Christian blogger Nicola A. Menzie is the proprietor of Faithfully Magazine. This website seeks to “capture, curate, and contribute to conversations about the intersection of race, culture, and Christianity.” According to Menzie, her website exists because, as she says, “Contrary to what some people might think — Christians do not have it together when it comes to race.”
Amen, and I couldn’t agree more.
Menzie also says that “Christians need to talk about race “because understanding, awareness, and opportunities for healing and unity can only come when we talk and share our perspectives and experiences.”
Menzie highlights several examples to demonstrate how Christians continue to be on racial matters all over the racial map. The first case is an episode involving James White and his now-deleted commentary on social media about a random and disrespectful black teen he recorded with his dash cam.
Another is about Christian, Native American blogger Mark Charles and his mission to shape Christian minds regarding white privilege and supremacy inherent in the Doctrine of Discovery.
And still, another case refers to something called “kinism,” a group of white Christians who continue to hold tightly to a form of Christian miscegenation and segregation. They believe that though God created everyone in his image, these “kinists” don’t think that people of different ethnicities should intermarry.
In addition to these examples, Menzie lists a series of questions exploring the intersection of race and Christianity to find answers that can guide the church as it navigates and faithfully confronts racial issues.
The James White example stood out from most of the three examples she provided as evidence of Christian inconsistency on racism.
In a now-deleted Facebook post, White– an evangelical apologist and director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, detailed a dash cam video that recorded a black teenager engaging in immature behavior that included “flipping off” a police officer, sagging his pants, and littering. As a result- and based on several statistical indicators, White offered his unsolicited social commentary about the boy, speculating that he– again, predicated on statistics–was born of illegitimacy and didn’t know his father, causing a lack of moral guidance. White predicts that the number of black children born outside of marriage will increase; this boy’s generation will not only repeat the mistake of having children outside of marriage but that a significant number will end in abortion. White further laments that those children not aborted will experience fatherlessness and broken families. This reality almost assures that they, too, will continue the cycle of moral poverty reflected in this young man- a symbol and product of a dysfunctional culture overall, but particularly of that present in too many black communities.
Predictably, many black Christians were “offended” and “hurt” by White’s commentary. Some white Christians took offense as well. Because of the commotion, Dr. White explained his commentary and defended himself against charges of racial antagonism. Too many people have feigned anger and have condemned White’s reflexive generalizations of black youths. Not knowing the specifics of this young boy’s life, many of White’s critics felt he was wrong to assume the worst of and for this young man and should have used more caution in his analysis. Or, many argued, he should’ve skipped the desire to comment publicly.
Granted, Dr. White didn’t know the details of this kid’s life story, but so what? If one knew specifics, one wouldn’t need to generalize or assume. All generalizations are just that–stereotypes predicated on varying levels of truth based on reasoning and experience.
Roughly 73 percent of black children are born to unwed parents. That’s too many children that grow up in multi-partnered, female-headed households with siblings from other men. Because so many black children are born outside of wedlock, only a third of black children grow up with two parents in the home. Also, non-Hispanic black women of childbearing age–a demographic representing 3-4 percent of the population are responsible for a third of all abortions, giving a morsel of credibility to White’s commentary, regardless of how “hurtful” it may be. The lack of fathers in the black community and the lack of social stigma associated with men abandoning their responsibility as fathers (and, by extension, women deserting their sexual ethics) are past crisis levels. These men should be shamed by Christians and non-Christians alike.
This cultural dysfunction that stems from moral poverty is uncomfortable for everyone, but a well-known social proverb coined by Ben Shapiro is pertinent here- facts don’t care about feelings.
White’s critics intentionally chose not to focus on that which debases black communities. The degradation contributes to self-inflicted wounds that directly dehumanize blacks internally. The acts of dehumanization legitimize racial stereotypes externally. The reality is that statistics and generalizations represent real people. When someone is acting in a way that reinforces generalizations, especially people we don’t know–and we don’t have the time or opportunity to get to know, that’s all we have to go on.
Are Christians, regardless of color, supposed to hold their tongues when it comes to blacks engaging in self-sabotaging behaviors? If so, why and for what purpose(s)? So blacks don’t feel bad? So, blacks aren’t “offended” and “hurt”? How exactly does that help? Excusing and lying to blacks about painful racial realities isn’t a form of love or compassion. Neither is the moral posturing condemn those courageous enough to tell blacks the truth. Maintaining separate and lower expectations for blacks is condescending and wrong.
And indeed, it’s racist.
That White’s critics piously condemned him (and, by extension, other “white” Christians) for acknowledging and commenting publicly on painful racial realities serves no purpose but to shame Christians into silence. It also encourages rationalizing and justifying self-destructive and self-debasing behaviors that stigmatize black culture.
Increasingly, it appears that more Christians deliberately ignore reality in favor of sidestepping the central issues that grossly affect the quality of black life- taking the easy way out by condemning those like White (or any Christian, color notwithstanding) who comment on black misbehavior. If this is the kind of mentality typical or expected in the church–which mirrors the insincere mentality that exists outside the church relating to racial issues–then we may as well abandon blacks (and other racial minorities) altogether and allow them to fend for themselves against chance and fate.
Dr. White’s post is only “hurtful” to those who refuse to confront the hurtful attitudes and behaviors destabilizing black society. Ignoring or excusing problems, or hoping worsening problems somehow solve themselves, isn’t a pragmatic approach for anyone, particularly Christians.
I hope that soon, Christians reject the overemotional position of racial solidarity and racial sympathy in favor of a Christian ethic that loves and empathizes with black neighbors while loving them by telling them the straightforward truth about behaviors that undermine black self-respect. The Christian ethic of love also rejects the temptation to criticize and ostracize those who reject the predominant yet dishonest racial narrative.
It’s disheartening that fellow Christians who offer social observations and analysis along sharp racial fault lines are automatically condemned as racist if they’re white. They are judged guilty of harboring and engaging in an internalized version of white racism and anti-black violence if they’re black. We are now at a point where Christians, regardless of color, are morally chastised by other Christians simply for acknowledging that moral degeneration is prodigious in undermining black well-being- much more so than any racism purported to be “systemic.”
Obligatory disclaimer: this isn’t to suggest that racism doesn’t exist. It is to say, however, that we will never know to what extent racism exists if we don’t engage in honest collaboration with blacks, encouraging them to control what they are capable of managing, identifying, isolating, and mitigating clear examples of racism
It’s a shame that defending black humanity and arguing in favor of black self-determination to change and influence black lives and environments – in other words rejecting black powerlessness–is rebuked as the equivalent of minimizing, ignoring, or contributing to the presence of racism.
I’d like to publicly offer a rejoinder that has permeated my research for the last decade–maybe it’s time for black Christians to be less black and more Christian. In his most recent book America’s Original Sin, Jim Wallis commented that white Christians should be less white and more Christian. Christians, regardless of color, should reject racial solidarity, racial empathy, and conformity in favor of Christian solidarity and compassion.
I agree with Ms. Menzie. Christians don’t have it together when it comes to race, and we may never get it together on this side of heaven. We surely won’t get it together as long as we continue restating racial narratives that disempower blacks from taking control of their fate while depending on whites to solve racial problems that no one wants solved. When it comes to the outdated black-white binary of solving racial issues, it should be a collaborative effort that demonstrates true racial equality in the multi-ethnic brotherhood of Christ.
Everything else is virtue-signaling.