The Desecration of Black Life and The Silence of American Evangelicals
(*As an Evangelical Christian and thinker, my target audience is American Evangelical Christians and Leaders. I must admit I do not subscribe to some of the ideological apparatuses associated with American Evangelicalism–particularly in reference to Evangelical views on social and political issues: immigration, race, war, public policy, foreign policy, economy, etc. I find some of these views unbiblical, and theologically dangerous and unhealthy to the Christian witness in the public sphere, missional evangelism, the Lordship of Christ, and to human flourishing and the common good.)
As a Christian minister, scholar, and theologian, writing about the humanity and dignity of black people in the era of violence and death towards black folk in America is an uneasy task to do.
I keep asking myself these puzzling questions: why the American evangelicals are silent about this vital issue? Why have the influential Evangelical leaders kept their mouth shut about defending the dignity and humanity of black people?
I do not believe their silence is an indication of their disbelief about the equality of all people or races; rather, their coldness about death and violence toward black people in America is a blunt denial of the biblical worldview about the sanctity of life and the doctrine of humanity grounded in the doctrine of God. American Evangelicals suffer a terrific existential crisis of biblical authority and faithfulness to the Word of God. Because of its silence, the disaster of American Evangelicalism lies in the fact that it (indirectly) supports the dehumanization of black people. In Jeremiah 22:3, God has ordered his people not to be silent regarding the plight and dehumanization of the oppressed, but to be socially engaged in the transformation of their culture and the practice of justice: “Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.”
Evangelical theological reflection about the presence of evil in our midst is more than an intellectual discourse. It should accompany radical social activism sourced in a revolutionary theology of love, justice, and peace, and a biblical ethics of relationality and social transformation. After all, the Christian is called to resist evil in the world and practice justice. American evangelicalism has failed black people and black Christians in America because of its weak theological ethics and inadequate theology of humanity and theology of God. The predicament and inhumanity of the Evangelical world lies in the fact that somewhere it has (indirectly) killed a man–that is a black person, a black christian.
I suppose we black Evangelical Christians and thinkers should force our White Evangelical Christians and thinkers to ask honestly: what is the relevance of American Evangelicalism and its missionary message to Black America and to the non-believer? or to put it another way, what is value of the Evangelical affirmation of the authority of Scripture in matters of life (practice) and faith (theology)? American Evangelicalism has constructed a conservative moral worldview, seemingly informed by divine revelation and scriptural authority and fidelity, is not “thick” enough to embrace and defend all lives and particularly, the dignity and humanity of black folk in America. The decline of American Evangelical ethics and moral theology in the public sphere is also premised in American evangelical tribalism and moral partiality.
I’m afraid that American Evangelicals are losing/have already lost the cultural and political war–the concern of their relevancy in the tragic time of despair, fear, alienation, and black death. Sometimes, I just wish my evangelical brothers and sisters would join the chorus to denounce these social sins, fight for the weak, and defend all lives.Modern American Evangelicalism must confront the meaning of black existence, and that black being as human nature is originated in the Imago Dei and shaped in divine likeness.
The people of God is called by God to be an active community in opposition to human oppression and suffering, social injustice, violence, and war, and an active force against hate, anti-human love, and anti-human rights. May Christ radically reorient our thinking and make us more sensitive to the lived-experiences and lived-worlds of our black brothers and sisters in America–to the glorious praise of the Triune and Eternal God!