At this moment, I won’t be focusing on actual White Nationalists shooting up Black Churches. Instead, I’ll do a copy/paste of an article by Emmaus, brought to my attention by Joel McDurmon. Then, a few comments.
The Original Post
November 11, 2019
A few days ago Dr. Eric Mason, who pastors Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, posted a video clip of James White asserting that the black church is the most uneducated church in America (this is my paraphrase). The next day, Mr. White posted his entire video on Facebook and encouraged us to watch what he said in context. In context, Mr. White was responding to the Hebrew Israelites who basically asked why the information he was presenting couldn’t be found in any black church. James White responded by saying that (my paraphrase, not his words… but still accurate) the Black Church is the most uneducated church we have.
All of this stems from Mr. White and Dr. Mason’s fundamental disagreement on how the church should respond to racial injustice. After calling us the most uneducated church in America, he then proceeded to tell us that we should “get past these social issues so we can get to real truth”. What follows is a careful examination of why Mr. White’s comments are, in fact, racist (or at least prejudice) and why church leaders should clearly and unequivocally rebuke him.
Believe it or not, I have encountered this “white is right, black is lesser” sentiment throughout my entire academic career. I can remember my college days at a state university in Michigan where most of my white professors were these highly evolved liberals. I asked my department chair about majoring in jazz music instead of classical music. He made the allusion that my jazz studies were only extra-curricular, and that classical music was “legit” music for academic study. Over in the communications department, I heard a fellow student talk about the differences between white preaching and black preaching. Her assessment was that white preachers were more interested in “the facts” and that black preachers “embellished the truth” in their preaching. Do you see the pattern? White is factual, truthful and legitimate, while black is merely an interesting embellishment.
I have even encountered this in seminary, often times from people who look like me. For instance, I was at a banquet honoring Rev. Willie Ted Glynn at a seminary in Ft. Worth. Rev. Glynn pastors the Greater Worth Hill Baptist Church, there in the city, and I was his musician. One of our hostesses was a student of that seminary, and we were sitting together. The guest preacher was well-known in the city. He could preach, sing and whoop. His message that evening had all the marks of a well-crafted sermon: well articulated, text-driven, doctrinally sound and highly emotive. He shouted, and even tuned up at the end, setting the gathering on fire. When I asked the hostess what she thought about the message (a black woman) she said “I’m actually more accustomed to expository preaching”. In other words, “a hooping, singing, hollering black preacher can never study and pray enough for me to see him as expository. He may be an interesting embellishment to preaching, but he’s not a legitimate expository preacher”. White is right.
Interestingly, I have found that the people who espouse this “white is right” theological perspective reside in one of two camps: the ignorant and the bitter. In the first camp, you have people who know absolutely nothing about the black church, even if they themselves are black. The only thing they know about the black church is what their black friends tell them, most of whom share their upbringing. These are people, not at all connected to the black community. They have never heard sermons from the black preaching giants of generations past. They’ve never been to a denominational gathering nor have they taken any kind of interest in black history. They’re uninformed and see know need to get informed, holding absolutely no value in what African Americans have contributed to society. Had they any interest in us, they would have known something about any of our historical denominations (AME, COGIC, NBC), most of which have Christian education departments, publishing companies, seminaries, bible institutes and national congresses. If they would have asked me, I would have told them about how all of the men who signed my ordination certificate were godly, biblically faithful, educated black men, who encouraged me to grow in my knowledge of the Word. They didn’t ask me, though, because they’re ignorant. They don’t know and don’t want to know, but they think that they can fix us even though they don’t know us. For instance, the Southern Baptist Convention has its evangelistic eyes set on the city of Detroit. They see Detroit as a “dark city” in need of the gospel because of the lack of SBC churches there. However, anyone from Detroit – or familiar with Detroit in any way – knows that the last thing Detroit needs is another church. But again, only people who see black church as legitimate and know names like Benjamin Hooks, Charles Adams, Fred Samson and David Ellis would know how to best minister to the needs of that city.
