Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part article by Robert Chao Romero and Erica Shepler Romero. You can find Part 1 here.
Looking back, I (Erica) am grateful for all of our BIPOC sisters and brothers in the ministry I previously mentioned and beyond. Through the glory and honor of their cultures and their spiritual insights (Rev 21:26-27), they have shown me truths in the Bible that I never would have seen on my own and led me into deeper ministry impact (Rom 12:3-8). The need for sifting individualism, nationalism, and colorblindness, and even dying to my own desire for comfort. I must hold to an ancient and global view of Jesus, not a watered-down, flag-waving nationalist Jesus. I’ve come to realize that that is American civil religion, not authentic discipleship. As Robert writes in his book Brown Church:
Cheap grace and reconciliation that glosses over 500 years of violence and racism that has killed, segregated, deported, and left hungry—this is not the work of the Spirit. No, the Spirit-led process of naming, resonating, repenting, decolonizing, and healing—this is the work of the gospel.1
Yet to many in the US church today, this work is considered “mission drift.” They are missing the very work of the Spirit which is happening in their midst, in their churches, denominations, Christian colleges and universities, seminaries, and BIPOC-led ministries of organizations. Though more than 2,000 verses of the Bible speak about God’s heart of justice for immigrants and the poor, critics respond with a knee-jerk rejection of any meaningful application of these verses to the history or contemporary workings of the United States. Somehow they believe that our country is immune to social sin. Many are quick to claim that sin profoundly affects us all on a personal level, but for some reason in the next breath they adamantly reject the notion that sin affects the United States on a social and cultural level. Their dismissal is not biblical, but sociological. Their social identities are grounded in the underlying assumption that the US has only ever been an exceptional Christian nation.Many are quick to claim that sin profoundly affects us all on a personal level, but...in the next breath they adamantly reject the notion that sin affects the United States on a social and cultural level. Click To Tweet
As a consequence, any earnest, biblical, social critique (no matter how gracious or empirically grounded) creates within them a deeply disturbing sense of cognitive dissonance. In response to such internal dissonance, rather than addressing the issue or issues facilitating the dissonance (as Fuller professor Johnny Ramirez-Johnson taught us), they double down in order to make the feelings of dissonance go away. Instead of considering other perspectives from culturally-diverse members of the body of Christ who have a different life experience and journey with Jesus, they reassure themselves by clinging to sources which confirm their bias. To make themselves feel better, they then sling mud and vitriol, and say things like: “You’re a Marxist. You’re a follower of CRT. You are divisive. God is colorblind. If you don’t like the US, then leave!”
Pain Points for BIPOC Christians
In my observation, I (Robert) have observed that it is largely Black, Latinx, Asian American, and Native American sisters and brothers in Christ who have taken the hits in these types of intercultural exchanges. Though church and ministry leaders say they value our diverse perspectives and cultural backgrounds, we’re the ones who end up getting punished for the cognitive dissonance which some feel when we simply share our voice. They want the color of our skin in their pews, but don’t want the different perspectives which flow from our unique experiences of journeying with Jesus in a different color skin.They want the color of our skin in their pews, but don’t want the different perspectives which flow from our unique experiences of journeying with Jesus in a different color skin. Click To Tweet
Our jobs in churches, Christian colleges, seminaries, and nonprofits are the ones getting put on the chopping block of white nationalism in order to pacify disgruntled staff and donors. Our ministries get cut and defunded. We get the bad performance reviews and passed up for promotion in favor of the token minority or majority culture Christian who is less qualified, or who never rocks the boat. Did we do anything unbiblical? Quite the contrary. We love Jesus with all of our hearts and simply applied sacred Scripture to our life contexts and ministries. And we even bore much fruit for the Kingdom! But in doing so we also made some people feel uncomfortable, and so we were made to pay the price.
Encouragement for Prophetic Voices
To our dear friends and leaders who have been speaking up, being loving teachers and prophets, helping people sift these toxins from our faith…we thank you.
We see you.
To the leadership of predominantly white churches and denominations, Christian colleges and seminaries, parachurch ministries, and nonprofits: we pray that you will listen to the prophetic voices that remain and feel the pain of those who have paid a high cost to speak up. We must not heed the voices of those that have not recognized, spoken against, or repented of the ever-increasing white Christian nationalism in the evangelical church. We do not trust their spiritual discernment—and we should be especially wary of those who call themselves teachers, theologians, and missionaries, but have not repented of these wrongs, nor humbled themselves enough to consider the perspectives of others in the body of Christ. As Paul has warned us in the sacred words of Scripture, this is a recipe for division and does not reflect the heart of God (1 Cor 12:24-26).We must not heed the voices of those that have not recognized, spoken against, or repented of the ever-increasing white Christian nationalism in the evangelical church. Click To Tweet
We are praying for the soul of the US church, that such toxic leaders would be sifted out and exhibit a deep repentance—which would be a testimony to the watching world.
We pray for the BIPOC and white leaders who have counted the cost and spoken the truth in love—that they will receive the comfort and strength that they need to continue in their God-given prophetic and pastoral callings. Like the prophets of old, you are now being persecuted, but it is through you that the US church will grow “to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ,” “so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:15; 12-13).
 Brown Church, InterVarsity Press, 2020