White Evangelicals: It’s Time to Own Our Choices

Dear Mum and Dad,

It wasn’t an irresponsible and negligent driver who scraped the paint from the side of your car in the parking lot of the Laurel Hill ShopRite, while I was inside getting a meatball sub from the deli section. Well, I mean, I did get a meatball sub from the Laurel Hill ShopRite and, as meatball subs go, it wasn’t bad. But the actual damage occurred while I was manoeuvring the car into the garage when I returned home. Yes, it was me; the ShopRite tale was cleverly concocted to cover my sins and has kept them concealed to this very day.

They say confession is good for the soul. I think it’s more than that. Without confession, without owning the choices we have made, without admission of wrong, we forever risk making those same poor decisions again. Without confession, we fail to clear the stage for more positive speech and action. Without confession, we never truly move on. So while I’m in the confessional booth, I want to admit my culpability in what we are now witnessing.

I have a share in the divisive rhetoric and self-aggrandising behaviour of our current president. As a young, white American Evangelical, I wholeheartedly supported the increasingly-aggressive political activism our movement came to espouse. We may have held noble intentions, the perceived rescue of innocent lives, which led us to pledge our unswerving allegiance to a party that promised us the world. Yet, like many other white Evangelicals, I adopted that party’s entire platform, never considering whether or not many of its planks might be antithetical to the way of Jesus. Sadly, I secretly relished the notion of harnessing political power to trample the enemies of the faith. Thus, I lent my voice to the vilification of so-called ‘liberals’, of pro-choice voters, of Democrats, of homosexuals – yes, even people of colour. In short, I helped to raise and nurture the beast that this president rides.

As I now watch my African American sisters and brothers marching in protest, I must, to my shame, admit that I participated in reducing Black Americans to nothing more than a Democratic voting block, who apparently deserved relative poverty and disenfranchisement for their unwillingness to pull themselves out of it through hard work. Maybe not always out loud, but under the surface, which is so often where racism lives. By holding on to the unspoken perception that Black lives were somehow ‘different’, somehow ‘less than’, I am now forced to ask how much of that perception I helped to foster in our society. How much of my knee was on George Floyd’s neck as his life ebbed away?

Yes, I was young, much younger than I am now. Was I naive? Probably. Was I arrogant? Most definitely. Sure, my faith is a far different thing now than what it was. I no longer pledge allegiance to a party, as though I could serve Jesus and a political master simultaneously. I no longer hold the views I once espoused.

Nonetheless, I played a part in creating this machine, with its injustice and populism, in which the Christian faith, its Bible and its churches can be so cynically co-opted to buy votes and rally acolytes against political adversaries. I need to own that and to ask for forgiveness.

In fact, all of us who’ve engaged in the American Evangelical project of the last 40-odd years need to take responsibility for what we now see, and to plead for forgiveness. Because the system we’ve built needs to change. That takes repentance. And that starts with confession.

I hope you’ll join me in the booth.

2 Comments

  1. My dear Adam,
    At the risk of embarrassment, that is the way I want to address you in response to this post.
    I have always been thankful to have you and your family as ‘companions on the way’ as part of the Yarra Valley Vineyard family. And this post makes me doubly thankful.
    At 70, I am very aware of attitudes and mindsets that I carried for far too long that were, at least, very unhelpful and, at worst, contrary to the very gospel I espoused.
    Being older (and hopefully a little wiser) I know there is more work to be done!!
    A fundamental shift was the realization that I’m called to live with a lot of grey in the mix, though it feels ‘safer’ to determine everything as black or white, in or out – and that I/we (our ‘side’) is right!!!
    Thank you my friend, for your candour. Thank you for being ready to ‘enter the confessional’, and for calling brothers and sisters to readily do the same!
    ‘From little things big things grow’ has been popularized in a commercial, but it’s what we understand to be the way of the Kingdom.
    Hard to imagine what a singular act of confession can do towards serious change in the world – but I’ll join you in praying that the Lord (with whom nothing is impossible) might, by his Spirit, bring MANY in his church to repentance – in all the ways needed – bringing the changes that no powers on earth can ever achieve!
    Love ya mate – Rob

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    1. Rob, the only fitting response I can give you is that I wish I had had your example in my youth. But I’m happy that I have it now! A mountain of respect and love to you, my friend.

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