In what will be one of the most memorable public exchanges between a U.S. senator and a witness testifying before the Senate in history, Anthony Fauci recently denounced Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky for falsely accusing him of lying to Congress about whether the National Institutes of Health funded grants for research that were used for development of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Fauci, director of the National Center for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, accused Paul, the junior senator from Kentucky, of lying.
I wonder why pastors who profess to be evangelical followers of Jesus have not made similar accusations and denounced other politicians for their falsehoods.
Why did pastors not denounce politicians — including former President Trump — for lying when they said coronavirus infection was no more dangerous than influenza?
Why did pastors not denounce politicians who have falsely claimed that U.S. elections are compromised by widespread fraudulent voting?
Why have pastors not denounced politicians who falsely claim that Trump won the 2020 presidential election?
Why have pastors not denounced politicians — such as Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas — for lying about Critical Race Theory?
And why have pastors not denounced politicians for the lies told that demean and demonize undocumented immigrants, transgender persons, and efforts to hold abusive and homicidal law enforcement agents accountable for terrorizing, brutalizing and slaughtering unarmed civilians?
I should be more precise.
Why are white pastors unwilling to speak the truth and denounce these and other lies told by politicians to promote white supremacy, xenophobia, militarism, sexism (including misogyny, homophobia and transphobia)?
“Why are white pastors unwilling to speak the truth and denounce these and other lies told by politicians to promote white supremacy, xenophobia, militarism, sexism.”
Yes, I am going there.
As state legislative bodies across the United States considered bills that would prohibit public educators from teaching about the history of racial injustice in this society, white pastors — whose Bibles contain lessons teaching that confession and repentance are moral, ethical and social imperatives — have been strangely silent.
White pastors have been strangely silent about the genocidal policies and practices that Israel has adopted and carried out against Palestinians and other non-Jewish persons.
White pastors have been strangely silent about racial inequities for generations. Yet, Baptist historian and scholar Andrew Manis observes that white preachers (especially those who claim to be conservative or fundamentalist) like to extol the benefits of pastoral authority and seem quite willing to pontificate about sexual mores (except for sexual abuse by white preachers).
In the book Eavesdropping on the Most Segregated Hour that Manis co-edited with Sandy Dwayne Martin, Manis mentioned what he called “the brutal fact” about white preaching about racial reconciliation in these words: “The brutal fact is that any minister who has delivered a frank sermon on racial reconciliation to a dubious white congregation can personally attest to the distinct chill in the air or the heated comments that almost always accompany sermons on this topic.”
“White pastors have been strangely silent about racial inequities for generations.”
White preachers did not preach about and denounce mob violence against free Black people after the Civil War ended during the Reconstruction era.
White church grounds were gathering places for lynch mobs. White preachers did not preach about that and denounce it.
When white people massacred Black people in Elaine, Ark., in 1919, white preachers did not denounce state and local white politicians who were complicit in the mob violence. They did not denounce white bankers and merchants who profited by seizing land, livestock and farm implements owned by Black people who fled the area after the 1919 Elaine Race Massacre.
White preachers have not denounced the refusal to include the Elaine Race Massacre in history courses taught in Arkansas or elsewhere. They have not denounced the refusal of state and local officials to conduct official inquiries aimed at exposing the murders, thefts and other misdeeds committed by white people against Black people in Elaine that now make South Phillips County, Ark., home to some of the richest soil and the poorest people in the United States.
White preachers did not preach about the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. They have not denounced the refusal to include the Tulsa Race Massacre in history courses taught in Oklahoma, or elsewhere.
White preachers did not preach about genocidal acts and policies taken against indigenous people in North America, Australia, Asia and Africa.
And as Laura Leven’s recent brilliant article in Baptist News Global shows, some of the founders — including some preachers — of the Baptist movement in Texas were human traffickers. They enslaved Africans. They were complicit with rapes, beatings, family separations and other vile conduct associated with chattel slavery. They shamelessly laundered the funds from that villainy by establishing religious schools and churches.
Now those schools are pretending to account for harms and wrongs committed by their founders. In most instances, their efforts do not add up to even token attempts at reparation, restitution and repentance.
Billy Graham did not preach about social injustice, white supremacy, religious nationalism, capitalist greed and American imperialism.
“Billy Graham did not preach about social injustice, white supremacy, religious nationalism, capitalist greed and American imperialism.”
Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, did not preach about those subjects.
Charles Stanley does not preach about them.
Sermons delivered during denominational meetings do not address them.
Preachers who show up at Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Toastmasters, and Chamber of Commerce gatherings do not mention or pray about these matters. They also do not want their congregations to mention, pray about and engage in prophetic action about these and other issues of injustice.
Plainly, many white pastors cannot speak truth about these matters because they are prophetically incompetent. Their Bibles contain lessons and accounts about prophets, but many white ministers have little firsthand experience with prophetic ministry. Consequently, the congregations they serve and communities where they live suffer the woes of moral, ethical, cultural and societal incompetence, dysfunction and injustice.
The German Christian Church suffered from similar prophetic incompetence during the first third of the 20th century. Adolf Hitler and fascism gained influence over Germans because of that incompetence. White pastors seem to have forgotten that truth. Perhaps they never wanted to know it.
Fauci denounced Sen. Paul for lying. I cannot recall when a white preacher has demonstrated comparable prophetic integrity. Perhaps future historians will list “prophetic incompetence of white clergy” among the causes of death for democracy and the rise of fascism in this society.
Wendell Griffen is an Arkansas circuit judge and pastor of New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Ark.
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