The Message of Jesus and Political-Bourgeois American Christianity

The Message of Jesus and Political-Bourgeois American Christianity

If the Gospel of Jesus Christ is Good News for all and indeed Good news for the poor, it must also be Good News for all refugees and for all people in the world, not just for Christian refugees and the Christian poor. The message of the Gospel transcends religion, ethnicity, class, race, and gender. American bourgeois Christianity is a dead and soulless religion; it is the antithesis of true and biblical Christianity. Lifeless Christianity (American political-bourgeois Christianity) is not sacrificial, loving, empathetic, compassionate, relational, and Jesus-centered.

A Christianity that turns itself from the poor, the immigrant, the homeless, the orphan, the widows, and the refugee is a dead faith.

A Christianity that chooses to close its eyes to the most crucial problems of the modern world and the most critical problems– global poverty, immigration crisis, refugees crisis, women’s rights, labor exploitation, political corruption, local and global oppression, local and global racism, hunger, etc. — in the society in which it is lived and practiced is a religion that is not worth practicing and saving.

A Christianity that ignores the message and Gospel of Jesus Christ is an anti-Christ faith.

A Christianity that evangelizes strategically in order to (neo) colonize, rule, and exploit the weak betrays the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

A Christianity that exploits its principles for deceit and ruse is a soulless religion.

Contemporary (political-bourgeois) American Christianity is unable to transform the human condition and solve its most crucial problems in modern times. It is a religious enterprise that is rooted in collective hypocrisy, ethnocentrism, egocentrism, and deceitful philanthropy.

*We need to decenter political Christianity not Jesus Christ. The Biblical Jesus is a different figure than the cultural, political, and white (American & Western) Jesus. He is certainly not the Jesus of the colonizer, slave master, oppressor, and capitalist. He is certainly not the white savior. The real Jesus existed in real history and real time. He is not a fabrication or a myth. In many aspects, Western Christianity has perverted real and biblical Christianity. Contemporary American Christianity has abandoned the message and ethics of Jesus for political gain and cultural influence. Interestingly, American Christianity entrenched in American politics and culture is a joke and mockery of biblical Christianity.

 The author of Proverbs gives a fair warning that “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him” (Proverbs 14:1). To humiliate the poor and exploit the labor and resources of those with dire material needs is to scorn God himself; to act in such an ungodly manner toward the poor is to ignore the biblical mandate to treat all people with dignity and respect and to care for the poor and the oppressed.  When one honors the poor, God is honored; when one mistreats the needy, the immigrant, the orphan, and the widow, God is mistreated.  This verse in Proverb prioritizes the material needs of the poor, while not undermining their spiritual needs. To give preference to the poor and the needy is to  have a God-entranced worldview and to celebrate the supremacy of God in all things.

Elsewhere, the same author of Proverbs insists that “Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor” (Proverbs 22:9). From a biblical perspective, one is counted “blessed” and “happy” because he prioritizes the material needs of the poor and does not withhold his goods from him. Comparatively, the author of Leviticus draws a parallel between the poor and the stranger/immigrant, “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong” (Lev. 19:33). The idea here is to treat both the poor and the immigrant with dignity because it is simply the will of God. The love for the immigrant and the needy is predicated upon one’s love, and affection for God: “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself… I am the LORD your God” (Lev. 19:34). One’s spiritual devotion to God is materialized in one’s treatment of the poor, the needy, and the stranger/immigrant among us. Living the (message of the Christian) Gospel means to stand in solidarity with refugees and immigrants. 

True spirituality is practical spirituality, and Christ-centered discipleship. The concept of caring hospitality and generous relationality, and exceptional love toward the immigrant, the needy, and the poor is rooted in God’s idea of inclusive justice and God’s generous lovingkindness toward all people; it is more pronounced in Deuteronomy, ” For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.  He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore…(Deut. 10:18-19).  To do otherwise and contrary is to “follow Jesus at a distance” with a politically-culturally driven worldview.Christ must be the “center” of our politics, and biblical ethics must be the “catalyst” of our life choices, as well as our political decisions and cultural preferences. The Biblical Jesus is  above culture, ideology, and politics; He is not subservient to cultural traditions, political ideologies, and national and ethnic identity.

