This is an excerpt from the chapter titled "Who's In Your Ear?":
“Trump is the price of the evangelical church’s rejection of the vision of Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders who demanded we address America’s original sins of racism and greed. It is the price of not listening when Frederick Douglass and Ida B. Wells called for white Christians to stand in solidarity with their suffering, knowing if they did, white Christians — and our nation — would be reborn.” (Emerson & Goza, 2020)
This quote raises two questions. When white evangelicals hear the words of the “I Have a Dream Speech,” do they hear a prophetic utterance or the words of a good man or, worse, a black man? The second question is, who are white evangelical leaders listening to? Who is in their ear when it comes to matters of race? In MGA Vol I, I wrote about how the message of racial unity was lost as the real revelation of Azusa, and what they came away with was the lesser revelation of the enduring value/power of speaking in tongues.
In MGA Vol, I went on to say that I believe that God sent revival and the message of racial unity through Pastor Seymour, but white spirit-filled believers were not ready. The result was that white leaders started their own revival and later their own spirit-filled denomination. Many white spirit-filled Christian leaders weren’t ready for a black pastor leading a nation-wide revival in 1906 at Azusa. I consider Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech prophetic. However, it doesn’t seem that white Christian leaders were ready to endorse a black pastor as a national “prophet” in the 1960s.
As Christians, when we label something as “the Word of the Lord,” we treat it differently than the words of a man. It’s a fundamental tenet of Christianity and even other non-Christian religions. Across the globe, across religions, men and women respond to the words of someone they identify as a prophet as the words of their god. As I was thinking about that, I thought of Scriptures that spoke of how the prophets were killed.
In MGA Vol I, I said, “Dr. King lost his life fighting for the racial unity depicted in the ‘dream’ that God gave him.” (Thompson, Vol I) If the Church, specifically white evangelicals, don’t consider these words prophetic, then there is no reason for them to value them, look at them as words from God or look forward in faith toward their fulfillment. Indeed another “prophet” has appeared on the scene that says the “systemic racism” that Dr. King preached about has ceased to exist.
The article I quoted above answers the question of whom white evangelical leaders are listening to: “Unless white evangelicals radically reorient their political commitments, Trump will continue as the face of white evangelicalism. To move in a different direction, white evangelicals must begin questioning their assumptions and begin to champion racial and economic justice.” (Emerson & Goza, 2020)
I believe it is impossible to listen in one ear to a president who says that systemic racism doesn’t exist and that he’s done more for black people than any previous president and hear the distress of black evangelicals in the other. In fact, I really believe it’s more than just the cries of black evangelicals. I believe that God keeps sending the same message, that racial unity is an integral, if not missing, key to the unity we so desperately pray for in the body of Christ. I believe God keeps sending this message through messenger after messenger, but the leaders of the body of Christ keep rejecting it in favor of something else.
Why is there so much focus on white evangelical leaders? Why isn’t there more of a discussion of black or other leaders of other ethnicities? Isa 9:16 says, “For the leaders of this people cause them to err.” If black leaders made up the majority of evangelical leadership, then any problems within the body would rest within their responsibility. James 3:1 (AMP) says, “Not many [of you] should become teachers [serving in an official teaching capacity], my brothers and sisters, for you know that we [who are teachers] will be judged by a higher standard [because we have assumed greater accountability and more condemnation if we teach incorrectly].”
Billy Graham refers to racial reconciliation as something he and other evangelicals should not have stood by to let others take the lead on/be responsible for:
“Tragically, too often in the past evangelical Christians have turned a blind eye to racism or have been willing to stand aside while others take the lead in racial reconciliation, saying it was not our responsibility. (I admit I share in that blame.) As a result, many efforts toward reconciliation in America have lacked a Christian foundation and may not outlive the immediate circumstances that brought them into existence. Our consciences should be stirred to repentance by how far we have fallen short of what God asks us to be as his agents of reconciliation.” (Graham, 2018)
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