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The Church in White America: The Anti-Supremacists

Statue of Roger Williams in Roger Williams Park, in Providence, Rhode Island.  Photo credit:  Kenneth C. Zirkel, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 4.0.  Roger Williams (1603 - 1683) founded Providence out of his conviction that political tolerance and religious pluralism was the true expression of Christian power in the public realm, contrary to the Puritans of Boston who wanted a theocratic community.  He was the father of "liberty of conscience" and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Williams was an abolitionist, treated the Native Americans fairly, abolished imprisonment for debt and witchcraft, and stopped most forms of capital punishment.  Out of his respect for Native Americans, desire to share Jesus without imposing European culture, and expertise in linguistics, he wrote the first study of Native language and culture, A Key to the Language of America, in which he said that many aspects of Native culture were superior to that of Europeans. Roger Williams helped found the first Baptist Church in North America, in 1638, and created the environment for the first Jewish synagogue in North America to be founded in Rhode Island in 1763. 

 
 

the church in the americas: white american anti-supremacy

The selection of perspectives on church history in this section has been guided by three factors: (1) to demonstrate that Christianity has not been a “white man’s religion”; (2) the study of empire as a recurring motif in Scripture by recent biblical studies scholars; and (3) explorations of biblical Christian ethics on issues of power and polity, to understand how Christians were faithful to Christ or not.  Christian relational ethics continues a Christian theological anthropology that began with reflection on the human nature of Jesus, and the human experience of biblical Israel. Resources highlighting white American Christians supporting white supremacy are listed here.

Messages and Essays on the Church in White America: The Anti-Supremacists

A Long Repentance: Exploring Christian Mistakes about Race, Politics, and Justice in the United States A series of blog posts where we explore how Christian (mostly Protestant) heresies started and continue to influence our modern political and racial challenges. This includes the very notion of race itself, and how our modern economics, housing, schooling, and policing systems have been shaped. Christians must take responsibility for these heresies in the framework of repentance.  We have designed a study guide to accompany the blog posts.  Please consider using it for personal reflection or discussion in your family, church, organization, etc.

White American Evangelical Political Attitudes and Behavior: Explanation and Correctives White American evangelical political attitudes can be characterized by the debate between John Winthrop and Roger Williams, and their respective attitudes towards Native Americans, slavery, fairness, and faith in the civic space.  This is a presentation also explores Scripture and church history to argue that Roger Williams was correct.  Given to the staff of Emmanuel Gospel Center, Apr 18, 2018, as a follow-up to how Christian restorative justice impacts ministry; audio file here

The Role of Jesus in Revolution and the Pursuit of Justice This is an evangelistic message that highlights the Christian-led and Christian-influenced non-violent resistance movements throughout the world in the 20th century.  They show the connections and spiritual vitality of Christian faith under empire or empire-like oppression.

Why Question Atheism from a Political and Moral Perspective? A presentation on how the Enlightenment tradition gave birth to racist liberal democracies on the one hand, and Marxist communism/state-capitalism on the other.  The Enlightenment tried to dethrone Christian faith from political theory and the Christian church from political power.  Thus, the ideology of the individual and the nation-state went to these two extremes, colored by the presumption of cultural, intellectual, and spiritual superiority that Europeans had about themselves.  Protestant heresies, fed by self-imposed Protestant ignorance about the church prior to Luther, and combined with a growing nationalism, accelerated the problem.  Race became the badge of membership in Empire or the token of citizenship in the Nation-State.  Authentic Christianity, therefore, must stress Pentecost (a principled cultural diversity) as the expression of Jesus' new humanity for all humanity.  

Human Dignity: Does Every Individual Matter? Science, philosophy, existentialism, other religions, and double-predestination based theologies mean that some human beings do not matter. Only a fully Trinitarian theology with a medical substitutionary atonement can provide an adequate foundation.

God as the Foundation of Human Rights (Genesis 1 - 11) Genesis 1 - 11 was aware of other Ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean creation stories, and argued against them, as shown by the literary analysis of these literatures.  Topics of disagreement include:  the value of every human being; the relations of humans and God/gods; the reason for catastrophes like the Flood; the resolution or movement.

The Kingdom You No Longer Want (and ppts) A sermon on Luke 13:17 - 21 given at Neighborhood Church of Dorchester on August 13, 2017, the day after the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia.

