Black in the Church
Ever since I became a Christian in high school, I was always one of the few Black kids in primarily White congregations. Though outside of the church I faced overt racism, inside the church I always found love and acceptance. Growing up there was always this unspoken rule that church and politics were to remain separated, but in my eyes that rule seemed to be arbitrarily applied. If the subject was something like abortion then we should hold prayer protests and vote for the Prolife candidates. But if the subject was immigration or racial justice those topics were deemed too political, divisive, and not a priority. My mother recounted to me showing up for church one Sunday after the death of an unarmed black man and how the church proudly displayed a large printed banner that read “We Support Our Police'', with no mention from the pulpit or anyone else mourning his death. Now I proudly support our officers, many of them friends and co-laborers, but at a time when the Black community was hurting, the message to my mother from her church was simple: “You don’t matter”.
In her article, “Dear Evangelicals, I’m Tired of Sitting in the Balcony”, Mary Butler Coleman (in far more eloquent terms) outlines the engrained “indifference” of the White Evangelical church to the issues of Black Christendom. She likens it back to the era of slavery where slave masters would have their slaves sit in the balcony so they could hear the sermon without being a distraction; seen but not heard. Slave owners could pat themselves on the back for allowing their slaves to hear the gospel while denying them the opportunity to engage in worship, much less have a voice.
I know this seems harsh but this is what it feels like for many Black Evangelicals; we can show up for church and sing the songs, but we can’t bring up any issues that matter to us without being dismissed.
While it’s been beautiful to watch White pastors using their platform to amplify Black voices and call out racial injustice, the truth is they are few and far between. Instead, we Evangelicals demonize groups like BLM without being willing to do the hard work of racial reconciliation, and shame women who have abortions rather than using our voice to advocate for compassion and comprehensive healthcare.
But Jesus has called us to more!