Is My Church Racist?

by Virgil Walker, Discipleship Pastor

In the aftermath of an historic election, the country is wrestling with the meaning of its outcome. Many on the winning side are experiencing jubilation, excitement, and hope. For those whose candidate lost, many are feeling fear, confusion, and tremendous anxiety. Some people have taken to the streets in an effort to protest the outcome of an electoral process which held an equivalent standard for both candidates. Others have taken to the streets to voice opposition of a President-elect they believe doesn’t speak for them.

The fact remains that one candidate received more than the required 270 electoral votes necessary to be the President of the United States, while the other candidate fell short. As the implication of the results are processed, many have soundly determined the meaning of the outcome. Charges of “racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and misogynistic sexism” are seen as sole motivations for the outcome of the election. In addition, White Evangelicals showed up to the polls and voted 81 percent for the new President-elect.

If the current narrative is true, did “White Evangelicals” give the election to a candidate they believe able to “turn back the clock” to a time of increased racism, sexism, and homophobic hysteria? Furthermore, what am I—a Black man in a White Church—to think? If it follows that the election result was due to the “Whitelash” of racism that has been stored up among the white “fellow-believers” at my church, how did I miss it? More importantly, what am I to do now?

Is it true and what am I to think?

According to Pew Research, 81 percent of Christians who self-identified as Evangelical and/or “born again” voted for the President-elect. This represents a 3-percent increase from those who voted in the previous Presidential election. In addition, Pew Research identified the top voting issues as follows: Economy, Terrorism, Foreign Policy, Healthcare, Gun Policy, and Immigration. Finally, Barna Research established that while many Evangelicals did not see the President-elect as “Presidential,” there were a number of issues that mattered to them—gun ownership, pro-life, and traditional moral values.

In view of the facts, it’s difficult to identify racism as the cause of the outcome. However, it stands to reason that something may have been missed. What about the candidate? As I listened to speeches and comments, it’s difficult to overlook some of the poorly worded ideas where race was mentioned and the vulgarity used by the President-elect. Especially when he thought no one was listening. The real question that needs to be answered, in order for the charge of racism as a motivation to stick is this, “Were those who voted for the President-elect drawn to his more electrically charged rhetoric or were most voters repulsed by the rhetoric yet voted with the hope that something of substance would result?”

Interestingly enough, such a question is not often asked. Instead, the answer is assumed that racism, sexism, and homophobia are the driving factor for support. Most who oppose the President-elect never took his candidacy seriously but often took his comments literally. Those who support the President-elect took his candidacy seriously but often don’t take his comments literally. What am I to make of this? Not much. I’d simply say that time will be the benchmark by which we determine what really matters.

How did I miss it?

As an African-American (I prefer the term Black American), I’m being told by the culture that the vast majority who elected the incoming President are indeed racist. What I struggle with most is how I missed this. These same people who once celebrated the historic election of a Black President are now, eight years later, racists? It’s difficult for me to understand that the same people I attend church with, whose baptisms and weddings I preside over, including those I’ve counseled, have been capable of hiding their overt racism for such a long time. Have they been waiting for just the right political candidate to free them from the bondage of their pent up rage and hatred? For some reason, I doubt it.

Unfortunately, our current culture has so watered down the word “racism” that it has become equivalent to the word disagreement. True racism once had definitive meaning. The charge of racism was so condemning that it was reserved for the most extreme of circumstances. Now, the term racism is a by-word meaning, “strong disagreement between people of different races.” While I’m not suggesting that racism doesn’t exist, I am suggesting that the charge of racism is so overused and often abused that true racism may be overlooked in the same manner as Aesop’s Fable, The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

What do I do now?

As a Christian, I have to examine God’s Word as my standard for determining truth. Are there people who hold racist beliefs in the walls of my church? Scripture informs me that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23) and that all of us deserve death as a result of our sinful condition (Romans 6:23). This would include the sin of racism to be sure. Even those who believe in Christ still sin (1 John 1:8). The beauty of the Gospel is that those in Christ can be free from the penalty and power of sin (Romans 10:9-10; 6:14-15). Furthermore, Scripture informs me that my identity is as an Image-Bearer of God (Genesis 1:27). As a believer in Christ, I am an heir of an eternal kingdom (Romans 8:17). Scripture also tells me only God knows the heart of men (1 Kings 8:39) but that I can examine the fruit of someone’s life to determine what is in their heart (Matthew 7:15-16). My hope is not in man, politician or parishioner, but my hope is in the Lord (Psalm 62:5). Finally, I recognize that it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that provides the hope to bring together all people of every tribe, tongue, and nation (Revelation 7:9).

Is my church racist? NO!!! Not by any measurable standard. It has been my church that has provided me with tremendous support, encouragement, love, and community. So regardless of who anyone voted for, I (a Black American) have the confidence of knowing my trust is always in Christ and that I have the full support of my local congregation.  

Virgil Walker is the Pastor of Adult Discipleship at Westside Church, husband of Tomeka, and father of Princess, Princeton, and Price. He is an MDiv student and currently attends Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He enjoys apologetics, theological studies, and evangelism and in his spare time enjoys writing blogs for Westside Church.