Why Does America Still Struggle with Racism?

It will not surprise regular readers of this blog that I believe racism is one of the core dysfunctions gutting American society. It also won’t shock the world that I’m convinced American racism is directly tied to the inability of Christians, our nation’s largest religious group by far, to deal with their history of, and their ongoing participation in, forms of racial oppression.

Such forms have sometimes been overt. For example:

  • Forced conversions of indigenous peoples to Christianity by European invaders
  • Enslavement of indigenous peoples and Africans
  • Ethnic cleansing of Native nations from their homelands
  • The founding of the Southern Baptist Convention to preserve slavery
  • Genocides of Native tribes
  • Ban on Chinese travel to the U.S.
  • Native boarding schools
  • Jim Crow laws
  • Japanese American incarceration
  • Government-imposed sterilizations and experiments on people of color
  • Segregation
Boarding Schools
Native American girls pray at the Phoenix Indian School, June 1900. Over 200,000 Native children, many forcibly taken from their families, “attended” Indian boarding schools, which were mostly contracted by the U.S. and Canadian governments to Christian denominations and organizations. Expressions of Native culture, dress, diet, language, and religion were banned; child abuse of all kinds was rampant. An unknown number of children died. The boarding school experience fits the United Nations definition of genocide. (Photo: U.S. Department of the Interior)

At other times, the forms are masked by institutions or by rule-of-law rhetoric. For instance:

  • Racial profiling
  • Excessive force disproportionately used against African American men
  • Excessive minimum prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders
  • Neglect of the health and environmental concerns of people of color
  • Propagation of the “welfare queen” myth
  • Cruel immigration “enforcement” actions
  • Mass deportations of previously protected refugees
  • The admitted Muslim ban
  • A refusal to condemn the alt-right and white nationalism
  • The latest of many attempts to strip away Native sovereignty
Syrian Refugees
In one of the largest refugee movements in recorded history, 5.6 million Syrians have fled the country’s civil war, with another 6.1 million internally displaced. Half of these millions are children. So far in 2018, the U.S. has accepted 11 Syrian refugees. (Photo: National Geographic)

Millions of Christians through our nation’s history have been complicit in these horrible deeds, whether by active means or by silent shrugs. And until modern American Christians find a way to resolve the massive racial rifts among themselves, America as a whole will not.

I say this not out of a sense of American Christian exceptionalism. Rather, it’s because of the sheer numbers of American Christians and their influence on American society, both for better and worse. America continues to struggle with its original sin, racism, in large part because American Christians do.

Christian Racism
Some context for the first two photos in this post. American Christians have been complicit in many racist deeds, whether by active means or silent shrugs. (Click here for more details about some of these images.)

Last week, an invitation-only group of fifty evangelical leaders gathered at Wheaton College near Chicago to talk about the negative effects of hard-right political influence on the evangelical movement. Matters of race came up, as Katelyn Beaty reported yesterday for The New Yorker:

“Something of a generational gap seemed to emerge among the attendees over the question of whether the Church should seek to rise above contentious political questions or address them head on. With a few exceptions, the older, white cohort stressed civility and unity. What the movement needed, they said, was a gentler evangelicalism that reached across partisan aisles for the common good. Others, especially the leaders of color, stressed repentance; there could be no real unity without white evangelicals explicitly confronting the ways they had participated in the degradation of persons of color and women. They contended that white evangelical churches and organizations had for decades supported a political agenda that deemed unborn lives more sacred than living black lives.”

American Church
America continues to struggle with its original sin, racism, in large part because American Christians do.

It doesn’t appear that any consensus was forged on race, though it is encouraging that a handful of Christian leaders have begun talking about it across racial, gender, and generational lines. But what happens from here is unclear.