A Long Repentance A series of blog posts where we explore many of our current racial and political challenges as the result of Christian (mostly Protestant) heresy, for which Christians must take responsibility in the frame of repentance.  We have designed a study guide to accompany the blog posts.  Please consider using it for personal reflection or discussion in your family, church, organization, etc.

Books and Articles on the Church in White America: The Anti-Supremacists

The resources in this section are listed in chronological order of the subject matter, not by publishing date.  Perhaps on this subject, the historical order matters more than the date of the scholarship. 

John M. Barry, Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty (Amazon book, 2012) about the great English-American linguist, theologian, and governor of Providence, Roger Williams (1603 - 1683). James A. Warren, God, War, and Providence: The Epic Struggle of Roger Williams and the Narragansett Indians against the Puritans of New England (Amazon book, 2018) describes how in the 1600's, the Narragansett peoples aligned with Roger Williams and the peoples of Providence against the New England Puritans.  In Providence, the Natives and Europeans lived side by side in peace.  Williams is the first European-American Christian who correctly read the Scriptures and applied Christian faith to the public sphere in a non-colonialist mode in the Americas.  In him, Christianity and American origins find an authentic expression of religious political pluralism and cultural diversity. Edward J. Eberle, Another of Roger William 's Gifts: Women 's Right to Liberty of Conscience: Joshua Verin v. Providence Plantations (Roger Williams University, Spring 2004) explores the enormous significance of the decision of Providence’s town government in 1638 to support Jane Verin against her husband Joshua over the freedom of religious conscience principle.

Christianity.com, Maryland Toleration Act of 1649 (Christianity.com) Lord Baltimore adopted a limited posture of religious toleration, presumably between Catholic and Protestant.  A Jew was initially accused of blasphemy, though the charges were dismissed.  And the Puritans were suspicious of Catholics being loyal to the Pope.  In 1654, Protestants repealed the Toleration Act, barring Catholics from publicly practicing their faith.  However, Catholic George Calvert (Lord Baltimore) regained control after reaching an agreement with the colony's Protestants, and the Act was again passed and in force until 1692.  Following the English Glorious Revolution of 1688, Protestant Puritans again overthrew Calvert, rescinded the Act again, established the Anglican Church as the official church in 1702, and barred Catholics from voting in 1718.  The American Revolution restored religious tolerance.  See Wikipedia, Maryland Toleration Act of 1649 (Wikipedia article).

Rudolf Rican, History of the Unity of Brethren: A Protestant Hussite Church in Bohemia and Moravia (Amazon book, 1992) The Moravian Brethren were a remarkable early Protestant group known for their political pluralism, commitment to education, prayer, anti-slavery stance and expression of Christian mission as the first Protestant missionary movement.  Shorter history in A Brief History of the Moravian Church (Moravian Church of North America).  See also Count Nicholas Zinzendorf (1700 - 1760) (website) which has helpful links about the Moravian Brethren.  In the United States, Moravian Christians settled in Pennsylvania in 1741 as missionaries to the Lenape, then in Georgia in 1801 as missionaries to the Cherokee.  They traveled with the Cherokee to Oklahoma in 1842 during their forced removal. 

John Woolman’s Journal (originally published 1774; Amazon book, 2017) John Woolman (1720 - 1772) was a Quaker and abolitionist who lived in Philadelphia, PA.  He advocated for abolition in both England and the United States, mobilizing the Quakers, and contributing to Pennsylvania's abolition of slavery in 1780.

Tim Stafford, The Abolitionists (Christian History Institute) summarizes Quakers, William Lloyd Garrison, Theodore Dwight Weld, Charles Finney, and activities of church networks.

Roger Joseph Green, Charles Grandison Finney: The Social Implications of His Ministry (Asbury Theological Seminary, Fall 1993) discusses the prominent evangelical revivalist Charles Finney (1792 - 1875).  He was a revivalist preacher from 1825 - 1835 who broke from the strict Calvinism of his day by supporting human free will.  He became a professor at Oberlin College in 1835, two years after its founding.  In 1835, Oberlin became the first U.S. college to admit black students; and in 1837, the first to admit women.  Finney was also an advocate of educational free inquiry.  When Finney became Oberlin's second president from 1851 - 1866, the faculty and students became well known for abolitionism, support for the Underground Railroad, and education for both men and women. 

