“The most segregated hour in America is eleven o-clock Sunday morning.”
I am not sure who first said that, but it is so true.
There is one group in America that I as a black man worry about: Southern evangelical “Christians”.
Let’s just say that they have a history, and from where I sit not much has changed.
Anyway, just look at the picture above and you can see a perfect example of the cluelessness of these people.
The following article sums it up perfectly.
“A Southern Baptist seminary professor on Tuesday posted a jaw-dropping photo on Twitter that has resurfaced questions for white evangelicals and their attitudes about race. The picture, posted by Barry McCarty, a professor of preaching and rhetoric at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas, appears to show five white professors dressed in hoodies, gold chains, bandannas and caps.
Several of them are pictured posing with fingers pointed like guns and McCarty appears to be holding a gun in his hand. The words “Notorious S.O.P.” (School Of Preaching) are scrawled across the top. McCarty posted later that the photo was part of a special send-off for one of their professors, Vern Charette, …
McCarty posted later that the photo was part of a special send-off for one of their professors, Vern Charette, who raps on occasion. As reported by Nicola Menzie in Faithfully Magazine, Charette appears in a video rapping about Christian themes in which he addresses, “all my pimps, players, thugs and hustlers, all my boys that are in lockdown.” He wants them to know to that there’s “an answer” and that “his name is Jesus Christ.”
Officials from the seminary requested that the post be removed, and David Allen, one of the men in the picture and dean of SWBTS’s School of Preaching, tweeted an apology: “I apologize for a recent image I posted which was offensive. Context is immaterial. @swbts stance on race is clear as is mine.”
It’s odd for a preaching professor to suggest “context is immaterial,” because seminary professors usually teach their students that context is everything. The SWBTS “Mission, Vision, & Values” page states that their global “strategy includes the training of persons from every national, ethnic and cultural background for a variety of ministries.” But when it comes to understanding this particular photo, understanding a larger Southern Baptist and evangelical context is key.
What’s wrong with the photo?
Whatever their intentions, the photo is problematic for at least three main reasons. First, as a comparison, consider why blackface is so offensive. Starting in the early 19th century, white actors would apply black makeup to their faces and exaggerate their lips in a caricature of African American looks. Then they performed racist tropes on stage for laughs. Blackface denigrates people of African descent. It says that skin color can make someone intellectually and culturally inferior, so it’s not a problem to imitate their appearance for the sake of amusement.
In a similar way, putting on clothes typically associated with racial and ethnic minorities communicates that a person’s culture has value only as entertainment. That’s why you can’t dismiss this photo as “just a joke.” It harks back to a history of dehumanization.
Another problem with the picture includes how it appears the photo was carefully staged. Consider what probably happened before a camera even came out. These men took time to pick out certain clothes and put them on. They found a place with suitable background and lighting to take a picture. They chose poses. One of them even grabbed a gun. Then someone posted it on social media. This picture wasn’t randomly snapped in moment of poor judgment. These seminary professors had ample opportunity to consider potential offense. At no point in this elaborate set up did anyone veto the idea.
But the biggest problem doesn’t show up in the picture. The presence of any person of color would have reduced the chances of this photo ever happening. But a photo like this evolves in an environment that lacks meaningful interaction with people from other cultures, especially on the leadership level. The seminary’s website appears to picture all white men in an administration and an entire preaching faculty. Even if a school has diversity in the student body, if the decision-makers all come from a similar racial and cultural background, then they will remain oblivious to their own racial blind spots.
Unfortunately, racial homogeneity is a shortcoming within white evangelicalism as a whole. Looking across evangelical denominations and nondenominational networks, leaders tend to come from similar backgrounds. They are predominantly educated, middle-class white men. Racial uniformity in the leadership means blunders like this photo will probably keep taking place.
An apology issued
On Wednesday, the seminary’s president, Paige Patterson, issued a formal apology entitled “Racism IS a Tragic Sin.” He said, “As all members of the preaching faculty have acknowledged, this was a mistake, and one for which we deeply apologize. Sometimes, Anglo Americans do not recognize the degree that racism has crept into our lives.”
Patterson goes on to say, “Southwestern cannot make a moment of bad judgment disappear. But we can and will redouble our efforts to put an end to any form of racism on this campus and to return to a focus that is our priority — namely, getting the Gospel to every man and woman on the earth.”
His apology sounds biblical; For Christians, evangelism is certainly a critical priority. But he treats racism like a distraction from sharing the Gospel. When will white evangelicals realize, addressing racism is inherently a Gospel issue? Patterson also doesn’t provide any specific actions that would address the seminary’s deeper issues of racial awareness and diversity. Fixing this problem isn’t a matter of restating good intentions, it requires a restructuring of historic patterns of racism embedded in evangelical institutions.” [More]
These are the people who voted for Donald trump, and they are the ones who consider interracial anything to be an act of blasphemy.
*Pic from twitter.com
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