As followers of Christ and Children of light, let us not politicize the message and gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to divorce biblical Christianity from American Political Christianity. We need to treat our neighbor and the stranger among us with love, compassion, and dignity. We need to tell our friends and neighbor about Jesus. Jesus only!

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On Black Life and Death: The Fear of American Police Forces, and the Decline of American Democracy and American Evangelical White Christianity

On Black Life and Death: The Fear of American Police Forces, and the Decline of American Democracy and American Evangelical White Christianity

Foremost, I’m a human being. Second, I’m a black male. Third, I’m a Christian. Fourth, I’m also a Professor and educator; I’m also a scholar, writer, and Christian minister. Correspondingly, I’m a father, husband, American citizen, and a holder of three Master degrees and a PhD. I have published five academic books and 18 scholarly articles in my short academic career—in a period of four years. I have a good job as English Professor, and make a reasonable salary to support and provide for my family. Hence, I can afford one or two family vacations a year. Despite of my academic achievements, I’m still a black person, to many people. I’m still perceived as a “threat” to society, and a “problem” in the American society.

However, I would argue that the sacredness of my life and human dignity is not dependent upon my academic credentials and success; rather, it is based on the fact that I, like everyone else–White, Black, Latino, Asian, Native Americans, Mixed people, what have you?– , am created in the image and likeness of God. In other words, my life is sacred in the same manner the life of other individuals is also sacred simply because we are humans who are loved by God and called into relationship with him. From a theological perspective, to be human and created in the image of God primarily means to be able to govern, to rule, and to have dominion over all things created by God, as well as to be able to relate and love God in an intimate way; to be human also means the possibility to relate, serve, protect, and love our human neighbors.  To be in solidarity with God and to be in solidarity with one’s neighbor is the thrust of human existence and the meaning of life this world.  On the other hand, the failure and consequence of human sin results in a culture of fear and more precisely, the fear to relate, serve, protect, love, and defend our neighbors. For example, in the context of American society and history, the institution of slavery, the lynching of black bodies, the long history of racial segregation and discrimination, and the mistreatment of black and brown people in this country have engendered a culture of fear and distrust between American citizens; in other words, American racism defers the great promises of the American democracy and equally challenges the democratic ideals articulated in the American Constitution and Bill of Rights. The word of democracy & the work of democracy are not inseparable. The democratic life becomes meaningful and attainable whenever the rhetoric of democracy contributes to social change and pushes humanity forward together to explore and actualize future hope and emancipative possibilities.

Moreover, this attitude of fear, based on the long history of racism and racial violence and death, has particularly defined the ambivalent interactions between Black and White American citizens, and Black people and Police Officers. As a result, many black people in the United States live in a constant state of survival, fear, and intimidation.  It is not a satisfying human existence. The life of the black person in America could be depicted as a narrative of existential risks, which not only threaten the future of black humanity in America; they also challenge the merit, value, and the presence of black existence in the American democracy. Black existential risks provide a new way of thinking and perceiving about what it means to be human, to be black in America, and to live as black citizens in America. It is an ethic of the daily strive of black people to “stay alive” and fight toward “collective freedom,” and “self-preservation.” Black existential risks are best trapped in the human sentiment of (black) fear, and the puzzling relationship of black people and trauma (“Black trauma”) in the American life that has shaped the black condition.

For example, in the long history of American democracy and the incessant struggles of black people for racial justice, total emancipation, and equal civil and human rights, black people have always had to confront both internal (their own cynicism and predicament) and external forces—another form of human cynicism and conundrum. One of the most dreadful and devastating existential forces that has been used to police the black body, regulate black behavior, define and transform black life, and stop black existence is arguably White Police Officers or the institution of Police Forces. For many black people, the Police Forces do not mean the protection and safety of black people and black children. The black experience in the United States is a history of black trauma and intimidating confrontation with Police presence that signifies dehumanization, humiliation, alienation, trauma, violence, and even death. To get more practical on this issue, allow me to share my own fear and traumatic experience.