The other group is “the bitter”. These are brothers and sisters who, for whatever reason, had a really bad experience in the black church which caused them to find solace in the white church. Some were mistreated: the victim of some unthinkable abuse or trauma. Some were malnourished: attending a black church that did not emphasize discipleship and personal growth, so they never really heard the gospel until they went to a white church and got fed. Some suffered consistent rejection: perhaps they were in a situation where their ministry was not fully appreciated by the black church, for whatever reason, which caused them to find a place among white brothers and sisters. As a pastor who serves in a white denominational body, I run into brothers and sisters like this all the time. Many of them are good, genuine people who simply could not find what they needed in their black church experience. So they left, and whenever you hear them talk about the black church, you may hear rhetoric that sounds remarkably like James White’s. In fact, when black men and women who fit this description saw Mr. White’s video, they probably agreed. To be clear, however, the notion that black theology “for the most part” is unsound is simply not true. One cannot cite their own personal experience, coupled with that of others who left like they did, then say “for the most part, black preaching is unsound”. No, the preaching and teaching in your black church was unsound. And it may not be that the teaching was unsound. It may be that you just weren’t ready to hear the gospel there. For instance, LaCrae testifies that – although he was brought up in a black church – he wasn’t saved in a black church. He didn’t get saved until he was an adult. That isn’t my experience. I was saved at the Historic Second Baptist Church in 1989, as a child: I was swept away by the gospel there, fell in love with Jesus there, grew there, served there and came into ministry there. I also went to Sunday School, Bible Study, Vacation Bible School and District Meetings. I fell in love with the Lord and His Church while being nourished and discipled by black people. My experience weighs just as much as anyone else’s.
I said all this to fully establish that this “white is right” mentality is not germane only to conservative Evangelicalism. The Western philosophies that have given birth to conservatism, liberalism and everything in between have white supremacy in the very soil and concrete of their being. This is why a man without an accredited doctorate, who is not a legitimate tenured professor of any university and is famous for posting videos where his intellectual snobbery is on full display can assert that the black church isn’t educated. He can even be seen as someone whose scholarship is superior to a black man with degrees on the wall from top-teer theological seminaries and decades of pastoral investment in the inner-city. This is possible, because as long as Dr. Eric Mason is black, proud and has a love for his people, Mr. White will always be Mr. Right.
The reason this exchange is so significant is because I fear that the Evangelical church – against all of our great strides towards real reconciliation – is making its way toward a deep impasse that I’m not sure we can overcome. We have theological influences deeply imbedded in the soil and concrete of our respective camps that may prevent us from ever reaching real reconciliation. What’s in my soil is totally different from what’s in Mr. White’s soil.
Let me preface this section by saying that we didn’t need to see the whole video to see that what Mr. White said was racist. This “hear the whole context” argument only works if he didn’t actually say what he said. Case in point, remember when Jamal Harrison Bryant said “these ho’s ain’t loyal” behind the pulpit of Empowerment Temple? None of us needed the whole context to know that what he said was inappropriate. Apply this to the James White issue. We don’t need to watch an hour long video to know that his assessment of the black church is incorrect. Even look on his Twitter Feed, as he doubles down on his bigotry. He shared a picture posted by Dr. Mason of books Dr. Mason recommended, then commented “all white guys and one white gal, not a single black author”. We know, therefore, what he thinks of the black church.
White supremacy is in the soil and concrete of Mr. White’s theology. This is why he can say “get past social issues so we can get to some real truth”. He doesn’t believe social issues constitute truth. He doesn’t believe racism is a Biblical sin. He thinks that because he assents to the doctrines of grace and has a commanding grasp of Koine Greek and Hebrew that his iron-clad doctrine provides a legally binding immunity against any kind of correction or rebuke. Supremacy is in his soil and concrete. His color and his Calvinism gives him what he needs to say “no one (especially those uneducated blacks) can ever correct me”.
This is where we’ve met our impasse. Bevangelicals (Isaiah Robertson’s term) can no longer continue to pretend as if white supremacy isn’t in the soi of American theology, because we know history. Black theology is sound, because we understand that history is the supremest of the sciences. History validates Christianity, not Western theology. It isn’t Calvin’s Institutes that makes the gospel clear to me. It’s history. It isn’t Luther that makes justification legitimate, it’s history. Our theology isn’t even proven cogent by the significant works of N.T. Wright, it’s history. We are Christians today, because an empty tomb remains in Gethsemane formerly occupied by Jesus of Nazareth, who many eye witnesses (uneducated and untrained men… and some women) testified to his death, burial, resurrection and ascension. I am saved today, neither because of Calvin, Luther, Barth, McArthur, Keller nor any other Western thinker. I am saved because of a dark skinned Palestinian Jew named Jesus, who lived, loved and liberated in history.
Since we know, therefore, that history is the supremest of the sciences, we reject theology that is sound on paper, but heretical in history. For instance, Jonathan Edwards can never be in my soil, because nothing in his theology – his doctrines of grace or his deep fear of hell – convicted him that owning slaves was evil. He can’t be in my soil. My soil and concrete has Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth in it. These influences will never reconcile with a theology that is so-well manicured and finely tailored to accommodate white supremacy.
