How can a group of people be so certain about topics that are so complicated? How can they say with so much certainty, “The Bible says…” when so often their interpretations have led to injustice and oppression?
The way I understood the phrase “the people who don’t have any questions” is not that white evangelicals never ask any questions or have any doubts. Rather they, or their leaders, have an indisputable conclusion to every query.
Go ahead and ask the question. But you need only ask once because there is an answer to every question, often with a Bible verse to back it up.
Is what he’s saying universally true of every single white evangelical? Of course not. But having spent 34 years in white evangelical churches, I’ve been around long enough to recognize what he’s describing.
It’s an incurious mentality about the world tied to a biblicistic sensibility. Nearly always it leads to an addiction to easy answers and an inability to use wisdom and a strong dependence on the appropriately credentialed guru to offer us The Right Answers. Frankly, the spirit Tisby is critiquing here is almost identical to the thing I and many have my friends have decried when we called for wisdom instead of worldviews.
Is that true of the last two churches I’ve been a member at, both predominantly white and evangelical? Thankfully, no. But I can tell you story after story after story from my own life and from the lives of plenty of people I’ve grown up with that would back up Tisby’s account here. When I mentioned this post to my parents over the weekend, my mom instantly recognized what Tisby was talking about and lamented her own experiences of it which, alas, are even more extensive than mine.
If Tisby had been more precise, sure, his target could be more clear. But there absolutely are plenty of churches that are defined by the spirit he’s describing in that post—and there have been for a long time, which is why we had books like Desiring the Kingdom coming out 15 years ago and songs like Derek Webb’s “A New Law” being written 15 years ago. Perhaps you haven’t attended such a church or been a member in one. But the fact that you’ve never experienced this doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
Jake Meador is the editor-in-chief of Mere Orthodoxy. He is a 2010 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he studied English and History. He lives in Lincoln, NE with his wife Joie, their daughter Davy Joy, and sons Wendell, Austin, and Ambrose. Jake's writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Commonweal, Christianity Today, Fare Forward, the University Bookman, Books & Culture, First Things, National Review, Front Porch Republic, and The Run of Play and he has written or contributed to several books, including "In Search of the Common Good," "What Are Christians For?" (both with InterVarsity Press), "A Protestant Christendom?" (with Davenant Press), and "Telling the Stories Right" (with the Front Porch Republic Press).