Why is white evangelicalism so cruel? – Update (2)

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In an op-ed in Forbes [or, rather, was in Forbes]*, Chris Ladd proposes that today’s southern white evangelicalism is cruel and that cruelty stems from our nation’s slavery and Jim Crow history.

…Religion is inseparable from culture, and culture is inseparable from history. Modern, white evangelicalism emerged from the interplay between race and religion in the slave states. What today we call “evangelical Christianity,” is the product of centuries of conditioning, in which religious practices were adapted to nurture a slave economy. The calloused insensitivity of modern white evangelicals was shaped by the economic and cultural priorities that forged their theology over centuries.

Many Christian movements take the title “evangelical,” including many African-American denominations. However, evangelicalism today has been coopted as a preferred description for Christians who were looking to shed an older, largely discredited title: Fundamentalist. A quick glance at a map showing concentrations of adherents and weekly church attendance reveals the evangelical movement’s center of gravity in the Old South.

What developed in the South was a theology carefully tailored to meet the needs of a slave state. Biblical emphasis on social justice was rendered miraculously invisible. A book constructed around the central metaphor of slaves finding their freedom was reinterpreted. Messages which might have questioned the inherent superiority of the white race, constrained the authority of property owners, or inspired some interest in the poor or less fortunate could not be taught from a pulpit. Any Christian suggestion of social justice was carefully and safely relegated to “the sweet by and by” where all would be made right at no cost to white worshippers. In the forge of slavery and Jim Crow, a Christian message of courage, love, compassion, and service to others was burned away.

Stripped of its compassion and integrity, little remained of the Christian message….

*Addendum: Explanation from Forbes on why it removed the post from its site. Extract:

We took down your evangelical piece.  It was way out of bounds — painting the entire evangelical movement with a broad brush. We also have a policy of not talking about social issues like abortion at Forbes Opinion — only economic policy and politics.  We try to keep things data driven. Also, given your criticisms of Robert Jeffress, you should have reached out to him for comment.

Here’s some of what Ladd said about Jeffress:

Regarding the affair and subsequent financial payments, Jeffress explained, “Even if it’s true, it doesn’t matter.” Such a casual attitude toward adultery and prostitution might seem odd from a guy who blamed 9/11 on America’s sinfulness. However, seen through the lens of white evangelicals’ real priorities, Jeffress’ disinterest in Trump’s sordid lifestyle makes sense.


Photo: Walter Escobar of Texas holds a photo of his family, including his deported father, Jose Escobar

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Member

With all due respect, Brother Knapp, I can attest to the theme, if not the tone, of Ladd's article. Growing up in Tennessee during the Civil Rights struggles of the '60's and '70's, the religious claims for resistance to change and to equal rights were made by those churches that these days claim "Evangelical" (capital E) as their hallmark, if not their name. As I sometimes say, "I grew up breathing Southern Baptist air," and in that air was the theme of keeping the races separate and unequal.

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Kenneth Knapp
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Kenneth Knapp

With all due respect, Brother Scott, I don't think your background justifies your condemnation of Evangelicals. (Luke 6:37).

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Member

Nor do I condemn all, or even most, evangelical Christians. There are many evangelical Christians among my family and friends. There also those facts of history, and, sadly, of current political "Evangelicalism" - a separable if not totally separate category - that I cannot deny. And, after all, no church in those days was free of racism, or is so today. Most of us, though (and certainly not just Episcopalians), wrestle with that, seeing how we can live better before Christ.

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Kenneth Knapp
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Kenneth Knapp

I share your disapproval of political "Evangelicalism" but I don't find political Evangelicals to be any more odious than political Episcopalians. During the last election cycle the national church produced a 48 page document of political opinions that we are supposed to hold! I think we need to repent of our own sins before we "call out" theirs.

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Joan Wylie
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Joan Wylie

The article is reposted at https://www.politicalorphans.com/the-article-removed-from-forbes-why-white-evangelicalism-is-so-cruel/, a website created by Chris Ladd

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Ralph Milligan
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Ralph Milligan

Just curious whether you know why the article disappeared from forbes.com.

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Kenneth Knapp
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Kenneth Knapp

I have been an Episcopalian all my life and the southern white evangelicals that I know aren't any more cruel than the northern white Episcopalians that I grew up with. I think Mr. Ladd's op ed merely reflects his own bigotry and intolerance.

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Aleigh
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Aleigh

Intolerance of whom, exactly?

[Aleigh - Note our comment policy. Sign with first and last name. - eds.]

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Kurt Hill
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Kurt Hill

You should get out more, Kenneth. Most southern white Evangelicals I've met have been bigots of one sort or another.

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