The Abandonment of the Gospel by the White Church

From Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail:

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the ministers, priests, and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows.

In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: “Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.” …. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely otherworldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

…I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches  …Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips for Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”

The atrocious thing is that this still happens.  A friend of mine was recently denied a position with our state Baptist association.  After interviewing he was told that “you’d be great for the position, but don’t you know you’re black?”.

I remember growing up, the huge uproar whenever black families visited our church (the largest church in the city).  I have been told subtly by elders in churches I’ve served to not have any black kids at events and have seen numerous churches deny black guest preachers at our “house of God”.  I have grown up being told interracial marriage is wrong because blacks are cursed people.  I have been asked in job interviews at churches if I would intentionally reach out to people of color with the understanding being that that would not be acceptable.

I almost titled this post, “The Abandonment of the Social Gospel by the White Church”, but then caught myself.  The Gospel is a Social Gospel.

God forgive us as Christians of White Privilege for Abandoning our brothers and sisters of color when they needed us.  And God forgive us of perpetuating the Triple Evils of Poverty, Racism, and War.


2 Responses to “The Abandonment of the Gospel by the White Church”

  1. January 20, 2009 at 5:06 am

    Despite your discouragement with the clergymen you talk about here, you keep on keeping on. This is a wonderful thing. Thank you for this, and for your ministry with Nickelsville folks, and for the photos of the wedding of Donna and Bruce. And bless you for giving the newlyweds those honeymoon nights in a beautiful room in a fine hotel. They’ll never forget it!

  2. 2 Brittian Bullock
    January 21, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    Great word Dustin. I seriously can’t believe that those things still go on–though having come from various parts of the deep South I also know what you’re talking about…but the church? So strange… King was right, a “…otherworldly…strange religion” has arisen. There’s a great book, of which the opening lines still sort of stick inside my craw (in a good way. Roughly it said, “Jesus came preaching a message…but now instead of preaching THAT we preach Jesus…” It reminds me of Richard Rohr’s statement that preaching Jesus instead of the message he preached is an incredibly self serving and convenient way of getting out of everything he said.

    But great stuff man!

    I’ll link to ya.
    Keep it up.

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