First of all, I do not own a gun, and I do not need one although I have a wife and four children whom I dearly love. However, if I have to risk my own life in order to protect and save them, I will do so unhesitatingly. (I do not understand this reasoning or “American logic”):

  1. It is a constitutional right for “ALL” American citizens to bear arms in order to protect themselves and their family.

The Second Amendment reads as follows: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

  1. It is okay for “White people” to bear arms in this country; white people are never seen as a threat to the Police when they carry their weapons.
  2. Correspondingly, it is okay for “Black people” to bear arms in this country; black people, however, are seen as a threat to the Police when they carry their weapons.
  3. When a black person is seen with a gun, for example, the Police Officer would always justify that his/her is in danger, which gives the Office the “legal right” to “kill” the Black American.

What is wrong with this reasoning?

What does it mean to be “perceived” as a problem?

What does it mean to be a “problem” in the American society?)

Secondly, I live in a gated community in the Treasure Coast area in Florida, and at least, five to six Police Officers live in my moderate community. In fact, one of my neighbors is a Young Female Police Officer. She seems to be a very nice individual and a person to get to know a little bit better–although we never had any good or constructive conversations. Occasionally, we greet each other with a “distant good morning” or a “distant good afternoon,” while she, standing in front of her porch, I, browsing in front of my house. We smile when we see each; but, it is always from a distance. (This same Police Officer lives in the house with her mother. I remember when I introduced myself to the mother for the first time, perhaps two days after I moved in the community, she quickly informed me that “My daughter is a Police Office.” Was that a warning to me as a black man who could potentially intimidate a white woman, in fact, a police officer with a gun? I do not know, and perhaps, I will never know why she felt that it was necessary to present her daughter to me in this manner.) Correspondingly, in the Christian Church, my family attends in the Treasure Coast, there are three to four Police Officers who are there to provide “safety” to the Christian community. Rarely, have I had a conversation with them; once again, we waive and smile at a distance. The thrust of this matter is this: I fear Police Officers, and “Police Presence” to me does not necessarily mean safety or the assurance of protection, or I will be safe. More often, unfortunately, it is the other way around. (As a professor, I’ve had two dreadful encounters with Police Officers in my life, in which I was humiliated, disvalued, and dehumanized. I will never forget those experiences in which I was feared for my life, and was equally concerned about the future of my wife and my children if I were to die on those two occasions. I do not have any history of criminality, and have never been to jail before. I certainly did not commit any crime, violated the law, nor have I been disrespectful to the Police Officers who violently tackled me on the ground while I was holding my 1 year-old daughter in my hands (my other daughter who was then two years old was sleeping in the house), while attempting to open the door of my own vehicle, in front of my house. They handcuffed me in front of her. She cried incessantly. I was humiliated and dishonored on that day—even I told him that I was a professor. I did not resist arrest!  )

I fear the Police not because I believe that all Police Officers are criminals or enjoy killing black people. I fear the Police because of the painful narrative between American Polices and Black American Citizens; it is a relationship of distrust and fear. It is also a culture of terrible intimidation, isolation, and self-protection. Also, I fear the Polices because of the long history of violence and Black Death in this country, and Police officers are and have always been used as agents of violence and aggression to humiliate black people, dehumanize them, and annihilate black lives. As a result, for me, the presence of the Police does not always mean “public safety”–as it is the case for my “white friends”—or “my safety”; rather, Police presence could mean fear, a great level of discomfort, and sometimes impending death–my own death, in some cases. (I remember the day my own friend, who is a Black Police officer, came to visit me and my family. He and I grew up together in the same church in Fort Lauderdale. He has become a Police Officer, and I, have chosen the academia as a career. I tried not to fear him, his physical presence in my house, his loaded gun and green uniforms, as we were talking, became a little discomfort to me. He is a great Police Officer, and in fact, has been honored for his great work in various communities in the St. Lucie country; nonetheless, as we were talking in my house, he reminded me of other Police Officers who have terrorized black and brown people in our society, and those who have victims of Police brutality and even death at the Police gun.) Furthermore, every day, I go out to work and return home safely, I’m thankful that I’m not dead because some of us black males and females are not that lucky to come back home safely to our family and children. It is the same experience for black youths. Black life in America is like a vapor that vanishes without any warning. The words contingency and urgency best characterize black existence and dignity in America. The predicament of black life in America forces me to ask these critical questions:

