On Being a Sunday School Kind of Girl

When You’re a Sunday School Kind of Girl

            When I was a child, I loved Sunday School. I loved hearing about Jesus and how Jesus loved everybody and talked to everybody and healed so many people. Had Jesus not been the son of God, I probably would have said, when adults asked, as they always did, what I wanted to be when I grew up, “I want to be Jesus.”

            What I would have meant was, “I want to be like Jesus. I thought it was remarkable that Jesus cared for people that nobody else cared for, and, being a Black child in a white world, I was slowly learning what it was like to be despised, disrespected, and shunned because of who you were. 

            Even as a child, that surprised me, because so many of the white kids I knew went to Sunday School, too, and while some of them were nice, there were others who were just mean. One of my “friends” told me on a summer day when we were both playing on the monkey bars that her mother had told her she couldn’t play with me anymore because I was Black.

            “You’re Black,” she said. “Plain, old, ugly Black.”

            I wrote a children’s book about that experience, and for sure I, as have all Black people, have had my share of race-based experiences. But I confess that I am confused as to why this is the case, seeing as how there was but one Jesus and there is but one Bible that contains the teachings of Jesus.  

            That feeling of confusion arose in me again when the people who were storming the Capitol building on January 6, 2021, stopped to pray. They called on the name of Jesus. What Jesus was that? It was a Jesus with whom I have become familiar, because of all of the racism in this country, but it wasn’t my Sunday School Jesus. This Jesus was the same one who was OK with people burning crosses in the name of white supremacy, the same Jesus who seemed not to care that really religious people saw nothing wrong with praying and fasting before going out to lynch a Black person. This Jesus was one who did not care about social justice; indeed, if the Rev. John McArthur is to be believed, “social justice is nowhere included in the Bible.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ix_eHfGYuA)

            While the Jesus of my Sunday School lessons clearly had Jesus tending to “the least of these,” i.e., those who had been marginalized by society, the Jesus of McArthur and many who call themselves followers of the Christ stands for no such thing. McArthur suggested that the marginalized have made themselves victims; in the victim group, he includes women, the poor, ethnic groups, and the “sexually deviant” – his term, not mine. But …in my Sunday School lessons, Jesus attended precisely to those whom McArthur has labeled victims. 

            According to McArthur, the Gospel is the stumbling block of victims – because, he said, “victims hate the Gospel.” And, he said in the sermon cited above, “if you acknowledge that something bad has happened in history, you’ve indicted God.” 

            I keep thinking that white people are from Venus and Black people are from Mars, that there is no way there will ever be a spiritually safe intersection between those whose Sunday School lessons were apparently radically different from mine, and people like me. What did Jesus do, what did Jesus stand for, if it wasn’t for fairness and equity and dignity of all people? Apparently, there are at least two schools of thought.

            We are in the season of Lent, where we are supposed to be working on repentance – i.e., moving closer to God, but there is a problem. It seems that white and Black people are moving toward – if they are doing that at all – two different Gods. 

            And if that is the case, I shudder to think about what’s ahead for all of us.

            What all of the political and spiritual chaos has cemented in me is my resolve to remain a Sunday School kind of girl – but I also now realize that all Sunday School lessons are not the same.

            That is disturbing, as we confess that there is one Lord one faith, one baptism.

            Apparently, not so much.

A candid observation…

Why Evangelicals Love Mr. Trump

In spite of all of the bad news – morally, economically, and politically – which has come out about Donald Trump from the moment he announced his intention to run for the presidency, nothing has been bad enough for his “base,” – which includes a wide swath of white evangelicals- to desert him. Continue reading “Why Evangelicals Love Mr. Trump”

Whose God is the God of the Evangelicals?

I am sick. Not because Donald Trump is leading the pack of GOP candidates, but because he has such a large following, presumably including a large swath of “white evangelicals.”

