I’ve been taking some deep breaths.
I was shocked but not surprised by the outcome of the 2016 election. I knew that Donald Trump could become president even though I honestly did not believe that he would. And to paraphrase Shakespeare’s Marc Antony, friends, Christians, and fellow Americans: lend me your ears: I’ve not come to bury Hillary Clinton or to praise her. I’m not about to argue policies or the relative trustworthiness of the two main candidates. That’s been done ad nauseam.
What I want to do is acknowledge a level of frustration as an African American Christian—who reluctantly allows himself to bear the label “evangelical”—and simultaneously try to remember the bigger picture. What I want to do is acknowledge a level of frustration as an African American Christian Click To Tweet
“Biblical” or Just White?
I need to breathe deeply and admit there is an overwhelming sense of despair that many of us feel today, especially many of my younger family and friends. A brother, Esau McCaulley, has captured well the feeling that many of us African American Christians have. For nearly three decades I’ve been serving as a pastor and often also a seminary instructor.
My churches have all been in urban contexts but because of who I am and the places where I’ve been trained, I’ve been connected to white evangelicals. At times that has been just fine. We have often shared a high regard for the Bible and for living lives of moral integrity. But we have often simultaneously been separated because of race, class, and aspects of our culture.
For the most part, my white evangelical friends did not (and maybe still do not) think that we all do our biblical interpretation from a particular context, reading Scripture texts and world events through particular lenses. I’ve often heard white evangelicals argue that they’re just “biblical,” as if one can be “biblical” without any context.
I fear that ignoring contexts continues to leave a huge segment of evangelicalism blind to human realities. For example, the Black Lives Movement, which has awakened and motivated many young people to issues of police brutality and the often unfair treatment that people of color face from those in civil authority, has been vastly oversimplified and minimized by many white evangelicals. Rarely do I see white evangelicals even attempt to see the world through the eyes of others. Rarely do I see white evangelicals even attempt to see the world through the eyes of others. Click To Tweet
Yet, minorities and women, as marginalized people, have always had to see the world from different vantage points. We quickly have to grasp the way the dominant culture views us and the rest of the world while at the same time try to figure out how we can have our own perspectives be validated. From very early ages, many of us rapidly become accustomed to maneuvering through a world that we rarely get a chance to help shape.
Yes, even we minority and woman Christians do this kind of maneuvering. We must do the work of interpreting teaching from books, schools, seminars, and conferences that are not really for us, even if we get encouraged to attend. White evangelicalism has in my lifetime often acted as if we were welcome to the “party,” but we were often there for the brochures.
This election has revealed more about the citizens of the USA than the two main presidential candidates. Many women and minorities were already aware of the sexism and racism that shaped the United States, but perhaps this election has made it clearer to those who had not been aware. For me, the disappointment is that we’ve not progressed in my lifetime as much as I hoped. This election has revealed more about the citizens of the USA than the presidential candidates. Click To Tweet
As I take my deep breaths, trying to steady myself, I don’t want to minimize the anguish that so many feel. I don’t want to be glib or dismissive of anyone’s pain. Yet, neither do I want to stay in a place of despair. I want to make myself look to the bigger picture—the long view.
The Bigger Picture
That bigger picture is one that recognizes that I don’t fight against human—flesh and blood—enemies (Ephesians 6:12). That picture also shows that Babylon—the empires of this world—will fall one day (Revelation 18). In the seminary class that I taught this morning, we reminded ourselves that the bigger picture includes the world bending the knee, not to Caesar or any human authority, but to the Lord Jesus Christ, who lived, died, and lives again (Philippians 2:9-11).
I know that the earliest Christian believers did not have the power to elect their political leaders. I know that these faithful followers of Jesus Christ had little ability to change the governmental structures. In fact, they often suffered under hostile civil authorities (1 Peter 3:13-17). Yet, the movement flourished.
The Good News of Jesus advanced because faithful people loved mercy, acted justly, and walked humbly with God (Micah 6:8). Many of our forebears suffered at the hands of ruthless leaders, like Emperor Nero, but those lovers of God refused to bow the knee to the emperor, refused to let the government stifle their faith, and refused to put their lights under a bushel. They let their lights shine.
Let Your Light Shine
I commit to let my light shine. I commit to living as the salt of the earth and light of the world that Jesus says his followers are (Matt 5:13-16). I hope you will let your light shine also.
We can create a movement of love and justice regardless of who sits in the Oval Office or sits in the Senate or the House of Representatives. True movements don’t respond to the government but force governments to take notice. True movements help to change the world. Help me change the world. True movements don’t respond to the government but force governments to take notice. Click To Tweet