  1. Where shall we go, O Lord our God, for safety and shelter?
  2. To whom shall we turn for comfort in the moment of despair and cultural violence?
  3. To whom shall we turn for justice?

The justice system has miserably failed Black and Brown people in America. In a recent article, “Something Much Greater at Stake,” the prominent American lawyer and activist Michelle Alexander is absolutely correct when she stated, “I was not raised in a church. And I have generally found more questions than answers in my own religious or spiritual pursuits. But I also know there is something much greater at stake in justice work than we often acknowledge. Solving the crises we face isn’t simply a matter of having the right facts, graphs, policy analyses, or funding. And I no longer believe we can “win” justice simply by filing lawsuits, flexing our political muscles or boosting voter turnout. Yes, we absolutely must do that work, but none of it — not even working for some form of political revolution — will ever be enough on its own. Without a moral or spiritual awakening, we will remain forever trapped in political games fueled by fear, greed and the hunger for power.” Consequently, I’m compelled to inquire and even interrogate in this way: how shall White Christians and White churches in America respond to this culture of violence and collective fear, and the impending death of black people in the American society?

This “spiritual awakening,” and if I could would add another phrase, this “moral revolution” must come from all Americans, and especially American Evangelical White Christians and American Evangelical White Churches. The Law Enforcement and Police Officers are also in desperate need of this “moral or spiritual awakening,” Michelle Alexander talked about in her interview. On one hand, I’m very optimistic about the future of this country; on the other hand, I hope and pray that that Evangelical White Churches in America would be equally zealous about racial justice, the promotion of the humanity and dignity of black people, and the defense of the right of black people to exist in America, as they are so passionate about protesting against abortion, that is the sanctity of the life in the womb. Does the (black) life outside of the womb also matter and equally worth preserving? Isn’t this a moral thing to do?

We need to be consistent in our theology. Our democracy must also be consistent and extend to all Americans, regardless of their race, gender, and religion. We need to construct a theology of life and death, and a revolutionary theology of peace and political ethic of care that champion all human’s life. We need to inquire about how a theological discourse of human solidarity and sustainability might help us to confront our culture of fear, alienation, violence, and death. Democracy in black means equal treatment for America’s black folk, and the defense of their right to exist and succeed in this country.

What puzzles me the most is the “intentional silence” of most White Christians and White Evangelical Churches!
1. In the time of slavery and slave trades, most white churches and white Christians in America were silent.
2. In the era of black lynching, most white churches and white Christians in America were silent.
3. In the period of racial segregation, most white churches and white Christians in America were again silent.
4. In contemporary times of Police brutality and black death, American Evangelical White Christians and White Churches still maintain their silence.
When will White Evangelical Churches and White Christians call evil evil?
When will White Evangelical Churches and White Christians call injustice injustice?
When will White Evangelical Churches and White Christians call wrong wrong?
What good are White Evangelical Christianity and White churches in America in this time of national crisis and black death!
Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood,
who draw sin as with cart ropes,
who say: “Let him be quick,
let him speed his work
that we may see it;
Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
and shrewd in their own sight!
Woe to those who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
and deprive the innocent of his right!”—Isaiah 5:18-23