We, therefore, are at an impasse that may be irreconcilable if we aren’t willing to reexamine our soil and concrete. How can James White’s Jonathan Edwards reconcile with my Nat Turner? Because of this impasse, some white evangelicals will always tell us to “get over it” when the saints of old are screaming from their graves “never forget and never stop fighting.” I will never get over social issues. I’ll never forget standing at the very place where Michael Brown’s body lay dead for four hours. I’ll never get over slavery, never get over segregation, never get over Black Wall Street. I’ll never get over Tamir Rice or Sandra Bland. I’ll never get over it and never stop fighting, because the gospel of the Dark Skinned, Bodily Risen Savior of history calls me by the power of the Holy Spirit to call His Church toward justice, period, end of sentence (to quote John McArthur).
If we are Christians, we believe that we will all live together in eternity, and that we are all family down here. Therefore, if James White is a brother in the Lord, then the Spiritual fruit that comes from this conversation should be a humility that causes him to see that his very ignorant and deeply prejudiced words hurt his family and have caused deep divisions. There’s a simple solution to all this. Repent. Stop pridefully posting even more offensive and divisive stuff on Twitter. Just repent.
The key fact that McDurmon mentioned in his comment is:
A very interesting line that applies well here AND beyond: “This is why he can say ‘get past social issues so we can get to some real truth’. He doesn’t believe social issues constitute truth.”
I’d massage that a bit to take away potential objections (largely insignificant ones for the big picture) from White, but the substance of it is right. It is an admission that social issues don’t constitute “truth.” Whether that was an accidental slip of the tongue or not doesn’t matter. Either way it falsifies his approach. He needs to retract that and reformulate his theology with it retracted.
Very correct: social issues are a big part of the truth, so far as God is concerned.
I like to pound again and again on this blog on the failures of Darwinism and atheistic materialism: and this is needed, as these are tools used by the intelligentsia to escape the requirement to obey God, and haul up some idol – typically The State – to take His place.
But in the Bible itself, the fight against outright idolatry is just one of the major themes. A huge factor – embedded right into the Laws of God, that Christians are expected to uphold, have ingrained in their heart, and live out in their lives and thoughts – is social justice.
The weak are to be cared for by society: people, churches, family, and civil organizations. And the Sword of the State is not to be biased against the weak, and those with little or no social standing. (And yes, this includes a major section of Black America.)
On the other hand: the Sword is not the Healer. That is Christ, represented by His People. Claims that the men with guns are also the healers and redeemers and the judges, and you have placed far too much power into too few hands. And we really need fewer self-adoring tyrants in this world, not more!
But if you deny justice, it is entirely possible that God will send (even worse) tyrants as His whip of punishment for justice denied. You have been warned.
The widow and orphans are to benefit from the hand from the church (corporately and individual believers), no obstacles is to be placed in the path of the blind, the victim (and NOT the State!) is to get restitution from the one who unjustly harmed him.
The Black Church
Now, focusing on an extract from Emmaus’ post…
Interestingly, I have found that the people who espouse this “white is right” theological perspective reside in one of two camps: the ignorant and the bitter. In the first camp, you have people who know absolutely nothing about the black church, even if they themselves are black. […] The other group is “the bitter”. These are brothers and sisters who, for whatever reason, had a really bad experience in the black church which caused them to find solace in the white church.
It is grim, when we must speak of a “black church” and a “white church” (focusing on superficial genetics), instead of, say, a “believing church” and a “apostate church” (focusing on faithfulness and obedience).
But truth is truth, and Emmaus needs to talk on how things are, and not only on how things should be.
I know next-to-nothing about the history of Black American churches. But I do know this: it was William J. Seymour who led the Azusa Street Revival, welcoming the Holy Spirit and sparking the rise of Pentecostalism and Charismatic churches.
And, exactly because these black churches welcomed the Holy Spirit — yes, even with the speaking in tongues and the hollering and the singing and the dancing — that the Holy Spirit made His home in those churches. And not in the doctrinally pure, rationalistic, and (pre-1970, say) intensely racist conservative white churches. (And yes, I place most Calvinist churches in the Holy Spirit-free camp.)
And – despite their sinful flaws – the Charismatic and Pentecostal churches are the ones blessed with growth and a drive to expand the Kingdom of God. Almost ALL new churches worlfwide after, say, 1950, are Charismatic/Pentecostal.
(It helps that many don’t care for seminaries: if you can preach and build a congregation, you’re in, regardless of your lack of paper qualifications. God willing, more will follow the apprenticeship model found in the New Testament, and please God even more!)
This is what I know about black churches. As for white churches… well….
*points to Europe*
White European Christians: The Judgement Wrought
Certainly, there are black racist Christians. But they have little power in the West: and when they do take power, the cost of their foolishness come rather quickly and obviously, as per Zimbabwe and South Africa. So much for these non-entities.
