One of the verses that was drummed into my head as I was growing up in the church was 1 Peter 2:9. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”. There was even a praise song we’d sing in church, that was basically just this verse.
We saw our peculiar selves as a good thing. We might be a little weird, yes, but we’re weird for Jesus! It was proof of our commitment to him. We were not of this world, we were merely in it. So as we listened to our CCM and went to our white churches and our white schools, we knew deep down that we were better than everyone.
Sure they might know a Janet Jackson song that will someday leave a generation of millennial Christians staring blankly into the abyss of cultural relevance, but we had Audio Adrenaline and Rebecca St. James. As soon as someone creates a cultural moment around having a Big House, we will be right there.
They taught us that our set-apartness made us holier than other people, because we knew the Truth. We knew the way to live that insured success, that made us not fall off the rails, that would keep us in God’s good graces. We were going to heaven, and not everyone was, so what if we were a little weird. Jesus told us the world wouldn’t like us, and blessed are you when people revile you because of his name.
All of the ways in which we as white conservative Christians differed from the liberal, secular society was proof that we were on the holy path and they were not. We were proud of our peculiarity.
This belief in peculiarity as holiness is why I think white evangelicals have no shame about continually being revealed as racists. Poll after poll after poll shows that white evangelicals vote Republican, they are the only group supporting Donald Trump, and as we learned this week, 74% of them prefer an America that existed before civil rights and women’s rights.
White conservative Christianity is being revealed to the country as the teeming bowl of patriarchal racism it has always been accused of being, and so many of them feel no shame about that. More proof that they are different, set-apart from the liberal society who values ‘diversity’, that terrible PC word.
And those white evangelicals who do have shame over this whole thing, for the most part, seem like they are hunkering down, waiting for this embarrassing wave to pass, hoping that everyone will forget all about it. Some of them might be standing up against Donald Trump, but not against the system that created him.
It’s good that there are so many people willing to reconsider and change their mind this election cycle, but there are also millions – millions! of white conservative Christians that are not ashamed to be known as sexist and racist and who both boldly and secretly support Donald Trump. We all know some. Most of us go to church with them. I don’t now, but for 34 of my 35 years I did. (Also can I just tell you how freeing it is to go to a church where they repudiate him and his policies from the pews. It’s amazing.)
And it’s easy to say ‘well that’s not what being a Christian means’ or ‘ok, but I’m not like that’, ‘not all white evangelicals’, but they shouldn’t be dismissed that easily.
For one, these racists still yield enormous power in the church. Chances are they are pastors, pastors wives, bible study leaders, and even simply being the attendees in the pews, they frame the edges of the conversation. You know when you are small-talking before church what the political temperature is. You know what would happen if you mentioned immigrants, or talked about how you visited a mosque, or why women are legitimately upset about assault. You know.
And you know that’s not what being a peculiar people is supposed to mean. Christians aren’t supposed to be known for their desire to exclude and oppress, or to be so shameless about it!
Being a Jesus kind of peculiar people, embracing that royal priesthood and declaring the praises of God means standing with the marginalized and oppressed, and it also means not letting the patriarchal racists have the power.
Which means that you need to speak up.
If you are a white christian, it is not ok for you to enjoy the luxury of sitting on the sidelines of this one. And, frankly, if you do start speaking up now, it should come with an apology for waiting so long. At this point in the game, it’s not really optional, especially if you go to a white evangelical church. You know how when a major story of racism is in the news and well-meaning white people are asking “but what can I do???” – This is it.
Address your friends on social media. Speak up in church, in your bible study conversations. Push your pastor to talk about it. It is not illegal to talk about how damaging, oppressive, and unempathetic proposed policies are. It is not illegal to do sermons on welcoming the stranger and being the good Samaritan. You have the power to refuse to let the 74% sit comfortably in their racism and oppression. Use it. People’s lives depend on it.