Tony Evans, founding pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, recently introduced a concept he calls Kingdom Race Theology to his congregation as his alternative to Critical Race Theory, by way of two Wednesday evening sermons. According to a July 27 article in Baptist Press, Evans described Critical Race Theory as “a post-Civil Rights social construct that seeks to demonstrate how unjust laws have served as the embedded foundation and filter through which racist attitudes, behavior, policies and structures have been rooted throughout the fabric of American life and systems even after those laws have changed.”
During those sermons, which may be viewed on the internet, Evans declared his concern that Critical Race Theory — which he acknowledges can be useful in addressing systemic racial injustice — becomes “divisive” and an impediment to Christian unity and the ministry of reconciliation when it is associated with the New York Times 1619 Project and the Black Lives Matter organization (which Evans distinguishes from the Black Lives Matter movement). That concern prompted Evans to introduce Kingdom Race Theology, which he defines as “the reconciled recognition, affirmation and celebration of the divinely created ethnic differences through which God displays his multifaceted glory as his people justly, righteously and responsibly function personally and corporately in unity under the lordship of Jesus Christ.”
Evans’ dedication to Christian unity is commendable. His argument that the 1619 Project and Black Lives Matter organizational aims are “unbiblical” pyrotechnics from the Critical Race Theory firecracker (a metaphor he used during his July 14 sermon) which threaten Christian effectiveness and Black families does not hold up under careful examination.
Evans objects to the 1619 Project because its author, journalist Nicole Hannah Jones, contends the United States did not begin with the Revolutionary War in 1776 but more than 150 years earlier, when enslaved Africans were delivered to Jamestown, Va., in 1619. In the 1619 Project, Jones argues that the basic reason for the Revolutionary War for independence from Great Britain was so white enslavers could create a nation where chattel slavery was legalized.
According to Evans and other Christian nationalists, this perspective about the origin of the United States threatens national harmony and fosters cross-racial conflict. Evans even claims near the end of his July 21 sermon that Frederick Douglass called the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution “perfect” and “freedom documents.”
“According to Evans and other Christian nationalists, this perspective about the origin of the United States threatens national harmony and fosters cross-racial conflict.”
That is what Evans wants his congregation to believe. But that is not what Douglass said on July 4, 1852, during a speech to hundreds of abolitionists in Rochester, N.Y.
“What to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.”
To claim that Douglass uttered those words during a Fourth of July public gathering yet considered the Declaration of Independence “perfect” and a “freedom” document is worse than an inexcusable exaggeration. It is nonsense.
Evans also claims that the Black Lives Matter “organization” — not the movement — threatens Black families. He did not cite any evidence to support that claim in either of his sermons. However, Evans shares that view with Armstrong Williams, a conservative Black syndicated commentator and television personality, who claims that the “creators of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation believe, maintain and teach … against the idea of a nuclear family with a father and mother in the household, and instead espouse the benefits of what they refer to as a ‘village.’”
Before Armstrong Williams became one of the leading Black television station owners, he was a legislative staffer for Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina (who campaigned for president in 1948 to maintain racial segregation), and a confidential assistant to Clarence Thomas when Thomas was chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the position Thomas held when Anita Hill alleges that he sexually harassed her).
Kingdom Race Theology suffers from other flaws. Although Evans calls it a Christian theology, he did not urge followers of Jesus to demand societal remedies for the continuing evils of systemic racism, sexism (including bigotry and discrimination against LGBTQ persons), militarism, imperialism, capitalist-inspired classism, technocentrism, xenophobia and other oppression. Evans never spoke the words “repentance,” “restitution” or “reparations.”
“Evans is free to call his views Kingdom Race Theology. However, his views do not honor the tradition of Jesus.”
Why does this matter?
Tony Evans is a popular Black pastor, radio commentator and religious author who shares his views on daily radio broadcasts heard throughout the world. He is free to declare his beliefs about racial injustice. Evans is free to call his views Kingdom Race Theology. However, his views do not honor the tradition of Jesus, John the Baptist and other prophets of the Christian Bible (such as Amos, Micah, Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel) who condemned societies that practiced and prospered due to social injustice. They also do not honor Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Martin Luther King Jr., Samuel DeWitt Proctor, and other Black followers of Jesus who did not hesitate to condemn America.
There is nothing “new” about what Evans calls Kingdom Race Theology. It is the same pietistic pablum white Christian nationalists always have spoken, except that it is now coming from the mind and mouth of a popular Black proponent of Christian nationalism to promote a pietistic defense of American exceptionalism and objection to prophetic critique of white supremacy and American empire.
Wendell Griffen is an Arkansas circuit judge and pastor of New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Ark.
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