A prominent Christian apologist is walking back the racist comments he made at a faith-based conference over the weekend after they began circulating online.
The apologist in question is 81-year-old Christian author and evangelist Josh McDowell, who spoke Saturday at the American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference in Orlando, Florida. He was explaining the biggest issues that Christian counselors needed to address, including “Critical Race Theory,” “Social Justice,” and “Pornography.”
But during his tirade against CRT, McDowell just went full-blown bigot, claiming most Black people weren’t raised to value education and hard work.
After Dr. Aaron New raised the initial flag, blogger Warren Throckmorton got the clip:
Here is the pertinent clip. pic.twitter.com/R78eO0sDjT
— Warren I Got the Shotmorton (@wthrockmorton) September 19, 2021
… It’s not just the equal opportunity. And I don’t believe — everybody says, “Well, Blacks, whites, everyone have an equal opportunity to make it in America.” No they don’t, folks. I do not believe Blacks, African Americans, and many other minorities have equal opportunity.
Most of them grew up in families where there’s not a big emphasis on education, security. “You can do anything you want. You can change the world. If you work hard, you will make it.”
So many African Americans don’t have those privileges like I was brought up in. My folks weren’t very rich; in fact, they were [an] army family. But the way I was raised, I had advantages in life ingrained into me. “You can do it! Get your education! Get a job! Change the world!”
And that makes it [?] in different opportunities.
McDowell believes Black people weren’t raised to value education and weren’t brought up in families that encouraged them to work hard, get a job, or change the world.
That’s not just false, that’s harmful.
It’s proof that McDowell doesn’t understand the very subject he was paid to talk about. It shows a complete disregard for the very real obstacles Black people have faced in this country — none of which include not valuing education or wanting to work.
The most charitable interpretation of that speech is that McDowell wanted to let the crowd know that all Americans aren’t starting from the same place — which is true! — and therefore it’s not enough to assume hard work and education is all it takes to succeed. But McDowell seems to have no clue why those disparities exist — which is no surprise coming from a guy who’s spent his life in conservative white evangelical circles.
Today, McDowell issued a response to the growing fury over his racist speech:
A statement from Josh McDowell: pic.twitter.com/MhYaL2iA28
— Josh McDowell (@josh_mcdowell) September 19, 2021
There is a statement of mine from the AACC conference that has been circulating on social media. I want to assure my friends, colleagues, ministry partners and the AACC community and conference attendees that I am taking the recent comments and questions about my talk seriously.
My statement as quoted does not reflect my own beliefs and I want to begin by apologizing for my words and the implications they had. My statement started by saying “I do not believe blacks, African Americans and many other minorities have equal opportunity.” I do believe this. Racism has kept equality from being achieved within our nation. When I said that “most (minorities) grew up in families where there is not a big emphasis on education and security,” I made a generalized statement that does not reflect reality. I apologize and reiterate my Christian love for all races, nationalities and people groups. My desire is that we as Christians would deal with both racism and inequality as the sins that they are in order to restore the unity and equality that God desires for all.
“I made a generalized statement that does not reflect reality” is a weak way to acknowledge that racism is so deeply ingrained into your being that you could just say something like that without correcting it in the moment. Notice he doesn’t explain what he got wrong, or why he said it, or how his broader point makes any sense without that underlying (false) premise.
In other words, he didn’t accidentally say the wrong thing. This wasn’t some minor slip-up. He said something he’s likely been telling Christian audiences for years. McDowell is a Christian apologist; not reflecting reality is his whole schtick.
Here are better questions: If he agrees that his statement was racist, then what does he think causes those racial disparities? What role do white evangelicals (and conservatives in general) like him have in perpetuating them? What does he think they should do to fix the problem? Does he acknowledge structural racism?
Here’s a hint: Pretending that teaching “Critical Race Theory” is the real problem isn’t it. Pretending that the fight for “Social Justice” is the real problem isn’t it.
We need to do a better job of educating children about our racist past — and encouraging them to confront our racist present — so that they don’t grow up to be like Josh McDowell or the Christians who listen to a speech like that without sounding the alarm for people outside the room.
Had Dr. New (or his friend at the conference) not raised concerns on Twitter, would anyone else at that event have said anything? I doubt it. Maybe the worst thing about McDowell’s speech is how normal this kind of racist rhetoric is inside conservative bubbles.
(Thanks to @paulogia0 for the link)