If the Evangelical theology or Evangelical (Christian) faith does not provoke White Evangelical Christians to anger at the incessant killing of black people in America and move them swiftly to the road of protest and racial justice, American Evangelicals belittle the majesty and love of God. The Evangelical faith is not worth sharing and living. Evangelical Christianity is a dead faith and meaningless (to bring hope) to those who are suffering, mourning, and dying. The Evangelical White Churches in American need to launch an anti-black death and anti-police brutality movement the same way they have done it for the pro-life movement, and any other major sociopolitical, and ethical issues in which we have invested our resources and energy . This is a moral issue and a serious ethical matter that do not contradict the hope, message, and promise of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is simply the right and most Christian thing to do!

 

Why Wayne Grudem and Other Evangelical Leaders are Wrong about The Donald Trump Presidential Preference!

Evangelical theologian Wayne Grudem, whose theology books have substantially shaped my own theology and theological imagination, has penned a reasonable and  fair article (“Why Voting for Donald Trump Is a Morally Good Choice“) by comparing the ideologies and policies of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump. Using biblical lessons and theological exegesis, he infers that a Donald Trump presidency will be a morally good choice for the future of American democracy and freedom, the religious freedom and triumph of Christianity in America, the welfare of the state of Israel, and many other things. Unfortunately, like Grudem, other Evangelical leaders such as David Jeremiah,  James Dobson, Robert Jeffress, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell Jr, and many influential American Christian thinkers have given Mr. Trump their divine blessings. Interestingly,  as Michael Horton has remarked in his important article (“The Theology of Donald Trump:Four words that reveal what his followers really believe“), “Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. hailed him as “one of the greatest visionaries of our time” and a wonderful Christian brother “who reminds me of my dad.” The redoubtable Pat Robertson gushed in an interview with the empire-builder, “You inspire us all.” Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, who has introduced Trump at rallies, says, “We need a strong leader and a problem-solver, hence many Christians are open to a more secular candidate.”

In a recent article (“Pew: Most Evangelicals Will Vote Trump, But Not For Trump“) published in Christianity Today, the author has remarked that most White Evangelical Christians will vote for Trump and favor his presidency.  The opening words of the article is startling:

More than three-quarters of self-identified white evangelicals plan to vote for Donald Trump in the fall (78%). But they aren’t happy about it.

According to a Pew Research Center survey of 1,655 registered voters released today, more than half of white evangelicals said they weren’t satisfied with their ballot options (55%), reflecting the feeling of Americans at large (58%).

And 45 percent of white evangelicals said they meant their vote as opposition to Hillary Clinton, not as an endorsement of Trump.

Interestingly, the great divide among American Christians of different racial and color shades pertaining to their political voice, views, and preferences is very disturbing, and makes one question the future of American Evangelicalism and the meaning of the Christian faith in America. The competing voices in American evangelicalism have questionable implications for the relevance of Christianity in the public sphere and missional evangelism in the culture. Take a look at this statement from the same article:

Half of black Protestant voters said their vote was in support of Clinton (53%), while one-third said they were voting against Trump (34%). This preference lines up with African Americans at large, who favor Clinton.

Black Protestant voters diverge from the much larger group of white evangelicals, who make up one out of five registered voters and one out of three Republicans.

On the other hand, many Americans–both Christians and non-Christians, religious and secular–who  have favorably decided for a Clinton presidency have advanced the following (gender-based) argument. If Hillary Clinton gets to become the next President of the United States of America, she will be the first woman to occupy that post in American history. It will be a historic election and an aspiration to little girls (i.e. brown, black, white, yellow, mixed, etc.) and other women who have similar aspirations. Electing a woman as President of the most powerful country in the world will be a terrific step forward toward the promise of American democracy and the democratic ideals we stand for as a nation, and people. For them, a Clinton presidential choice will symbolize the triumph of gender equality in the history of American democracy and freedom and opportunity for all–regardless of race, gender, sexuality, disability, etc. “Change,” they confess, is the most accurate word!