What is clear is that what ails American Christians is much bigger than Donald Trump, though it cannot be fully discussed without addressing his highly influential role in the current situation. He has frequently denigrated people of color, particularly those born in another country, and has bent over backwards to not criticize white supremacists. He often has stoked Americans’ fears of foreigners with weapons of mass destruction and said very little about angry white men who have taken dozens of lives with their own legally purchased weapons of mass destruction. His policies have uplifted the wealthy at the expense of the poor, disproportionately impacting minorities. And few white evangelical leaders have boldly called him out on these.

Complicity abounds.

Would that more American Christian leaders, especially those who are white, spoke truth to power like the prophet Nathan of Old Testament times! When confronting King David for his rape and murderous cover up, he declared, “Thou art the man!”

Nathan and David
Thou Art the Man by Peter F. Rothermel, 1884. (Photo: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts)

Yet I have to remind myself sometimes, Trump is truly not the enemy. For us American Christians, our true enemy is found deep within our history and our present.

It is our racism, both active and passive.

It is us.

O Brothers and Sisters, Where Art Thou?

Little Boy with Bible
Back when “King James” had nothing to do with LeBron James.


I still have my very first Bible. I was five years old when it first overwhelmed my small hands – a heavy, black hardcover edition of the King James Version with “Holy Bible” stamped in golden, old English lettering on the front.

I still remember the first verse I ever learned using that Bible. My teacher at the fundamentalist Baptist school I attended underlined it with a red felt pen, as she did for all the students in our first grade class. In what we’d now call an eight point serif font, that verse spoke these words in black and white: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1.1).

I don’t use that Bible anymore; I haven’t since junior high in the early 1980s. Even during my twelve-plus years as a church minister, I favored modern translations, meaning King James either gathered dust on my office shelf or slumbered with other religious tomes in a storage box.

But I can’t bring myself to just give it away. That Bible represents the first baby waddles of almost my entire lifetime following in the path of Jesus Christ. It also reminds me that the white Southerners who ran my Baptist school, in a working-class part of oil-boom Houston, were the first to teach me what Christians call the gospel. That’s the “good news” about a God who loved us so much that he sent Jesus, the faultless One, to willingly endure enhanced interrogation, skin-shredding torture, and an unjust, grisly execution – all so we wouldn’t have to.

Heavy Baggage

Tragically, I also absorbed from these fundamentalists a plethora of self-righteous and judgmental teachings, massive errors of biblical interpretation which sounded perfectly legit to my young mind and faith at the time. The toxicity consumed me from within as I became a harsh judge not only of others, but also of myself. Emotional and spiritual anguish came to dominate my waking hours, and did so for years.

Boy on a Jungle Gym
My fundamentalist school gave me some good … and a lot of bad.

Over the last decade, deep personal archaeology guided by a skilled and caring therapist, supported by my wife and a small circle of friends to whom I can tell anything, has been vital in my still-ongoing recovery from fundamentalism.

But though my first Bible teachers saddled me with a ton of theological and psychological baggage, I am still thankful that they introduced me to Jesus. That much they got right, these Southern, white evangelical Christians who distrusted government and universities; looked with suspicion upon any scientific theory that measured time in millions of years; abstained from profanity, pop music, drinking, and dancing; and cherished both Robert E. Lee and conspiracy theories about the end of the world.

The Descendants

Though many of those teachers have passed on, I recognize them in today’s Religious Right. That’s the millions of evangelicals, overwhelmingly white, who intensely support very conservative politicians and causes, believing that doing so returns America to its Christian roots. Such a spiritual revival, they say, spares the nation from God’s judgment for its immorality and brings economic blessings and security. Their words and actions make them seem descended from my Baptist school teachers, and not in a good way.

Nothing grieves me more right now. It both shatters my heart and infuriates me that so many politically conservative white evangelicals, who were first to tell me about Jesus, have made his “good news” look, to a watching world, like anything but. Not since the televangelist scandals of the 1980s have I witnessed so many people who aren’t Christians express their shock at the actions of those who profess to be.