I am sick because white religion has always seemed estranged from the Gospel that I read, and I am sick because it is those religious people who are crying out for the America that “used to be.”

Why do I say they have seemed estranged? Because it has been white evangelicals who, historically, have supported white supremacy. They have not fought for justice for black people; they have, instead, supported policies that kept black people marginalized. They have fought to keep black people confined to the lowest economic rungs of this economy. They fought to keep segregated schools; they fought to suppress the right to vote from blacks, and in fact, worked hard to keep them from voting. They required that black people defer to them; they would not support laws that prevented lynching (an anti-lynching bill has never been passed in this nation.) They have supported mass incarceration. And yet, they worship the God who had a son named Jesus, who required believers to do good “to the least of these.”

Ironically, many white evangelicals have pooh-poohed the idea that they have treated black people poorly. They point to the fact that there is welfare to help the poor (though they want to eliminate welfare and say that black people are lazy, completely ignoring that it has been white people who created policies and practices that kept black people from securing gainful employment.) As a sort of the sick reasoning that had white slaveholders saying that slavery was “good” for black people, the economic policies of today, which keep black and poor people in debt represent a sort of extension of that mindset, and are looked upon as “gifts” to a people who many religious white people think are dumber and less capable than white people.

They are opposed to diversity; I read a story that said that many white people believe diversity is genocide directed against white people. https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2015/01/12/racists-struggling-raise-money-white-genocide-billboard) They seem not to care about the abject condition of urban schools; they seem not to care much about the fact that so many black, brown and poor people cannot make a living wage.

And they, they go to church and say they believe in Jesus.

They are supporting Donald Trump because they want the country to be like it was: openly racist, a place where whites could stomp on the lives, the rights, and the dignity of black people with little pushback. They want the country back that relegated black people to the lowest rungs of life, even as they squeezed labor out of them for the most paltry of wages. Many of them believe that God intended for this country to be “the white man’s country,” and they worked to support and spread segregation. (See Mississippi Praying: Southern White Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1975, by Carolyn Renee Dupont, p. 92)

There are too many people of color in this country now, they believe; there are too many changes going on, and white evangelicals are afraid and resentful. White evangelicals resent the granting of rights to members of the LGBTQ community, and they are outraged that same-sex marriage is now the law of the land. They likewise revolted when the United States Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional, and ordered that public schools be integrated. Many municipalities closed their public schools rather than integrated. But the changes …they are troubling to white evangelicals who believed they knew and know what God wants. That’s why they don’t care that Donald Trump really isn’t “religious.” They don’t care that he knows so little about the Bible that he can say “two Corinthians,” belying his ignorance of the Bible. They don’t care that he said he has never asked God for forgiveness, when forgiveness is a central tenet of Christian belief. (http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/18/politics/trump-has-never-sought-forgiveness/)

In the 60s, white evangelicals in the South fought those who worked for civil rights, be they white or black. In Mississippi,  white evangelical Christians “arrested local activists, stalled voter registration, intimidated black citizens by bombing their homes and churches.” (Mississippi Praying, p. 183) White ministers who tried to support the efforts of blacks to gain basic human rights were called out …by the evangelicals …who said those ministers were not ministers but were outside agitators…”

The history of white evangelicals when it comes to granting dignity and equity to black people simply has not been good.

And now, many of them are Islamophobic; they support the building of a wall to keep Mexican immigrants out; they believe in the rightness of mass incarceration and are dismayed that their “values” are being trounced over.

Who needs values like that, values that demean and diminish the right of all of God’s people to live with dignity? And whose God do they worship? Whose God allows such hatred and such a capacity to marginalize fellow human beings? The Rev. CT Vivian, of whom I am writing an authorized biography, posed that question in a sermon he preached. “Whose God is God?” he asks. I now understand why he asked it..

It doesn’t matter much that Donald Trump is as he is; it is troubling that people who purport to read the same Bible as do I, who talk about the “love of the Lord Jesus” are so capable of doling out that love as they wish, leaving the apparent will of God behind.

