21 June 2015

Conservatism, Christendom and Racism

Mohler like many other Evangelical leaders seems to all but miss the point when it comes to the issue of racism. While he is correct to reject racism as sinful and evil he demonstrates both a revisionist tendency with regard to the past and a certain degree of blindness when it comes to the origin of racism in Western society. It's a hard and bitter pill to swallow and there's a great reluctance and resistance to the truth in this matter.
The Charleston shooter displayed his racism through the patches he wore on his jacket, flags from Apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia.

Mohler forgets that it was American Evangelicals that led the charge in the 1970's for the American government and people to support the Ian Smith regime in South Rhodesia. Mugabe was the enemy and the notion of Zimbabwe was equivalent to communism.
He also forgets that Apartheid South Africa was closely allied with the United States, utilized as a proxy in the region, in the wars in Angola etc..., and was a close ally with Israel and collaborator with it in the development and testing of nuclear weaponry.
American Evangelicals, men like Falwell promoted South Africa and argued Christians should support the Apartheid regime. Mandela was a communist and a terrorist.
All of this has been forgotten.
Jim Crow and white racism have deep roots in Mohler's Southern Baptist Convention. He admits the ideological relationship between Apartheid and Jim Crow but refuses to address their sources.
Like many such blind guides he misses the fact that Western racism was long rooted in the heresy of Christendom. Christendom and its political expression Constantinianism equate Christianity with culture and the idea that God had in particular blessed and sanctified European civilization and later specific nations within it. This fueled nationalism and Imperialism. As Belloc said, 'The Faith is Europe and Europe is the Faith'. A variation of that same heresy played out in South African Calvinism and in the United States. The defeated South amplified this in their narrative of defeat. Jim Crow was a form of resistance to the new order imposed on them by what was perceived as the infidel north. Jim Crow, the Klan, the John Birch society all viewed themselves as protectors of Christian Civilization.
European Christendom (which would include America and white colonies in Africa, Australia etc...) believed they had a God given 'right' and even an 'obligation' to the lands and resources, and to leave these virgin territories in the hands of semi-human dark skinned savages would be wasteful and irresponsible. It was little more than Dominionism operating with different language.
Though the days of Christendom are rapidly fading from the scene the attitudes and impulses it generates and the deep seated feelings and assumptions die hard. Those cultural seeds bear fruit for many generations even after the paradigm has been discarded.
Few people understand that the heavy governmental regulation so commonly associated with New England is actually a legacy of the Puritans. Their descendants have long abandoned the theology but they are still deeply affected by the cultural milieu. The ordered society and the state imposing ideology and regulating life is not a child of 'liberalism' but a long tradition going back to a particularly harsh Protestant manifestation of Christendom.
Slavery and Jim Crow may be gone but the feelings and impulses they generated die hard. Racism is still everywhere in our society and of course it is present in every racial sub-group as well. The stroke of a pen and some legislation cannot remove these things overnight. It will take generations, and even then will likely fail. But there is a large segment of the population that has not even begun to acquiesce on this point. Generally speaking they are no longer employing overt violence but the racism is in their hearts and in many of their actions.
The Church plays no small part in this and it is not a cultural holdover or anomaly that Sunday morning is a time when the nation is once more segregated. Most races worship separately and though many barriers have been broken, harmony is by no means near.
The Church continues to promote the narrative of America as a Christian nation. Conservative white culture looks back and wishes for the days of yore. Minorities want to look forward. They see America as not something to be recaptured or preserved. It is not an ideal that has been lost. At best the nation that declared from the outset that blacks are 3/5 of a human being was a starting point, the beginning of a project, not an ideal to uphold.
This is why as much as they wish to deny it the Christian Right and the Tea Party are perceived to be and in fact are racist and driven by those impulses. The fact that these movements have found a handful of dupes and Uncle Tom's does not eliminate this. These characters become instant celebrities and are quickly manipulated to the forefront in order to bolster these movement's credentials as non-racist. These characters are being used and in some cases may even know it but don't care. Money and the security it creates are sure to destroy all integrity.
Are race relations getting better? Undoubtedly they are significantly 'better' in some ways but I would argue the underlying causes and tensions have not been eliminated and in fact the dreams of 'Helter Skelter' may in fact come to pass. I think racism is likely to get worse as the culture continues to polarize and society breaks apart and turns to violence. Those that have sought to end this manifestation of the sinful heart will see victory on the horizon and then watch it slip away and elude them.
Peace can only come in Christ. All man-made attempts rooted in philosophy or societal idealism will necessarily fail.
Dark days are coming and all sides have played their part. The Church ought to have been different but its leaders are self-serving, dishonest and blind. They build the tombs of the prophets and do nothing to help the flock understand the past or the needs of the hour.

1 comment:

  1. http://www.albertmohler.com/2015/06/23/the-heresy-of-racial-superiority-confronting-the-past-and-confronting-the-truth/

    I was pleased to find this latest article on his website. It's one of the better things he has written and a move in the right direction. He still doesn't touch on the sources or foundation but it's a rare and candid concession on the part of an Evangelical leader. To get to the 'why' you have to first admit it happened and be honest as to extent.

    In Reformed circles there are a lot of theologians who are praised and while their racism is admitted it is whitewashed and glossed over. One minister is praised for ministering to a slave church. He was rare in his care and compassion for black slaves but of course a little further examination exposes the fact that he was still a racist and was utterly opposed to any kind of church integration. I know we're supposed to judge people in their contexts but it's not like 'everyone' went along with all of this. There were plenty of voices decrying racism and exposing it for what it was.

    The mythologizing of the Union, Lincoln and the whole Civil War hasn't helped either. Lincoln was a racist and it wasn't until later in the war that it was declared they were fighting to end slavery. That was not Lincoln's original purpose nor was it the reason the vast majority of Union soldiers were fighting. It became apparent that it would end, it became a rallying point, Lincoln emancipated the slave states in the South (not the North), and freed blacks began to fight in earnest.

    It's a sad a disgusting chapter and it didn't have to end that way. We can all be glad slavery ended but 750,000 dead Americans created a legacy of anger, distrust, betrayal and long bitterness. It has led to myth-making in both the North and South.

    But the real story, the 'why' antedates the Civil War. It goes back to the days of the Renaissance and Reformation, the days of European power on the march, new technology and new possibilities for power. It's root lies in the Dominionist foundations of Christendom.