Racial issues generating new evangelical debate—or a lack of one?

Source: EmbraceRace.

New ideas about race and racism are dividing American evangelicals, adding to conflicts over evangelical support for former President Donald Trump, according to an article in First Things magazine (February). The controversy over how extensive racism is in the church and in society has become new artillery in the culture wars, particularly in relation to what is called critical race theory. This is most visible in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), a denomination that has sought to reach out to African Americans in recent years even as it continues to grapple with its past connection to slavery, segregation, and racism. The controversy came to a head when the presidents of six SBC seminaries issued a statement reaffirming the denomination’s stance on the incompatibility of critical race theory and intersectionality with its values prompting some black clergy and congregations to withdraw from it. Theologian Carl Truman writes that as a whole, the evangelical movement, “strained to the breaking point by the Trump presidency now faces the very real possibility of coming apart over race.”

Himself an opponent of critical race theory, Truman writes that the controversy is not so much over the acknowledgement of past and even present racism in evangelical ranks as over the claim that racism “is of the very essence of white American evangelicalism.” Such proponents of critical race theory as Robert Jones of the Public Religion Research Institute and Jemar Tisby argue that wider church teachings and worship practices are affected by systemic racism and white supremacy. More radical critics have argued that evangelical teachings on gender and sexuality “intersect” with the history of white supremacy in the SBC and other denominations— an argument that is likely to intensify polarization in churches. Truman concludes that having conversations over race and these theories in the evangelical world is now more difficult because such establishment evangelical institutions as Christianity Today and the Gospel Coalition have restricted debate and tend to favor those who criticize systemic racism.

(First Things, https://www.firstthings.com)