Most of this, of course, has come in reaction to white evangelical support for Donald Trump; 81 percent of white evangelicals casting ballots in the last election voted for him. Even now, 66 percent of them still believe he’s been a good president.

Thank You Lord Jesus for President Trump
Without white evangelical enthusiasm, Trump could not have won. (Photo: HuffPost)

Particularly galling have been the defenses of Trump and his policies from some of their most prominent leaders, including Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, Jr., Robert Jeffress, and Pat Robertson. (This follows their rape culture-promoting comments on Trump’s behalf after his sexually violent history became a major campaign issue.) Their enthusiasm seems undiminished, notwithstanding the strong public consensus, expressed in historically low approval ratings, that he’s been ineffective, dishonest, reckless, and indifferent to the needs of regular people.

More troubling, their unwavering support seems terribly hypocritical, in view of the numerous ways Trump and his actions as president have opposed basic Christian principles of love and compassion, especially toward people who are already suffering.

Heavy Damage

By supporting him so strongly, these and other evangelical Trump enthusiasts, ranging from those with prominent pulpits to the average Joe and Jane in the pews, have effectively tied many Americans’ perception of Christianity to Trump’s behavior. And again, not in a good way.

Don’t believe me? Check out this small sampling of op-ed titles:

“White Evangelicals Are Why America Can’t Have Nice Things” (HuffPost, June 13, 2017)

“Trump’s Pious and Dangerous Enablers” (The New York Times, July 14, 2017)

“Does God Believe in Trump? White Evangelicals Are Sticking with Their ‘Prince of Lies’” (Newsweek, Oct. 5, 2017)

This is only the tip of the iceberg. I’ve heard so many comments that reflect our current reality – that evangelical Trump enthusiasts have made Christianity look terrible, unrecognizable to many who aren’t Christians, as well as to some of us who are.

And what, then, of the gospel? The gospel, the good news about Jesus that these evangelicals would claim is the most important message in human history, gets completely lost.

White Evangelicals Support Trump, Damage Gospel
I wish it were not so, but it’s so painfully obvious.

To be perfectly clear: I truly believe that white evangelical support for Trump has seriously damaged the cause of the gospel. The Religious Right is alienating far more people – “causing them to stumble,” to use Jesus’ language – than it is attracting, all in pursuit of political goals.

A number of us Christian public commentators said that this would happen if Trump were elected with a high level of white evangelical support. One of the most prominent was Andy Crouch, longtime executive editor of Christianity Today. One month before the election, he wrote:

Enthusiasm for a candidate like Trump gives our neighbors ample reason to doubt that we believe Jesus is Lord. They see that some of us are so self-interested, and so self-protective, that we will ally ourselves with someone who violates all that is sacred to us—in hope, almost certainly a vain hope given his mendacity and record of betrayal, that his rule will save us.

Sadly, Crouch’s words are ringing more true by the day.

Along Came a Senator

And we haven’t even mentioned the harm done to the gospel endeavor by the strong white evangelical support for Senate candidate Roy Moore. That has come despite several credible, carefully vetted accounts of his sexual abuse and harassment of women as young as age 14. 60 percent of likely-to-vote evangelicals in Alabama say they still strongly support him. 67 percent still believe he’s a man of “strong moral character.”

Roy Moore at Church
Moore speaks at Angel Grove Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Alabama. (Photo: The Anniston Star)

Appallingly, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, an evangelical Christian, believes that Moore’s accusers are telling the truth – but will still vote for him.

But lest we think it’s just folks in Alabama, the Religious Right’s unofficial national spokesmen have also weighed in. Jerry Falwell, Jr. declared his belief that Moore is the one telling the truth. Longtime Christian radio host and author James Dobson has not withdrawn his endorsement. And then there’s Franklin Graham:

Graham misses the fact that some of the most scathing denunciations of Moore’s candidacy have come from Alabamians. Also, at least 18 prominent Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. John McCain, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and even Alabama’s own Sen. Richard Shelby have called on Moore to withdraw from the race. (And I don’t know what Graham thinks about child sexual abuse, but I submit that there’s nothing more evil than that.)