Nonetheless, like Grudem and other evangelical thinkers, I believe a presidential preference for Hillary Clinton is potentially dangerous to the future of the American Nation.  She is not concerned about the welfare of the poor and the most vulnerable Americans.  I have serious problems with her political views on Gun laws and rights, abortion, war, terrorism, foreign policy, racial justice, immigration, etc. In her political career, she has not done  enough to ameliorate the plight of the American masses, the underclass, the immigrant, and the poor. In fact, her policies greatly favor the wealthy class and has consistently  supported big American corporations and businesses detrimental to the welfare of the common good and American entrepreneurship. On the other hand,  unlike Grudem, I’m appreciative of her great accomplishments such as her commitment to public service and relentless courage and efforts in defense of women and children’s rights. On this account, she is undoubtedly a champion. Yet, I do not trust Hillary as a political leader nor will I vote for her to become the first Woman President in the November  presidential election.

By contrast, in the same line of reasoning, a presidential preference for Donald Trump is tentatively disastrous for America’s diplomatic relations with the global world. Trump wants to isolate America from the world.  His  messianic rhetoric is a gospel without hope and human relationality; his prosperity gospel is characterized by an apocalypse of vengeance, trauma, and despair. Trump’s rhetoric is very consistent. It is anti-immigrant, anti-American religious freedom, xenophobic, divisive, and God-human dishonoring language.  Trump rhetoric is not reconciliatory and will not foster national unity and improve race relations in America. I prefer justice over order, friendship over retaliation, Globalism over arrogant (Trump’s) American ethnocentrism and exceptionalism, and planetary love over transnational alienation. A possible Trump presidency is potentially a threat to the triumph of human rights, race relations, and religious freedom in America. Like Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump has always worked in the best interest of big corporations and institutions that consistently exploit the labor of their employees, the underclass, and workers in the Third World. Trump’s own companies have robbed their workers of their fair salary. Evidently, there’s something questionable about the character, integrity, and leadership of both presidential candidates. After all, Trump’s presidency is a serious menace to American democratic ideals, progress, and future advancement.

Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton do not value life  of the unborn, and have no interest to alter their conviction on this matter–an important point in Grudem’s article.The great Rabbi Abraham Herschel once observed:

Reverence for God is shown in our reverence for man. The fear you must feel of offending or hurting a human being must be as ultimate as your fear of God. An act of violence is an act of desecration. To be arrogant toward man is to be blasphemous toward God…The future of the human species depends upon our degree of reverence for the individual man. And the strength and validity of that reverence depend upon our faith in God’s concern for man.

While I have great respect for Wayne Grudem, I’m afraid that he has allowed patriotic zeal  to influence sound biblical and theological exegesis–as he has modeled for the Evangelical community in such his best selling textbook,  Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine.  After his close examination of Clinton’s political ideologies  and past record as compared to Donald Trump who has no political experience, he concludes the article with this provocative statement: ” When I look at it this way, my conscience, and my considered moral judgment tell me that I must vote for Donald Trump as the candidate who is most likely to do the most good for the United States of America.”

Grudem’s essay  is a clear example of what’s wrong with us Evangelical Christians in America: the intentional (re-) appropriation of scriptural teachings and truths in the service of political agendas and cultural ideologies. Christian identity should not be equated or conflated with American cultural nationalism and identity. They are in conflict with each other. The kingdom of God is not the Kingdom of man. We can’t have two lords: Jesus and Caesar; it is either we serve Caesar or Jesus. Jesus cannot and should never be subservient to our unhealthy cultural and political habits masked in biblical theology. Jesus will always be supreme over the culture.