Now, the people who have shaped history – to the detriment of the Gospel, the Kingdom of God, and billions of lives – are white racist Christians. Their day is fading, due to their own evil falling on their head from World War I onward. Still, even as they fade away, they still have enough wealth and power to retard the expansion of God’s justice and liberty.
Black American Christians: The Judgement Ongoing
One cautionary note to Black American readers.
Remember that what put the kibosh on the White, White World planned by the Darwinian Progressive types was not some massive black uprising or an invasion of Islamic armies: it was the wholesale slaughter of whites by whites, initially in the United States 1861-1865, and then definitely in the German Wars, 1914-1945.
And afterwards, the pointed lack of repentance to God — even as the European Empires became too costly to enforce — led down the silky-smooth road to easy divorce, easy sex, easy perversion, and comprehensive sterility.
Black Americans are already hip-deep in mutual slaughter — both pre- and post-birth murder — and the Darwinian Progressives, acting as the voice of Satan, are careful to hide black-on-white killings (which white conservatives care about) as well as black-on-black killings (that no one cares about.)
Well, North mentions both black-on-white and black-on-black forms of murder, which makes him a notable exception here. White-on-black murders definitely happen, especially within the legal system, but there will have to be a concerted push by Black American leadership to put an end to this…something that just isn’t happening.
(After all, putting up such a fuss – say, by ending the Drug War – won’t help Democrats win elections. And that’s the main thing to Black American leadership, NOT protecting black liberty and lives!)
It’s good and right for white conservatives to mock the press, when it works to hide the murder of white people by blacks. Murder is murder, and needs to be seen to be repented of.
Even today, there are still a few oldsters who will put up a fuss when a white policeman shoots a black women in her kitchen. And even some ordinary white Christians listen to the Holy Spirit in such cases (may God bless them!)
But who is going to care when blacks murder blacks?
If Black Americans don’t end the mutual slaughter, they are going to end up in the same place as the White Europeans.
And only Satan will laugh.
I like Emmaus’ respect for history, as this is (pretty close to) a synonym for a respect for truth, for reality, for the Great Work of Creation God has wrought all around us… and a synonym for a respect for the law of consequences, that history has meaning.
Moreover, this respect is strongly backed by the Bible, which has a lot more history in it than theology! This is coupled for a respect for the individual (and not such abstractions as the State) – the three women who hid the children from Pharaoh – Shiphrah and Puah – will have their names mentioned for all eternity, while Mighty Pharaoh remains nameless.
I like the way God thinks.
(Incidentally, the Bible says the names more men and women than any other work from the ancients. “Just saying.”)
On Specifically Black Christian Theology
As Emmaus demonstrated by action – the best kind of demonstration! — it’s certainly out there, and I expect it to grow and develop.
But for this moment, I am confident that the major hindrance to more and better Black American Christian theology are three facts:
- white Christians prefer to read works written by white Christians (“ho hum parochialism”)
- black Christians are still fairly poorer than the mean, so more labour, less free time to consider what God is doing
- far too many fatherless black Christians! Without a father to teach the importance of order and self-discipline, there is little hope to master a strongly masculine and tightly-structured, demanding science as theology.
The last point, the ugly surge of lawless black bastards, will end when the welfare state dies. Before the Smiling Progressives found a way to cripple black families good and hard, black marriage rates were higher than white ones, and black society was a serious part of life. I believe that this pattern will reassert itself, when the Government-God idol goes bust.
Obedience to God
fewer murderous, thieving bastards
more disciplined, goal-oriented men
Blessings from God, to your family and people
The above is true, even if you aren’t a Christian!
Even partial obedience brings real rewards!
This goes to the second point, the comparative poverty of Black Americans. Building wealth ain’t easy when Master can take it from you at any time, and has structured society to weaken you while exalting himself. Still, the Rule of the Masters fade.
Fortunately, there is a clear way out: it takes time, but it is extremely effective! Remember that the key form of wealth Black Americans have is not money: it is children. Put the focus here, in the children. Homeschooling is a must, but it need not be just a single working mother: groups of black women, pooling (hard-to-find) money and (easy-to-find) time, can definitely get the job done.
(Incidentally, I bet that if any group of black women want to use the excellent Ron Paul Curriculum, but lack the funds to buy it, they need only contact Dr. North, and he’ll find a way to help you out. Send him a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or if free is the only way, the Khan Academy is a perfectly decent, even above-average, program. No money needed, just time, a computer and internet connection, self-discipline and motivation.
As the Khan Academy is free and the Ron Paul Curriculum is inexpensive (a few hundred bucks), the key isn’t money. It’s time and motivation.
Stop waiting for Masters to Save You.