This one is just for the white Christians. If you’re Black, I love you, but there isn’t really anything I can tell you right now that you don’t already know; much of what I have to say here I learned from Black people. If you’re not Christian, then arguing on the basis of Christian scripture isn’t going to mean much to you, and I don’t want to waste your time, so you can check out here too. I’ll catch up with you later, friends. Right now I just want to talk to the white Christians in the room.
But if you call yourself Christian and you’re white, you have some careful thinking to do right now about your position, about what you believe, and what God asks of you.
Arguably, white people who call themselves Christian are a large part of the reason that the country is in a mess right now. That sin is on us, and it’s on us to atone for it, to try to set it right.
I didn’t vote for our vile president, the one who is even now hiding in a bunker while calling for violent oppression of his own citizens’ rights to free speech and assembly. But apparently a lot of you did. Why? No, really—I want you to think long and hard about why you voted for a man who is everything Christians should strive to not be. He is boastful, deceitful, selfish, blasphemous, racist, and sexist, among other “fine” qualities. What did you see in him?
Was it because he promised to force people to say “Merry Christmas?” So much so that, bizarrely, I got an ad requesting people to celebrate his birthday in the middle of the summer that played commercial Christmas music in the background. (seriously, what the heck?) Celebrating Christian holidays does not a Christian make; many atheists, many who are arguably more Christ-like than our supposedly “Christian” president, celebrate Christmas as a purely secular holiday. Besides, scripture is clear on the value of festivals, offerings, and other religious performances absent the gifts of the Holy Spirit:
I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.Amos 6:21-24
No, I suspect it’s much worse than the mere performances he provided. I suspect, deep in your heart, you will find the evil that resonates when he speaks. Is it the sexism? Is it the nationalism and greed, both of which are inherently incompatible with Christianity—for did Jesus not preach that “No man can serve two masters… you cannot serve God and wealth”? (Matthew 6:24) Is it the racism? At this moment, when Black people are fighting for their very right to live, do you find your traitorous heart rejoicing in the brutality they face? Do you excuse it, calling them “thugs” and objecting to “how” they protest? Sit with those questions. Answer them honestly. Pray on it. Then ask for forgiveness. Ask for God to forge in you a new heart, one filled with grace and humility.
There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that hurry to run to evil, a lying witness who testifies falsely, and one who sows discord in a family.Proverbs 6:16-19
White Christian hypocrisy has been made too plain this year. It was always there—it has been for centuries—but the concurrence of current events, of the pandemic and now the righteous and rightful protests against police brutality and other institutional racism has made too obvious how hypocritical so much of white Christianity is. Not all of it, of course—witness, for instance, the solidarity with Black Lives Matter protests that we’ve seen in the Mennonite, Quaker, and Amish communities, communities which are notable for their radical Christianity, including pacifism and a history of abolitionism. You might say to yourself that the Black protesters are violent, but yet how then can you understand that the pacifists have more or less universally allied themselves on their side?
But the face of white Christianity in the United States is the Evangelical movement, a movement to which much hypocrisy and evil can be attributed, and it is far past time for individual white Christians to reckon within themselves what that means. It is far past time for white Christians to, as Jesus instructed, remove the plank from their own eyes before looking to the motes in their neighbors’ eyes. It is not our Black neighbors’ jobs to hold our hands through this process of soul-searching, confession, and change. They have enough to do to protect themselves right now, in so many ways. It is our job to sit with our discomfort, to sit with our sins and confess them, praying as we have been instructed by our Savior to do, locked in our rooms where only God can hear us, until we have come out ready to defend those we have persecuted like Paul, who spent years learning under the Christians he persecuted before he was ready to preach at their side.
Look, then, to your own misplacement of God. God is not in your church buildings, which only two weeks ago you were threatening your leaders with guns to reopen because you were inconvenienced. God is standing with the Black Lives Matter protesters, waiting for you to understand that all He has ever asked of you is to look to the marginalized, to the oppressed, and help them where they are.
What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats… your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.Isaiah 1:11-17
You, who have spent so much time and energy and money to oppress people who don’t show love the way you expect it to look because of one mistranslated verse in the Old Testament, have ignored so much of the law, which calls over and over to defend those whom human laws have cast out and thrown down, which calls over and over to seek justice for the oppressed.
When Cain killed Abel, his blood cried out to God from the soil. Does not the blood of George Floyd, the blood of Trayvon Martin, the blood of Philando Castile, the blood of Eric Garner, the blood of Michael Brown, the blood of Emmett Till, the blood of all these Black victims, cry out to God for justice? But you will, like Cain, answer with blood on your hands, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Yes. You are your brother’s keeper. That’s what you agreed to when you professed your faith. Jesus has made this all very clear, even if you got confused by all the law and prophets constantly reiterating that our first responsbility, the only worship that God truly cares about, is that we love our neighbors, that we seek justice and love kindness, and that we walk humbly with God. Jesus, upon being asked what the most important law was, answered simply:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.Matthew 22: 37-40
Before you act in the name of God or His law, always check against those two laws. Does it serve God—or your own comfort? Does it serve your neighbor—or just the neighbors you like because they’re like you? Do not forget that when asked “Who is my neighbor,” Jesus answered with a story about a Samaritan—the people whom his audience would have considered unclean outsiders, not at all their neighbors. Jesus makes it very clear that our neighbors are the people God puts in front of us, not the people we choose to live among because they make us feel comfortable.
“But,” you say, “I don’t disagree with their message, just the way they’re doing it,” you say. Search your heart again. Did you listen when Colin Kaepernick merely knelt in protest? Or did you call him a “thug” too and dismiss him as “disrespectful”? Did you listen when they stood and chanted “Black Lives Matter” or did you dismiss them by replying “all lives matter”?
“But they’re being violent. They’re destroying property,” you say. “Jesus would never have done that!” I’m sorry, but I’m not sure which Jesus you’re referring to, because the Jesus I find in scripture certainly did. Did not our savior overturn the tables and drive out the money changers with a whip because they were swindling the poor who came to worship at the temple?
Do not forget: Jesus was not crucified by a lawless band of rioters. He was crucified by the authorities, using the law enforcement of the empire, for preaching justice and liberation for the oppressed. You who call for police authority are no better than the crowd who cried out “crucify him!” to Pontius Pilate. Again: search your heart, pray for a new one made of love and righteousness.
I will not take the time here to ennumerate the historical stain of sin that covers white Christianity; you can certainly do that work on your own, as it is well documented how white Christianity has been the engine behind racist institutions in the United States. Indeed, you should do that work. My argument today is only that scripture is very clear that our Lord asks us to be on the side of the Black community, who are only asking for justice.
If that makes you uncomfortable, examine more carefully your relationship with your faith—does it serve you, or do you serve God?
And when you’ve done that introspection, you might consider instead of donating to your church, divert your offerings to do the true work of the Lord more directly: freeing the prisoner, feeding the hungry, and seeking justice for the oppressed.
Here’s some threads that can help you figure out how to do that. It’s the least we can do.
And please please don’t make this about you and your virtue. Jesus was pretty clear about what He thought of people who pray on the street corner so that everyone can know how pious they are too. Here’s some guides on that too: