The election of Donald Trump, which came with the support of 81% of white evangelicals, is driving many black Christians out of their churches, according to the New York Times‘ Campbell Robertson.
For many, the Trump support (and continued lack of criticism of him since then) was the final straw proving these churches weren’t welcoming to minorities no matter how much they claim otherwise.
Black congregants — as recounted by people in Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Fort Worth and elsewhere — had already grown uneasy in recent years as they watched their white pastors fail to address police shootings of African-Americans. They heard prayers for Paris, for Brussels, for law enforcement; they heard that one should keep one’s eyes on the kingdom, that the church was colorblind, and that talk of racial injustice was divisive, not a matter of the gospel. There was still some hope that this stemmed from an obliviousness rather than some deeper disconnect.
Then white evangelicals voted for Mr. Trump by a larger margin than they had voted for any presidential candidate. They cheered the outcome, reassuring uneasy fellow worshipers with talk of abortion and religious liberty, about how politics is the art of compromise rather than the ideal. Christians of color, even those who shared these policy preferences, looked at Mr. Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants, his open hostility to N.F.L. players protesting police brutality and his earlier “birther” crusade against President Obama, claiming falsely he was not a United States citizen. In this political deal, many concluded, they were the compromised.
Christian enabling of racism has a long, ugly history in America. Making matters more complicated is that most white evangelicals wouldn’t consider themselves racist — they will insist that they “love everyone,” while at the same time harboring negative attitudes about black congregants who speak up about racial marginalization in church. These white Christians will insist that racism is a “heart issue,” not a systemic problem. And when black people say otherwise, they get accused of being “divisive.”
It’s a similar response they give on LGBTQ rights. They “love” gay people — and, let’s say, genuinely care for their well-being — but when their “love” isn’t accepted by the people they’re targeting, they play dumb, not realizing they’re perpetuating discrimination against the group by not supporting their rights.
When it comes to race, if a pastor who’s advising Trump (as we see in the NYT story) isn’t actively saying his policies are hurting minorities, giving cover to white supremacists, and making race relations worse than ever, the reasonable assumption is that you support it.
No wonder so many African Americans who attend predominantly white churches are stepping away.
While the piece doesn’t include exact numbers or percentages, there are plenty of anecdotes of how and why black worshipers no longer feel at home in the evangelical churches they once belonged to.
That Trump-supporting Christians would prioritize their political agendas over the safety and well-being of their black brothers and sisters says a great deal about their level of compassion — and it’s no surprise that black Christians are leaving them.
We know a lot of those evangelical church leaders aren’t looking for advice from atheist websites, but you’d think they’d listen to suggestions from members of their congregations honestly trying to point out the church’s problems. It’s clear they’re not doing that. And it’s only contributing to the exodus out of the church.
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