There’s nothing wrong for an “American Christian” to be proud of America and even celebrate the American freedom and democracy; however, it is definitely a theological crisis to assume that American freedom is parallel to Christian freedom, and that the future of American politics is equated with the future of Christianity in the world. The validity of the cross of Christ or the meaning of the Christian faith is not dependent upon the success of America nor is it vindicated by the triumph of America in the world. It is also noteworthy to highlight this national crisis: Given the current state of American Evangelicalism and its paradoxical attitude toward human life, America’s culture of violence and death, race relations, and the “Evangelical Preference” in the current presidential election, etc., Mark A. Noll’s 1995 provocative statement still rings true today about American Evangelicalism:

The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind….Notwithstanding all their other virtues, however, American evangelicals are not exemplary for their thinking, and they have not been so for several generations.(The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, p. 3)

The great divide between Biblical Evangelical Christianity and American Evangelicalism is quite wide. The Biblical Evangelical culture is the antithesis of the American Evangelical Christianity in terms of confession and practice. The pitfalls of American Evangelicalism is that it is trapped in the American culture of political correctness, and it promotes ideologies that do not honor the God of the Bible or glorify Jesus Christ. American Evangelicalism has for several generations abandoned the biblical worldview on matters of life and faith.  Michael Horton is probably correct in his concluding words in the same article we quoted above: “Trump reveals, in short, that for many evangelicals, the word evangelical means something that many increasingly do not recognize as properly Christian, much less evangelical. Then again, if the working theology of American spirituality is a combination of “moralistic, therapeutic deism” (Christian Smith) and pragmatism (William James), then perhaps Donald Trump is after all exactly the right candidate for the moment.”

 Allow me to close this short essay  with these words:

 Given the nature of human relations and interactions and the destructive political climate in the American culture, we who are Americans of different shades and cultural traditions and practices need to cultivate the spirit of Ubuntu and integrate its inherent values and moral vision in our society. If we try it in the present, we will see tremendous results in the future. While the worth of the political nation-state in the modern world is measured by its historic accomplishments and unrelenting strive to promote the democratic life, justice, and peace for all its citizens, as well as political stability and the protection of human life against both internal and external forces, the worth of a racial group, ethnic group , or an individual should never be assessed by his or her achievements in society or life. The dignity and worth of a person lies in the mere fact that both man and woman, male and female are created in the Image of God to the glorious praise of the Triune and Eternal God.

 The cultural trap of American Evangelicalism is that culturally-sensitive-biblical exegesis and  politically-masked- theological interpretation still enslaves the Evangelical soul, and comparatively, modern Evangelical theology crafted in the discourse of triumphal American exceptionalism and the rhetoric of exulting American ethnocentrism still wages war against the cross of Christ and the Gospel of grace in both American civil and political societies. For me, my faith is in nothing or no one else but in Jesus Christ died, buried, crucified, and resurrected.

10 Recommended “Black Texts” for White American Evangelicals and Leaders:Toward A more Inclusive American history and experience

10 Recommended “Black Texts” for White American Evangelicals and Leaders:Toward A More Inclusive American history and experience

I want to begin this short post with the following threefold  assertions: (1) Black history is American history; (2) The Black experience is American experience; and (3) Black culture is American culture. My target audience is White American Evangelicals, and White American Evangelical Leaders.   American Evangelical Christians need to confront their own ideological tribalism informed by the racist structures of our country  and unhealthy theological discourse and imagination, which in turn, have divided Evangelical Christianity and Americans into different ethnic groups, racial categories, ethnic churches, ethnic minorities,   etc. What have you?   It is from this perspective that Southern Baptist Theologian Russell Moore in his excellent text, Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel, could write in this manner:

Our Churches must embody the reconciliation of the gospel by doing more “ethnic” ministry, whose very nomenclature assumes that there are “regular” people and “ethnic” people. We’re all ethnic. The “white church doesn’t “do ministry” to hose “ethnic” churches dependent upon it. We assume often without thinking that the church is white, American Protestants doing missionary work for the benefit of everyone else. But the church isn’t white or American; the church is headed by a Middle Eastern Jewish man who never spoke a word of English. We do not need more “ministry” to the poor or racial minorities or immigrant communities. We need to be led by the poor and by racial “minorities” and by immigrant communities (pp. 120-1).

