The National Town Hall on Evangelical Faith and Politics was convened by Freedom Road LLC in partnership with Evangelicals for Justice, The Voices Project, Global Immersion Project and Evangelicals for Social Action. You can watch the inaugural Town Hall on Facebook. This is the first piece in an eight-part series. Follow Freedom Road on Facebook and Instagram @FreedomRoadUs.
I often say, if you want an unadulterated look at the truest form of American Evangelicalism, you must look to the Black Church. The Second Great Awakening, which pushed the idea of individual salvation and free will over predestination, was widely engaged by people of African descent. Between 1790 and 1840, churches experienced a great increase in membership, especially Methodists and Baptists. The tide of new souls also swept in moral and philanthropic reforms — temperance, the emancipation of women, and abolition. It birthed Charles Finney’s altar calls where sign-up sheets for the abolitionist movement waited at the church altar.
For decades since, people of color and our white evangelical brothers and sisters have shared the same scripture. Yet where our white brothers and sisters extricated brown colonized indigenous Jesus from his story and the story of his peoples, people of color related to him and his people on a visceral level. Our history is similar to their history; our present is similar to Jesus in the New Testament, and that has impacted each of our politics.
Politics, however, is not synonymous with partisanship. Politics is the conversations we have with each other about the decisions we make about how the polis will be led. In fact, our founding president told us that if it ever gets to be too partisan, we will no longer be able to govern. We are at that point.
The co-option of primarily white Evangelicals is not new, but it has reached new heights under Donald Trump. Like the biblical Esau, many have sold their public witness to advance a narrow set of harmful policy priorities within the GOP. We have seen Evangelicals who previously said “character counts”, change their minds in the Era of Trump, and say that unethical personal behavior can be okay if God is using the leader for the greatest good.
But here’s the thing. Regardless of which candidate you supported in 2016, over the course of the last three and a half years, we’ve learned a lot and seen a lot. The silence of white Evangelicals around policies guided by biblical teaching, such as corporate greed and profit at the expense of children, destructive environmental stewardship, right to healthcare, separation of families, exploitation of communities of color…is breaking.
We know that the damage to Christian witness has become too much for many, but because Evangelical identification with the GOP is so strong, many need help in breaking their silence. In Evangelical and Pentecostal circles, people of color represent some of the leading voices on justice. We stand ready as allies to the swaths of Evangelicals who now wish to no longer support prejudices and policies that go against our faith.
Because one in three American Evangelicals is a person of color, and Evangelicalism is a stream of the church rooted in the context of protest and people of color, Evangelicals of color are not staying silent and invite all brothers and sisters to do the same. Together we can return to Evangelicalism’s strong strains of justice and prophetic witness.
Self-described Right-of-Center and Center-to-Left Evangelicals are coming forward to bear Christian witness in light of the 2020 election. I moderated a first-ever “National Town Hall on Evangelical Faith and Politics” that brought together five powerful and diverse Evangelical voices to begin needed conversation. Nothing was off the table. In this special 8-part series for Red Letter Christians, we will share highlights of the rich discussions that took place and invite you to watch the Town Hall (Aug. 6, Facebook Live). Each part will focus on one thought-provoking subject addressed by our diverse Evangelical panel:
–Rev. Dr. Alexia Salvatierra, is Fuller Seminary’s assistant professor of Integral Mission and Transformational Development in the school of Intercultural Studies and Centro Latino.
–Rev. Justin Adour is lead pastor of Redeemer East Harlem Church in New York City.
–Kyle J. Howard is a theologian and trauma-informed soul care provider.
We hope to see you back here tomorrow.