The Story of Elijah Parish Lovejoy: America’s First Martyr to Freedom of the Press (Colby College) discusses the Presbyterian minister, abolitionist, and journalist (1802 - 1837) who died as a martyr to both abolitionist and freedom of the press causes   

Theodore Dwight Weld, The Bible Against Slavery (originally published 1838, 1839) Theodore Dwight Weld (1803 - 1895) was one of the leading white American evangelical abolitionists, along with William Lloyd Garrison and Lewis and Arthur Tappan.  He was led to Christian faith by Charles Finney.  In 1838, he wrote this masterpiece of biblical exposition, showing accurately how the Bible did not support American slavery or the Trans-Atlantic Trade.  In 1839, he also collected and published testimonies of the horrors of American slavery in American Slavery As It Is: Selections from the Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses.  Weld also played a leading role in the American Anti-Slavery Society, the main arm of the abolitionist movement.  See Editors, American Anti-Slavery Society (1833 - 1870) (Encyclopedia Britannica).

Owen W. Muelder, Theodore Dwight Weld and the American Anti-Slavery Society (Amazon book, 2011)

John L. Thomas, William Lloyd Garrison (1805 - 1879) (Encyclopedia Britannica, Aug 24, 2018) adopted a Christian pacifism and anarchism (characteristic of the Anabaptist movement) in his approach to abolition, women's rights, and non-violence, from "the biblical injunction to “come out” from a corrupt society by refusing to obey its laws and support its institutions. From this blend of pacifism and anarchism came the Garrisonian principle of “No Union With Slaveholders,” formulated in 1844 as a demand for peaceful Northern secession from a slaveholding South."  Garrison's leadership as a journalist and publisher of The Liberator from 1831 was very influential.  He condemned the U.S. Constitution itself for its stance on slavery.  See William M. Wiecek, The Sources of Anti-Slavery Constitutionalism in America, 1760 - 1848) (JSTOR, 1977) chapter 10 focuses on Garrison and examines his theological convictions.

Lewis Tappan, The Life of Arthur Tappan (originally published in 1870 by Arthur's brother Lewis) (Amazon book, 2015) See also Editors, Arthur Tappan (1786 - 1865) (Encyclopedia Britannica, Jul 19, 2018).  Tappan was a wealthy Christian businessman who financially supported missionary organizations, colleges, and seminaries especially related to abolition.  He was the founder and first president of the American Anti-Slavery Society (1833 - 1870) (Encyclopedia Britannica).  When the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was passed, Arthur and Lewis Tappan supported the Underground Railroad.

Nancy Koester, Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life (Amazon book, 2014) Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811 - 1896) was a Christian abolitionist and author.  She wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1852, which depicted the terrible conditions of slavery that many African-Americans faced.  The book sold millions of copies and galvanized the abolitionist movement.  She wrote a total of 30 books, many of which were directed at social issues.  Her entire family (the Beecher siblings) was remarkable.  Harriet's husband Calvin Ellis Stowe (Encyclopedia Britannica, Aug 18, 2018) was a seminary professor, abolitionist, and advocate for public schools. 

Sarah Cowie, St. Innocent of Alaska: Apostle and Missionary (Amazon book, 2005) on Father John Veniaminov, the Russian Orthodox missionary to the peoples of Alaska who served there 1824 - 1867.  His work as a linguist and missionary is impressive.  In Russian, he wrote Observations About the Tlingit and Kodiak (Alutiiq) Languages.  Father John was later tonsured as a monk and took the name Innocent.

Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (1851 - 1921) (PCA History) was the lone voice for racial integration and equality at Princeton Seminary, as its president, for some time (1886 - 1902).  See also Fred G. Zaspel, Reversing the Gospel: Warfield on Race and Racism (Themelios, The Gospel Coalition, Apr 2018).  To appreciate his context, see Timothy Isaiah Cho, A Tale Of Two Machens: How A Christian 'Hero' Let White Privilege Color His Theology (Faithfully Magazine, Sep 8, 2018) who discusses J. Gresham Machen's segregationist and white supremacist views.  Machen (1881 - 1937) was a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary from 1906 - 1929, and later founder of Westminster Theological Seminary in 1929 and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church denomination in 1933.  Machen was fairly typical of white American conservative evangelicals in his views on race, and was also a radical libertarian politically.  Princeton Seminary was a bastion of theologically conservative white evangelicals who still believed, for quite some time, that they had to defend American slavery (even after the Civil War) in order to defend the Bible.  See also Elizabeth L. Jemison, Proslavery Christianity After the Emancipation (Tennessee Historical Quarterly/JSTOR, Winter 2013).

