It’s time for Christians to get angry at white supremacy
By Law Ware
Last weekend, the governor of the state of Virginia declared a state of emergency after chaos ensued when white supremacists marched through Charlottesville in an effort to “Unite the Right,” causing the deaths of three people and injuries to 34 more.
Immediately, black folks took to social media to voice their discontent; counter-protesters clashed with the white nationalists; CNN and MSNBC covered the events minute-by-minute as they unfolded. But the response from the Christian community at large has been tepid at best.
Though there was a silent march and some Christians did commit to prayer, these responses are inadequate in the face of the current climate. I’ve worked in ministry for over 10 years, and I come from a black church tradition rooted in speaking truth to power forcefully. Passive actions like prayer vigils and silent marches do much to make those who engage in them feel involved, but they rarely force those who have the ability to make changes enact them. Here are three ways Christians can understand the urgency of this moment:
1: Be Honest
Historically, white nationalists have used the Bible as a justification for their ideology. For example, Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, said:
“…Slavery was sanctioned in the Bible, authorized, regulated, and recognized from Genesis to Revelation…Slavery existed then in the earliest ages, and among the chosen people of God; and in Revelation we are told that it shall exist till the end of time shall come. You find it in the Old and New Testaments – in the prophecies, psalms, and the epistles of Paul; you find it recognized, sanctioned everywhere.”
Many conservative Christians take the Curse of Ham, the very thing that the Southern Baptists Convention refused to condemn back in June, as justification for slavery and unequal social arrangements. Mix that with an anthropology that says that black folks have the wrong lips, hips, and skin pigmentation, and you get a religious justification for evil. Christians need to come to terms—we need to be honest—about the way the Bible has been used to marginalize black people in this country.
2: Be Angry
In John 2:15, Jesus entered the temple and discovered that people were taking advantage of the poor. Instead of marching silently or passively saying how sad he was about the injustice in private conversation with his one or two friends affected by the injustice, Jesus turned over tables, pulled out a whip and commenced to laying hands on those who were the perpetrators of the injustice.
To put it mildly, Jesus got angry.
Christians are called to be angry when they see injustice.
In fact, Ephesians 4:26 says “be ye angry, and sin not.” Anger, in response to last weekend’s events, is appropriate. In fact, I question your relationship with God if you’re not angry. For, as one of God’s most brilliant prophets James Baldwin once said in The Negro in American Culture: “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious, is to be in a rage almost all the time.”
But I must add that, regardless of your race, every person of conscience should see what is happening and be enraged.
If you’re not angry, if you are not enraged by what is happening in this country, the problem is you.
3: Be the Prayer
I’m tired of weak responses from Christians to clear acts of white supremacy.
Silent marches are fine. Prayer is nice. Keeping us in your thoughts is a lovely gesture, but once you’re done marching, praying and thinking, I need you fight white supremacy.
No more attending churches that are silent on racism. No more listening to pastors who are silent on Trump. No more paying tithes to a church that teaches that “racism is a sin problem, not a skin problem.” And no more saying black lives matter while treating black women and black LGBTQ folks like they are second-class citizens.
It is time to be the answer to our prayers.
We need people who are not ashamed to follow the example of Jesus and turn over tables. We need people who are not ashamed to follow the example of Isaiah and speak truth to power. We need people who are not ashamed to follow the example of James Brown and say it loud that we’re black and we’re proud.
These are perilous times, and these times call for courageous Christians.
Law Ware. is a philosopher of race at his day job and a curator of dopeness when time allows. Bylines in The New York Times, Slate, Fusion, Dissent, The Root and others. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org