LGBTQ Magazine

"The Church Came Early to the Hanging": Deciphering Conversations About Race and Religion (and LGBTQ Humanity), As Trump Rises to Power

Posted on the 07 May 2016 by William Lindsey @wdlindsy

The current political context is forcing Americans to discuss race, and churchpeople have some serious reckoning to do. Not only did the church turn a blind eye to racism, but congregations would often let out early on days there was to be a lynching in the town square so parishioners could get a good seat for the festivities. The church came early to the hanging. 
Sandhya Jha in a review of Drew G.I. Hart's Trouble I've Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism (Harrisonburg, VA: Herald Press, 2016) in Christian Century

At Salon, Conor Lynch notes that, though the Republican party and its intellectual defenders (who are legion in the mainstream media and the academy) will always deny that their party has stoked racism, especially in the old Confederacy, Donald Trump is the Southern strategy on steroids:
The evidence of racial politics in the modern GOP is overwhelming. (It is not a coincidence that the party’s base is almost entirely caucasian.) And now, with the nomination of Donald Trump — a man who has received endorsements from neo-Nazis and white supremacist organizations, and has attracted an fanatical online community that believes the white race is being annihilated — it will become even more difficult for conservative intellectuals to deny with a straight face that their party has appealed to racial resentments over the past half century. And going on about being the party of Lincoln is not a valid retort; the Republican party is now the party of Trump. . . . The Republican Party elite have exploited racial resentments of white Americans for decades, and now the chickens have come home to roost.

Yesterday, in New York Times, Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, published an article dissociating himself and the SBC from Donald Trump and his racism — though Trump has done extremely well among Southern Baptists in his run for the GOP nomination thus far. Moore argues that it's time for his historically white church (which was born out of the determination to keep slavery alive and which opposed racial integration in the 20th century) and other evangelical churches with a similar history to realize that the church can no longer think of itself as exclusively white.
But as Christena Cleveland tweets in response, 
I'm confused. Why are people cheering this on? It has so many problems...— Christena Cleveland (@CSCleve) May 6, 2016

And as she adds,
3.Too little, too late. This “wake-up” call has more to do with the panic around Trump than actual justice.— Christena Cleveland (@CSCleve) May 6, 2016

4.There’s no discussion of power dynamics or call to white Christians to abdicate power.— Christena Cleveland (@CSCleve) May 6, 2016

Broderick Greer also responds to Moore's thesis on Twitter:
There are almost no mainstream white evangelical leaders who support the message of #BlackLivesMatter, let alone the movement.— Broderick Greer (@BroderickGreer) May 6, 2016

The Religious Right first coalesced around opposition to school desegregation, not abortion. Remember that. #evergreentweet— Broderick Greer (@BroderickGreer) May 6, 2016

And then he reports that Russell Moore blocked him as a Twitter follower!:
And as open-minded as @drmoore might seem because of his NYT piece, please know that he blocked me today.— Broderick Greer (@BroderickGreer) May 6, 2016

At Religion Dispatches, Daniel Schultz notes that Russell Moore wants to disavow any support of Trump by the Southern Baptist Convention because he and other SBC leaders want to salvage the attempt to build bridges with the black community while continuing to attack the LGBTQ community. Endorsing Trump complicates that maneuver, since Trump is an outright racist.
And so people celebrating Moore's disavowal of Trump might want to think twice about the political game he and other right-wing evangelical leaders are playing here: it remains intensely hateful to LGBTQ folks, and it wants to play black folks against LGBTQ folks. In absolute contrast to the Moral Mondays movement and the Black Lives Matter movement, which have brought LGBTQ people to the table from the outset, as both groups work to build a more humane, inclusive society . . . .
We're going to see a lot of silly song-and-dancing around issues of race in right-wing Christianity in the U.S. as Trump becomes the GOP presidential nominee. It behooves us who really do care about racial justice — as well as justice and rights for LGBTQ people — to think carefully about some of this song-and-dancing before we assume that it's all a manifestation of the changing heart of right-wing American Christians when matters of race are being considered.
The church came early to the hanging. Just as it is coming early now, day after day after day, to the tormenting of LGBTQ folks, even as it wants us to believe its pretense that it has "repented" of coming early to the hanging and the lynching.
(Thanks to Fred Clark for including a link to Sandhya Jha's review of Drew G.I. Hart's Trouble I've Seen at Slacktivst today.)  
The photo of the cover of Drew G.I. Hart's book is from the website of Herald Press/MennoMedia.

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