In the past year, there has been a mass exodus of blacks from white churches. The recent disconnect many have experienced is real and understandable. America is in the midst of the worst climate in terms of race relations since the Civil Rights era 50 years ago. The political positions many white evangelical pastors and congregations have taken has alienated many African Americans and caused a mass evacuation.
The issue of identification, understanding, and relevance of the country’s dirty history is a big factor. Many blacks cannot ignore the degree to which white evangelical churches stick their heads in the sand. The longer this posture continues, people of color will continue to feel isolated in white congregations. This stance betrays the heart of real Christianity.
Over the past couple of decades, white evangelical churches seemed to push racial reconciliation. Black Americans joined mostly white churches after hearing pastors speak of dedication to the aim of integration. Many were proud to be a part of the initial thrust toward desegregated worship while others were just happy for a shorter worship experience. Even though much of the music remained vanilla, they openly embraced a different style of worship.
Over recent years, African Americans began having difficulty as white pastors failed to adequately address the surge of police shootings within black communities. They witnessed public outcry for “Blue Lives” and Brussels, Paris and other areas, but an awkward silence hovered over the pain and fear that embraced members of color.
Then came the 2016 elections. The recent presidential election divided the nation and many churches in a way that is unprecedented. White evangelicals voted for and pledged undying support an un-presidential man who had already caused a mass divide in America. Totally ignoring Trump’s derogatory comments against minorities and his open hostility toward NFL players who protested for justice and equality, fellow congregants pushed him forward. Ironically, they have maintained an overarching loyal support for a man who bullied anyone that disagreed with his ideas. Instead of support for the black community, the church acted as if it was colorblind and oblivious to the racial disparity in the country.
The lack of public empathy from white evangelicals has caused a mass exodus of black congregants. African Americans can no longer turn a deaf ear to the absence of evolution in the fight against systemic oppression from the pulpit. There is a longing to see the church join the Civil Rights Movement and help push equality. Jesus was not shy as it relates to activism. Jesus openly confronted ageism, sexism, prejudice and even racism. He made it very clear through his teaching as well as behavior that he did not support or condone any of those issues.
Many remember a time when the church was on the front line of social injustice. Recalling a passage from Isaiah 61 where Jesus announces his mission was to minister to the poor, the prisoner, the sick, the oppressed and the brokenhearted. He came for all people, not just a select few. Jesus even instructed his disciples through the great commission to love, and minister to all people.
A divided nation is a tragedy, but a divided church is a travesty. Yet many evangelicals maintain fierce support, however, not without a cost. Evangelicalism is at a serious crossroads as they continuously overlook actions that are antithetical to their faith, including comments about women and race. There have been growing racial and generational divisions in religious organizations that have resulted in a mass exodus of blacks from white church.
Opinion by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Christian Post: Why Blacks Are Really Leaving White Evangelical Churches
Unfit Christian: Exodus: Why Black Millennials Are Leaving the Church
National Public Radio: After ‘Choosing Donald Trump,’ Is The Evangelical Church In Crisis?
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