I’ve seen this article on Christians of color slowly backing away from white churches shared over and over this past weekend (for good reason, though Amy Sullivan notes that very similar reporting was done a year ago at Religion Dispatches). The question that has been eating at me as I think about it is this: why can’t white evangelicals take their brothers and sisters of color seriously when concerns about racism come up?
One can certainly discuss the degree to which racism harms people today and what should be done about it (both are live debates within the communities affected, after all). Yet instead of real listening and discussion, these concerns are dismissed outright or fellow Christians are lazily strawmanned, usually followed by the elevation of one person of color who happens to agree with the white consensus.
What astounds me the most is that white Christians who defend voting for Trump or who express their sympathy for the evangelical Trump voters are fairly unanimous in feeling like the orthodox expression of Christianity in the public square is under attack and that Christians ought to be afraid of a certain social and political order because that order will find ways to constrict their freedoms. (For whatever it’s worth, I agree that a political order that goes after nuns for refusing to submit is one worth being afraid of.) Yet those same white Christians are unable to imagine that another order could coexist with the one they fear, an order that would constrict the freedoms of people of color just as it has over and over in the past. They are unable, even when this order is named and described by fellow Christians, to empathize long enough to even consider the threat that this order (often called white supremacy) could present.
The only conclusion I can draw is that just as Christians today who are slaves to the power of Moloch will justify abortion on demand and just as Christians in the past who were beholden to the spiritual power of white supremacy would justify chattel slavery and racial terrorism, white Christians who choose to ignore the continuing power of racism in shaping (and occasionally taking) the lives of people have had their rational and spiritual faculties clouded by demonic influence and will only be delivered from this if they cry out for aid from the Holy Spirit.
Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at www.MatthewAndMaggie.org