Many strong denunciations have also come from white evangelicals who opposed Trump last year, particularly among evangelical women. I know many such followers of Jesus, and I’m proud of them for continuing to speak out. But that doesn’t keep the Religious Right’s perverse backing of Moore from reinforcing the already grotesque image that many people have of the Christian faith.

To be honest, if I weren’t already a Christian, I would perceive Christianity that way, too.

Power to the (Wrong) People

Standing with Moore also gives a sense of power to sexual predators and child molesters. I highly doubt there are many evangelical Moore enthusiasts who have considered this.

It is a terrible fact of life that there’s no place on Earth where abusers and assaulters won’t go to carry out their evil acts, and that includes houses of worship. I have known a number of abuse survivors who were victimized by people they knew from their churches. I have heard countless other such stories; often, the perpetrators were trusted family friends and even church leaders.

Many a church has a predator in its midst. My friend Boz Tchividjian, a law professor and former prosecutor who heads an organization called Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE), says that, for all the problems the Catholic Church has had with abuse, “More children are being abused within Protestant churches than in the Catholic Church.” That says to me that the presence of abusers is truly widespread.

And what are these sexual predators, sitting in churches where Roy Moore is being defended as a godly man, thinking? They’re feeling emboldened, seeing and hearing exactly what they’ll need to say and do to get people to support them, should their own abusive acts ever come to light.

And what are abuse victims, sitting in these same churches, thinking? If they have yet to come forward to talk about what’s happened to them, they are now even more frightened of doing so; it would be an added trauma to tell their story, only to find people believe their victimizer rather than them. Those who have already told others about their assaults will likely feel re-traumatized.

Support Moore, Embolden Predators
Another consequence of supporting Moore’s candidacy.

Further, when students are sexually assaulted at Liberty University, where Jerry Falwell, Jr. is president, what are they to think about coming forward? Between 2007 and 2016, 42 sexual assaults were reported at the school’s main campus. If Liberty’s incidents of collegiate sexual violence are under-reported at the rate of the national average (one out of five), it’s reasonable to assume that over 200 sexual assaults took place at Liberty during that 10-year period. Falwell’s support of Moore, on top of his vocal defense of Trump last year against charges of sexual misconduct by a number of women that grew to 22, can only serve to discourage more victims from coming forward and getting the help they need.

The Religious Right’s strong support for Trump and now Moore are hurting a ton of people.

Man of Constant Sorrow

Yes, I am grateful to politically conservative white evangelicals for introducing me to God and the gospel many years ago. Yet their descendants now weigh my heart down with great sadness for all the damage they are doing. Sometimes, it very much feels to me like I’m reading from a totally different Bible than they are. And their Jesus? Unrecognizable to me. I wish it were not so.

Last I checked, our Bibles were identical. Why doesn’t it feel like it?

Andy Crouch also wrote last year (emphasis mine):

There is a point at which strategy becomes its own form of idolatry—an attempt to manipulate the levers of history in favor of the causes we support. Strategy becomes idolatry, for ancient Israel and for us today, when we make alliances with those who seem to offer strength—the chariots of Egypt, the vassal kings of Rome—at the expense of our dependence on God who judges all nations, and in defiance of God’s manifest concern for the stranger, the widow, the orphan, and the oppressed. Strategy becomes idolatry when we betray our deepest values in pursuit of earthly influence. And because such strategy requires capitulating to idols and princes and denying the true God, it ultimately always fails.

Dear brothers and sisters in the Religious Right, in love I plead with you to turn away (in biblical language, repent) from depending on men like Trump and Moore. Repentance is the right thing to do, but I ask you to also do it for the sake of sexual abuse and assault survivors, and so that predators are not emboldened in committing their heinous acts. Do it, too, for the sake of the gospel, and so that you don’t continue to cause many to stumble.  