Frederick L. Downing, Clarence Jordan: A Radical Pilgrimage in Scorn of the Consequences (Amazon book, 2017) Clarence Jordan (1912 - 1969) was a New Testament Greek scholar and founder of the interracial community Koinonia Farm in Georgia, author of the Cotton Patch Bible Translation.  See also Wikipedia, Clarence Jordan (Wikipedia article)

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Henry Luce, Life Magazine, Mar 26, 1965 (Amazon page) Orthodox Archbishop Iakovos (1911 - 2005) was the only non-black church leader who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma.  He was also a staunch advocate of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  Iakovos also worked hard for Christian ecumenism with Catholics and Protestants.  See also Anastasios Papapostolou, Archbishop Iakovos: “Why I Supported Martin Luther King in Selma” (Greek USA Reporter, Jan 16, 2017) and Hellenic Leaders, The Images Every Greek American Should See on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Medium, Jan 16, 2017) 

Charles Marsh, The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice from the Civil Rights Movement to Today (Amazon book, 2005) an excellent narration mostly of African-American Christian movements and leadership, and the white American evangelicals who helped

Chris Zimmerman, Educating Against Hatred, for Respect (Bruderhof, Oct 30, 2018)

White Wolf, Jesuits to Return 525 Acres of South Dakota Land to Rosebud Sioux Tribe (White Wolf, Nov 19, 2018)

Other Articles, Websites, Videos on White American Christian Anti-Supremacy

Gary W. Deddo, Neighbors in Racial Reconciliation: The Contribution of a Trinitarian Theological Anthropology (2007) offers a valuable corrective

John Coffey, The Abolition of the Slave Trade: Christian Conscience and Political Action (Jubilee Centre, 2007)

Brian Bantum, Why Christians Can't Be Post-Racial: Christian Existence in the Murky Waters of Race and Place (theotherjournal blog, Aug 17, 2009)

Tim Keller, Racism and Corporate Evil (Desiring God, Mar 28, 2012) cites Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow and William Stuntz's The Collapse of American Criminal Justice; he acknowledges structural racism in the criminal justice system, but sadly, not in the formation of his own denomination, the Presbyterian Church of America.

Fred Clark, Our Job is to Unlearn the Lies We Learned from the Theologians of Slavery, Part 1 (Patheos, Jun 20, 2014) and Part 2Part 3,Part 4 an excellent perspective on the care we need to take when we select heroes from Christian history; and a reminder that white American evangelicalism drove a wedge between evangelism and social justice discipleship, which is the theology and practice many inherit today

Kay Higuera Smith, Jayachitra Lalitha, L. Daniel Hawk, Evangelical Postcolonial Conversations: Global Awakenings in Theology and Praxis (Amazon book, Jul 2014)

Napp Nazworth, Russell Moore on Racism and Southern Baptists: God Is Giving Us a Second Chance (Christian Post, Dec 18, 2014)

Matthew Tuininga, Presbyterians and the Political Theology of Race, Part 1: Cultural Captivity? (Reformation 21, Jun 2015) notes that white Protestant Christians set the culture; they were not victims of it.  See Part 2: Old Testament Politics and Part 3: Gospel Politics

Ahmed Kathrada, The Involvement of White People in the Struggle Against Racism (Kathrada Foundation, Mar 21, 2016) in the context of South Africa

Bruce Ashford, Can a Faithful Evangelical Be a Political Nationalist? (Bruce Ashford blog, Mar 13, 2017) helpful starter saying no to ethno-nationalism, qualified yes to civic nationalism; probably not to economic nationalism 

Richard Beck, How Did Political Progressives Think They Were Anabaptists? (Mennonite World Review, May 15, 2017) helpful contrast with political liberalism, but it's important to distinguish between political liberalism as a tool vs. an eschatology

Marcus Rediker, You’ll Never Be as Radical as This 18th-Century Quaker Dwarf (NY Times, Aug 12, 2017) 

Bruce Ashford, White Christian Conservatives Should Oppose Protests by White Supremacists (Fox News, Aug 12, 2017) in response to Virginia rally of white supremacists

The Editors, Orthodox Christianity and White Supremacy In Its Own Words (Orthodoxy in Dialogue, Jan 27, 2018) 

John Loughery, The Man Who Paved the Way for Irish America's Rise (National Review, Apr 14, 2018)

the church in the americas: for and against the racial empires

church and empire: reflections on faithfulness and compromise: topics