Consequently, this present post is the sequel to my previous essay, “The Desecration of Black Life and The Silence of American Evangelicals.” One of the chief reasons White Evangelical Churches and leaders have been silent on the desecration of black life and are indifferent about the miscarriage of justice toward their black brothers and sisters in the American society  is because they have  believed a particular version of the American history and the American experience. For some of our White Evangelical brothers and sisters, only one history counts: the white narrative of America; only one experience matters: the white experience in America. These individuals have intentionally ignored the historical narrative of “ethnic Americans” and “ethnic Christian Evangelicals;”nor  have they made any considerable effort to learn a different narrative that may complement or even contradict their own version?

Such Evangelical Christians are content about this single story they embraced,  and regrettably, they continue to uphold to a monolithic American cultural nationalism and patriotic identity.  As Russell Moore  advises us in the same text quoted above, “Our task as the people of God is to recognize this culture where we see it, to know where this comes from, and to speak a different story” (p.121). On  the other hand, he also adds,  “The church must proclaim in its teaching and embody in its practices love and justice for those the outside world would wish to silence or kill…A Christianity that doesn’t prophetically speak for human dignity is a Christianity that has lost anything distinctive to say” (p.115).

The people of God as the church are called to be light and salt of the world, and a city upon the hill. We can not be and do what and who God has called us to be and do if we hold tight  to these destructive ideologies– such as white supremacy, white superiority, the triumph of white history in human history, etc.–which are  detrimental to the Christian witness in the public sphere and the proclamation of the Gospel of grace to the unsaved and lost. I’m afraid that American Evangelicals have become the very obstacle that hinders the progress of the Gospel in our society and in  the world; in the same vein, they face severe interactional  hurdles with their black and African American brothers and sisters. White American Evangelicals and Evangelical Leaders  must have the courage to first recognize there is a problem, and second, that they have  contributed enormously to that problem. Thirdly, they must have the courage to undo the damages they have caused, as the Evangelical Church (in the collective sense) in the twenty-first century seeks to be  a prophetic church and a community that affirms “human dignity is about the kingdom of God, and that means that in every place and every culture human dignity is contested… The presence of the weak, the vulnerable, and the dependent is a matter of spiritual warfare” (Moore, pp. 116, 120).

Toward this goal, a promising approach that  could bring White Evangelicals closer to  appreciate  the meaning of all lives toward racial healing and racial justice in their  churches and  culture is to be sensitive to the collective plight and struggle of the “ethnic minorities,” if I may use this phrase. White Evangelicals must cultivate both a personal and collective attitude  that would allow them to sympathize with the weak, the oppressed, and suffering communities in their city. It is vital for the sake of the Gospel that Evangelical Christians be open to and/or become intentional learners about another but complementary narrative of the American saga: the black experience and  history of African Americans in America.

The recommended readings below have all been authored by African American writers and thinkers–both male and female. Some of these individuals were/are historians, novelists, social activists, legal experts, cultural critics, etc.  These writers chronicle the black experience and the history of African Americans in the United States from an interdisciplinary angle. This list includes both fiction (i.e. “Invisible Man” ) and non-fiction (i.e.”From Slavery to Freedom”). Our goal here is to assist our White Evangelical brothers and sisters to be more acquainted with this version of their own history, which they have neglected or perhaps deemed unimportant to know. As the Spirit of grace continues his work of transformation in their hearts, he will enable Evangelical churches and Evangelical leaders to confront the meaning of black existence and defend the sanctity of black life.

  1. The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois
  2. Black Boy by Richard Wright
  3. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  4. The Bluest Eyes by Toni Morrison
  5. Color Purple by Alice Walker
  6. Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin
  7. From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans
  8. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness 

 

May the God of Peace,  our Creator continue to give us wisdom and orient us toward the path of racial reconciliation, justice,  and peace!

May He  guide the Evangelical Churches and Evangelical Leaders in America to become more sensitive to the plight of their black and African American brothers and sisters!

The Desecration of Black Life and The Silence of American Evangelicals

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!