My piece for Sojourners is live!

Hi friends! I’m grateful that the terrific Christian ministry Sojourners has given me a chance to submit a column for their website. In a way, it’s a sequel to a post I wrote on this blog a couple of months ago about evangelical rape culture. My post for Sojourners is a post-election look at what many evangelical women are feeling about the Church these days. It’s called “Evangelical Divison Problems,” and you can read it here: https://sojo.net/articles/evangelical-division-problems

Evangelexit Interview

TW/CW: Discussion of Donald Trump and violence.

To My Muslim Friends

To my Muslim friends, I am so, so sorry. I see that 81 percent of white evangelicals, both from the working and professional classes, from the old Rust Belt to the deepest parts of the old Confederacy, voted for Donald Trump. I see that 15 percent (according to a pre-election survey) of non-white evangelicals were likely to do the same, helping to make him the most powerful person on the planet. He demonized you, turned people’s fears against you, and incited radical Christian terrorists to harass, beat, and even kill your friends and family members.

The Muslim Community Miraj Center in Bayonne, New Jersey, on Oct. 14, 2016. Spray painted on the wall are the words “Donald Trump,” “Fuck Allah,” and “Fuck Arabs.” Photo: Huffington Post. Click the photo to read more.

And many people from my faith community, the evangelical community, barely mumbled a word of protest, much less acknowledged that they even noticed what was happening.

Though numerous Muslims around the world have risked their own safety, and have even given their lives to protect Christians from terrorists who pervert Islam, few, it seems, have been the evangelicals who have stood with you against terrorists who pervert Christianity.

You would be completely justified in asking, “Where are the moderate Christians?”

And what an irony that the faux-Islamic terrorists, those whom you would not even consider Muslims, are celebrating this Trump victory. His rhetoric plays right into their hands for recruiting more fighters to carry out attacks in Mosul and on Main Street.

And in the meantime, you live in greater fear than ever, some of you not even leaving your homes for days last week, because of those he has inspired to harass, terrorize, and assault you.

120 Somali immigrants in Kansas were the target of an anti-Muslim terrorist plot by a group calling itself the Crusaders. The three men involved were arrested after an eight-month investigation by the FBI. The men planned to bomb the apartment complex in which the Somalis live and worship on Nov. 9, 2016, the day after Election Day. Photo: Reuters. Click the photo to read more.

You would be completely justified in feeling like a bullied child, who looked to a friend for protection from the bully’s threats, only to find that the friend gave the bully the exact thing he needed to carry out his threats.

I stand with you against all forms of hatred and Islamophobia, including the latest audacious and infuriating proposals from Trump’s team and allies: a national registry for Muslim immigrants and a bill to ban traditional Muslim veils

To My LGBTQ Friends

To my LGBTQ friends, I am also truly, deeply sorry. I was so wrong. I really thought older, hard-nosed evangelicals like Pat Robertson were waning in influence. I thought you wouldn’t need to fear that their rhetoric would continue to threaten your families or inspire violence against you. After all, as I said to some of you, there were many of us younger evangelicals calling out Robertson and those like him that have demonized you, using their large Christian media platforms.

Yet here we sit, a week after the election. And Robertson, Ralph Reed, James Dobson, and the old Religious Right have again become kingmakers. Exhibit A: during the campaign, Trump appeared on Robertson’s network nine times.

For all the important discussions about the votes of struggling white families in rural America, he still would not have won were it not for evangelical leaders pushing their flocks to vote for him.

North Carolina’s law wasn’t just about bathrooms; it also eliminated discrimination protections for LGBT persons. Photo: New York Times. Click the photo to read more.

I am but one person, but I will stand with you to protect your families from being broken up and your children from being taken from you. I will decry attempts to punt matters back to the states, where your dignity, and even where you go to pee, will become subject to political debates again. I will continue to speak up to ensure that businesses do not discriminate against you. And I will fight to protect you from harassment and violence by those who see this election as being an affirmation of their hate.

