, Latino and Asian people, admit the history of white religious complicity in those injustices, and then commit to remedy the harms associated with those injustices.
White people who claimed to follow Jesus stole access to land and water and massacred Indigenous people.
White people who claimed to follow Jesus financed, operated, legalized, sacralized and enriched themselves by enslaving Africans.
White people who claimed to follow Jesus invaded the Republic of Texas and waged war against Mexico – where slavery was prohibited – so they could expand slavery.
Baylor University was founded by slaveholding white Baptists. Georgetown University was funded by slaveholding Catholics.
Princeton, Harvard, Yale and other well-endowed higher education institutions exist because white people who claimed to be followers of Jesus disobeyed what Jesus said about loving God completely and loving other persons, including persons who are ethnically and ancestrally different, unconditionally.
White people who claimed to follow Jesus took land from Latino families.
White people who claimed to follow Jesus oppressed immigrant working families from Japan, China and other Asian and Pacific Island societies.
Racial reconciliation will begin only when and if white people who claim to follow Jesus admit responsibility for those wrongs against people of color.
People of color are no longer interested in “dialogue” and “conversations” with white religious people about unity, racial harmony and cooperation.
They are justifiably fed up with shallow and often hypocritical interracial dinners, worship services and other gatherings with white people who claim to follow Jesus yet who refuse to admit that systemic racism in education, employment, government, healthcare, housing, environmental policy and law are real.
So, why do white people who claim to follow Jesus refuse to admit the truth people of color know?
One reason is that white religious people are in denial about racism and their complicity in racial injustice. Much of their denial stems from having been deliberately mis-educated about US and world history in schools.
Meanwhile, white people who claim to follow Jesus have been given ideas about religion that are corrupted by white supremacy, white male privilege, authoritarian hegemony and what ethicist Robert Terry called “the rightness of whiteness.”
The combined effect of racist education and white supremacist (“rightness of whiteness”) theology makes white people who claim to be followers of Jesus blind, deaf and numb to their own racism and its impact.
People of color now recognize they cannot pray, preach and socialize enough with white people who claim to follow Jesus to convince them to recognize and confess their moral, ethical, social, religious, economic and political addiction to white supremacy and racism.
Although white people often laud the efforts of Martin Luther King, Jr. to attack systemic racism and forge working inter-racial relationships, King openly grieved the intransigence of white religious people years before his death in 1968.
Now, people of color are declining invitations to “come alongside,” “partner” and otherwise “collaborate” with white people who claim to follow Jesus unless those white people are doing their own antiracism de-programming and reprogramming.
People of color are unwilling to be involved in those efforts because they understand the limitations of their agency with white people about white supremacy and racism.
That does not mean people of color feel defeated. They are liberated by recognizing that white religious people must admit their addiction to white supremacy on their own.
People of color have broken their mental enslavement to “save” white people. Instead, people of color are pressing ahead with their own plans to dismantle systemic racism.
The Black Lives Matter and other antiracism movements by people of color are not interested in merging with white self-styled “moderate” groups, religious or otherwise. They are tired of putting up with hand-wringing white people who claim to follow Jesus but do not want to confront their addiction to white supremacy and dependency on white privilege.
White people who claim to follow Jesus are in the spotlight.
When they decide to admit their addiction to white supremacy and racism and their dependency on white privilege, they will find people of color ready, willing and able to accept them as co-laborers in dismantling systemic racism in the United States and throughout the world.
Until then, white religious people who claim to be followers of Jesus will be justifiably viewed, and treated, as adversaries to racial justice despite their professed allegiance to the religion of the Palestinian Jewish prophet who preached that people are not known by their “professions of faith” but by “their fruit.”
Jesus knew that people do not change unjust systems by talking about change, but by first changing their relationship to those systems.
It does not yet appear that white people who claim to follow Jesus have learned that fundamental principle of what it means to be “born anew.”
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared on Griffen’s blog, The Fierce Urgency of Prophetic Hope. It was submitted by the author for consideration and is used with permission.
Pastor at New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, a retired state court trial judge, a trustee of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, author of one book and three blogs, a consultant on cultural competency and inclusion, and a contributing correspondent at Good Faith Media.