White Christian Exceptionalism: The Painful Irony of a Prideful Death
It’s a bizarre thing, in that, when I tell my story to evangelicals, or American Christians, many will think or ask out loud, “Why’d you leave the Church…?”
Again, “like a musicians ear being trained to pick up on subtle nuances, others can’t hear, there’s a training necessary in order for one to pick up on these types of toxic theological and/or ecclesiological subtleties.”
This, considering the contexts, is usually one of those subtleties the untrained ear won’t pick up on.
The particular nuance within these conversations is the underlying assumption that just because I’ve left their institution or denied their version of a Eurocentric and over-anthropomorphized version of Jesus that I’ve somehow left the Church…
Which, anyone believing that what they’re doing is the sole definition of God’s intended Church… it’s frighteningly dangerous; just as any other type of militant authoritarianism usually is.
It’s as if they truly believe salvation is found nowhere else but through them and their doctrine.
If you’ve listened to any major conservative evangelical over-popularized preacher in the last decade (e.g. John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Franklin Graham, etc.) you know the type of fear-driving evangelism I’m speaking of.
I call this toxic heretical misrepresentation of the gospel,
bullsh*t, err, I mean, “White Christian exceptionalism .”
It’s an arrogance that truly and wholeheartedly believes Jesus was historically white; it’s an arrogance that teaches its congregants that Eastern religion and civilization first learned the discipline and practice of meditation through the Bible (because, white men invented everything…?).
Putting it plainly: it’s a mindset that refuses to adapt or adjust and, impositionally demands humility of the oppressed, marginalized and/or minority, while the privileged white-knuckle their vain conceit motivated by nothing but a selfish ambition.
It lends itself to poor whites as a psychological ego-boost but, it comes at the cost of coercing them to later vote against their own interests.
“For all of evangelicalism’s existence, a disproportionate burden has been placed on communities of color to adapt, adjust, assimilate, and acquiesce to the white expressions of Christianity.” – Raymond Chang (Chaplain at Wheaton College)
This is not limited to “communities of color” only.
There are just those who’ve fallen into believing a lie that says this type of “gospel” is in favor of their humanity because of appearances that are otherwise arbitrary (i.e. the white version of Jesus brings nobody life; not even “white people”).
“Evangelicals of color are tired, worn down, and burnt out from merely existing within the white evangelical space .”
It was, for me, the crushing weight of constantly resisting, being gaslighted, devalued, tokenized, and therefore, isolated…
Marginalized communities are no longer able to stomach this falsified perception of unity, especially when it’s at the expense of their dignity. Unless leadership wakes up to the fact “that it’s unwillingness to sufficiently change keeps it behind the culture,” their future will continue to become more and more null and void.
There Are Two Types of Churches…
There are those that say they except and love the marginalized, and then there are those that actually accept and love the marginalized.
You see, reconciliation is not passive; it’s proactive.
Similarly, neither is reconciliation limited to a single solitary act; rather, it’s a communal act of solidarity.
The difference is subtle but huge; one is merely the guise of unity (e.g. tokenism) while the other is a complete shift in leadership, theology, and social hierarchies (e.g. an upside Kingdom).
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – The Apostle Paul (Galatians 3:28)
This mass exodus of congregants seen within American Churches is more than a wake-up call for non-marginalized evangelicals, it’s a turning point for marginalized communities of all kinds, creeds, genders, shapes, sizes, and colors; it’s an opportunity to unify as one despite the aforementioned disunity in our “churches.”
“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor…”
What inspired this particle article was a recent “Open Letter to John Piper on White Evangelicalism and Multiethnic Relations,” written by a recent chaplain of Wheaton College, Raymond Chang; in this particular letter, he says that in order for equitable unity to happen white evangelicals (such as John Piper) “[must] allow for a solid concentration of evangelicals of color to occupy culture-shaping positions of authority…”
It’s not that I disagree, it’s that it seems he and I are at two different junctures (nonetheless, we’re still both on the same team). His juncture is still necessitating permission; while my juncture has realized the actuality in that we don’t need their permission. It’s just the understanding and internalization of the fact that the future of God’s Church is not dependent upon their approval.
Of course, the more the merrier; meaning, if Franklin Graham himself repented and wanted to join this reformative type of movement he’s more than welcome to step in with us to serve the poor and the powerless.
But, speaking candidly, if we can learn one thing from Martin Luther King Jr.’s life it’s that yes, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor….” but, no, as he admitted in an interview before his death… paraphrasing his words below, “demanding wasn’t enough…”
“…The most pervasive mistake I have made was in believing that because our cause was just, we could be sure that the white ministers of the South, once their Christian consciences were challenged, would rise to our aid. I felt that white ministers would take our cause to the white power structure. I ended up, of course, chastened and disillusioned. As our movement unfolded, and direct appeals were made to white ministers, most folded their hands—and some even took stands against us.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Nonviolence is always the way of the Church, but, creativity must adapt to our time… I’m sure to some extent, Chaplain Raymond Chang would agree in that waiting for others approval to unify and build is not a part of Gods radical call to resist and love.
I’d love to hear your thoughts; do you agree or disagree that demanding is simply not enough? Will there be a new reformation? If so, what will this reformation look like?
[Check back next Monday where I’ll be posting on Proactive Steps Towards an Equitable Unity (For Those That Care) – and, if you enjoyed this post head over and check out my Facebook Page to follow along with other and future “-ish”]