To My Friends Who Have Survived Gender-Based Violence

To my many friends who are survivors of abuse, rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, and other forms of gender-based violence, please know that even though I no longer work for an anti-violence organization, I still think of you every day. I am sick that I and other allies did not keep Trump from winning. I know that many of you have hardly slept in these days since he won, and that when you do sleep, your attackers appear, or even Trump appears, in your nightmares.

Just 10 of the nearly 20 women who have come forward to talk about how Donald Trump harassed or assaulted them. Evidence for some of these incidents was recorded by Access Hollywood and The Howard Stern Show. Collage: Yahoo.com. Click the photo for an article by New York Magazine.

He re-traumatizes you and re-triggers your PTSD by so many of the things he does. And so do prominent evangelicals like Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Jerry Falwell, Jr., when they support him and label as liars the nearly 20 women who have come forward, saying he violated them in some way.

These prominent evangelicals have said that issues like the Iran trade deal and the national debt are of greater importance than how he, the president-elect of the United States, views and treats women.

You would be completely justified in saying that evangelicals have helped a man who loves to take power from women, whether by calling them “pig” or by “grab(bing) them by the pussy,” to attain more power than any other person on Earth.

Almost. Yet the fight goes on. Artwork: unknown.

I will not cease to advocate for you and for justice. I will not stop educating others about the devastating effects of rape, sexual assault, abuse, and harassment in its many evil forms. I will work all my days with you and with other allies to change our culture and society so that a generation from now, behavior like his will become unthinkable for any man, much less someone running for the highest office in our land.

To My Evangelical Brothers and Sisters

To be clear, dear evangelicals, I am not labeling as racists or misogynists any of the evangelicals I know who supported Trump. There are certainly racists and misogynists among his supporters, but I highly doubt that is true of any evangelicals that I know.

For so many of these evangelicals, the election was an agonizing choice. They prayed and even fasted as they sought God’s wisdom. In the end, they felt like there were no good choices at all, only one that was “bad” (Trump) and another that was “worse” (Secretary Clinton). Further, they hated a lot of the things that he said and did; their vote for him was not a vote to condone those things. They felt like they were trying to make the best of a sucky situation.

Also to be clear, those of us evangelicals who voted for Secretary Clinton are not baby killers. We are not okay with conflicts of interest, or even the appearance thereof, in government. We also grieve when police officers lose their lives. And we hate it when protests turn violent.

All in all, I think the time for calling ourselves “evangelicals” is done. I, for one, feel like I have reached the breaking point of identifying myself as an evangelical. It’s a moniker that has grown in negative connotations over the last twenty years or so, especially because of its political associations. Now, because of this recently concluded campaign and election, “evangelical” has become strongly linked for many non-evangelicals with:

  • The enabling of racist harassment and violence
  • The emboldening of anti-Muslim terrorists in the U.S.
  • Discrimination against the LGBTQ community
  • The abuse of women and the reinforcement of rape culture
  • The permission to blatantly lie in civic discourse
  • Bullying
The term “evangelical” can’t be found in the Bible. Then why does it feel so sad to leave it behind?

Ironically, “evangelical” comes from the Greek euangelion, meaning “good message.”

Of course, I know “evangelical” is just a label, and it’s not even in the Bible. So maybe I shouldn’t feel so sad about laying it down. After all, early Christians in the biblical book of Acts were called followers of The Way, and later, simply Christians.

And leaving behind “evangelical” doesn’t mean I’ve changed what I believe, or that I will abandon my relationships.

But still, for a long time, it really meant something to me to be an evangelical Christian. Evangelicals were the Christians who decided in the middle of the last century that they were going to be different from fundamentalist Christians, who seemed to freak out over science, social justice, movies, and pop music. Evangelicals were supposed to be more thoughtful and less judgmental, more neighborly than suspicious of their neighbors. They would be in the world, but not taken in by the world’s temptations –  power, wealth, and indulgence.

Yet IMO, the evangelical movement has become much like the fundamentalism of old, with many denying climate science, for instance. And as evangelicalism has morphed into a new fundamentalism, our reputation has suffered accordingly.

Two years ago, when I attended a breakout session at a conference on bringing peace to zones of violent conflict, evangelical Christianity was brought up in a discussion about religious extremism. That was an eye-opener for me about what “evangelical” has come to mean for many people.

I’m leaving the label behind, but not my church or relationships.

But you know that we evangelicals truly have a bad reputation when pro sports coaches call us out by name.

Just days ago, Stan Van Gundy, the head coachof the National Basketball Association’s Detroit Pistons, said: “And then you read how [Trump] was embraced by conservative Christians. Evangelical Christians. I’m not a religious guy, but what the hell Bible are they reading? I’m dead serious. What Bible are you reading? And you’re supposed to be — it’s different. There are a lot of different groups we can be upset at. But you’re Christians. You’re supposed to be — at least you pride yourself on being the moral compass of our society. And you said, ‘Yeah, the guy can talk about women like that. I’m fine with that.’ He can disparage every ethnic group, and I’m fine with that. It’s embarrassing. I have been ashamed of a lot of things that have happened in this country, but I can’t say I’ve ever been ashamed of our country until today.”

Gregg Popovich, the legendary head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, deep in the heart of Texas and the Bible Belt, had this to say: “We live in a country that ignored all those values that we would hold our kids accountable for. They’d be grounded for years if they acted and said the things that have been said in that campaign by Donald Trump. I look at the evangelicals and I wonder, ‘Those values don’t mean anything to them?’”

Couple their reactions with the following disturbing ones, from Trump supporters that are current or former clergymen. There was Rev. Franklin Graham, two mornings after the election. He seemed to be in quite a judgmental mood:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, early on election night, went for a racially hurtful stereotype:

Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, talked with Fox News after two evenings of protests outside his church. (The protests have since then continued unabated.) He threw some Mount Everest-sized self-righteous shade: “Look, these people, these protesters, aren’t opposing me or our church. When I see these protesters, it kind of reminds me of a flea striking its hind leg against Mount Everest, saying I’m going to topple you over. Ultimately, they’re protesting the eternal Word of God, and guess what, they’re not going to be successful in toppling the Word of God.”

There’s also this from Ralph Reed, who wasn’t ever a minister but who founded the old Christian Coalition. The day before the election, he said:

Talk about pushing the boundaries of IRS rules for churches on political endorsements!

I really don’t recognize this evangelical movement any more.

To think that there was a time, about twenty years ago, that evangelical churches seemed to be making strides in one of the great struggles in American (and human) history: race relations. The Southern Baptist Convention declared in 1995 that its historic support of slavery (one of the reasons the SBC was formed in the 1840s) was wrong; it asked forgiveness for its grievous sins in that regard.

For all the things I would later find problematic with Promise Keepers, one of the good things it did was to prioritize racial reconciliation. This photo shows the Promise Keepers rally on the National Mall in Oct. 1997. At least 600,000 men attended. Photo: unknown. Click the photo for a CNN story from that day.

In the late 1990s, the evangelical men’s organization Promise Keepers brought thousands of men of all different races to American football stadiums. It stunned many observers when it put racial reconciliation front and center as one of its highest priorities. Yes, Promise Keepers had its problems and shortcomings, particularly regarding gender roles. But the programming at these conferences was always led by multi-ethnic music teams, and the slates of speakers were always intentionally multiracial. Confession of even the hidden prejudices (what we might now call “implicit biases”) within the heart was modeled by speakers and encouraged among the attendees.

Ironically, one year the Promise Keepers theme was “Break Down the Walls.”

But that feels like ancient history now.

Kyrie eleison.