Or so it seems.

A candid observation…

Trump, God and White Anger

White people are mad.

A significant swath of white Americans have been angry since Barack Obama won the White House. Winning it once ws bad enough; winning it  second time was a brutal kick in teeth.

The anger of this so-called “silent majority” has been and is consistently honored on Fox News, but politicians in major elections have voiced this anger in different venues. Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann drew pretty significant support in their political aspirations largely because they voiced the passion and the pain of white Americans who believed then and still believe that America was created for white people. Rand Paul, running in this 2016 race, said unashamedly as be began the  trek toward the presidency, “We’ve come to take our country back.” His statement drew wild applause. ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2015/04/07/rand-paul-set-to-announce-presidential-run/).  He then gave a nice political ditty, outlining all the ways in which he believes America lost her way, but the passion is in the undercurrent, the things nobody really wants to say: many white Americans think too many people of color – beginning with black people and now being compounded by the immigrants coming to America in droves …are in this land compromising and changing not only the character and flavor of the land but in fact its very purpose –  and they are mad.

Donald Trump is gaining in the polls because he is saying publicly what so many white people say in private. The legacy of America – which is not democracy and egalitarianism, but which is, instead, oligarchy and inequality – is being tampered with. The Rev. William Barber, leader of the Moral Majority Movement in North Carolina, says America doesn’t have a Republican or Democrat problem, it doesn’t have a Liberal or Conservative problem…but it has, instead, a “heart problem.” And the heart of America, in spite of those who might argue against it, is one of white supremacy.

Perhaps the depth of this anger – this unspoken, for the most part – is illustrated by the fact that some Evangelicals are speaking support for Trump in spite of the fact that he has said publicly that he has never sought forgiveness  from God. He said when he does something wrong he just tries to do something good or right. ( http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/18/politics/trump-has-never-sought-forgiveness/)  Fair enough, but this nation has made a big deal out of being Christian, and one of the central tenets of Christianity is seeking and giving forgiveness. What does that say about the religion of Conservatives? Have they somehow compromised the requirements of God and Jesus the Christ? Can you trust, theologically and religiously, anyone who blatantly and arrogantly says he purposely ignores the commands of the Christ?

White anger is not new. That anger rose up after Reconstruction when whites fought to undo every gain that was made during that period of time. Whites fought a “new civil war,” determined to win, not with guns, but with government. They pushed blacks out of political office, compromised and/or took away their right to vote, created policies which in effect created ghettos, and kept blacks basically subservient to whites in all the ways they could. They were angry that they lost the war; they were angry that new policies made the ground between blacks and whites more level, and they were not going to have it. The creation of Jim Crow made it virtually impossible for blacks to be treated as equal human beings, but tht wsa the plan. Whites wanted their country back, and that country did not include black people doing what they felt was saved and relegated for whites only.

Donald Trump knows that sentiment; he obviously feels it and it is clear that many, many Americans feel it, too. Whites are angry that Barack Obama won the White House – twice. They are mad that laws have been created to protect the LGBT community, going so far as to allow same sex couples to marry. They are angry that illegal immigrants – many of whom they use to keep their lawns kept up and their houses clean – keep coming into this nation. They are fighting to take America back to the “good old days” when white people operated and protected a land which did not provide “liberty and justice for all,” but instead kept folks under control, using the law and the courts. Their idea of democracy was a land where whites were in control and everyone else was under their thumb.

It feels like Trump and this “silent majority” are acting rather like spoiled children. They cannot get their way as easily as they once could, and they are angry about it. It feels like they will do all they can, in whatever way they can, to get things “back to normal.” When even the Evangelicals are willing to give a presidential a pass when he has said publicly that he ignores the command of God the Father and Jesus the Christ to forgive and to ask for forgiveness, you know that the anger is real.

It is very real. And it is very dangerous…

A candid observation …