Before Hitler was Anything – He was a Racist

 

I read an article in the Baptist New Global online magazine.  It was a dressing down by Miguel De La Torre dated Nov, 13 2017. In his scathing remarks, he addresses what has transpired in America concerning the support of the Evangelical Movement and their support for Donald Trump. You can read his article here. 

The article itself was bombastic – but I think De La Torre brought up a few good points. However, being a preacher’s kid a long time ago in the fundamentalist tradition – I am not as surprised to hear about the move of Evangelicals to Trump. I think they were waiting for someone like him to come along.

America’s churches are in a crisis. Some say, including the late, great, Phyliss Tickle, that we are actually at the beginning of what theologians and historians are starting to refer to as The Great Emergence. You can read about it in the books she published later on in life. You can also seek her out on youtube where she talked, at length, about the phenomenon.

Yet, as someone who is now on the outside of fundamentalism, I can’t help but think with their minds. I remember well the indoctrination, the wrath, and the judgment, but most of all I remember the hypocrisy, and the anger, and the bigotry.  Or, the stories about how a preacher took off the with the church’s money, ran off to Vegas with a woman he was having an affair with. Or, the daughter of the preacher getting caught having sex in the nursery with her boyfriend. Or, the woman who was pulled up on stage one night and called a whore because someone drove past her house and saw a man’s car in the driveway.

For those outside these movements, what goes on inside these churches seems almost patently absurd. I mean, it’s like Payton Place, if you know, Payton place had jean floor-length skirts and a cloud of Aquanet hovering above them. It was a political atmosphere to be sure and despite all the railing from the pulpit about morality and judgment, these organizations seemed to suffer terribly from their own lack of both.

It took me years to get away from that worldview. Because that’s what fundamental evangelicalism is.  Christianity is the faith, sure. But fundamental evangelicalism is the lens through which you view everything around you.  If naivete can shade someone’s worldview rose-colored, surely these people wear yellow-colored jaundiced ones.

The world didn’t change my worldview. Not really. I began to backtrack away from fundamentalism when looking into the legacy of the church. It’s not all pretty. Heck, the reformation was a terrible bloody event on both sides. Yet, I do believe there were great moments of triumph and terrible moments of failure.

De La Torre is right in his view of these people who’ve allowed the church to become so ill on its own ager and hatred – it can no longer see clearly. And while history doesn’t repeat itself, as Mark Twain pointed out, it often does rhyme. With people like Trump  and company having won such a big swath of this kind of believer – it’s worth noting that we’ve seen something like this before.

 

In the 1930’s, famed Lutheran Theologian and minister Detriech Bonhoeffer came to study in America. Upon traveling to the deep south during the height of Jim Crow law, Bonhoeffer was stunned at what he saw.

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Now, mind you Hitler is just beginning his ascension to power in Germany and although Jew’s had been treated badly the world over for centuries -the worst was yet to come for them.
Also, mind you, that the last Lynching on record in the United States was 1955 with Emmet Till, a 14-year-old boy, who was accused of winking at a white woman.
In grief and despair, Detrich Bonhoeffer declared that, “…Christianity in America is dead.”
That was until he was invited by a minister to attend another gathering at Abyssinian Baptist Church, a black church, in Harlem, New York.
It was the first time he’d ever hear gospel music. There, he recanted his statement and said, “…these people suffer and they are joyful. God is in Harlem.”
He would take that gospel music back with him to Germany and share it with his friends and fellow believers in what he called, “The Confessing Church.”
Now, Bonhoeffer was a pacifist, and he loved his country desperately, however – before the Allies could rescue him toward the end of the war he would be taken out and assassinated for his plot to kill Adolf Hitler.
My father was an evangelist for a time and I would, of course, ride the small circuit up in Michigan with him to various churches where he would go to preach.
Someone would give an altar call, someone would begin to sing Just as I am, or All to Jesus, or Amazing Grace. And here, these lily white folks would come streaming down the aisles hands raised to heaven to be saved or to ‘get right with God.’ Not knowing for a second – that the song they were singing, “Amazing Grace” was entrenched in Slavery.
The author, John Newton, was a slave ship captain, who would lose his eyesight, become a monk in the Church of England, and in turn would become one of the world’s first abolitionists. As a matter of fact, he along with Wilberforce would end the practice of Slavery in Great Britain years before the United States would.
There are so many people surprised that 85 percent of white evangelicals would side with Donald Trump despite the many flagrant and cavalier ways he stands for almost everything Christianity stands against. Yet, I don’t understand why you’re so shocked. This has gone on for years. This has been their M.O. for as long as I knew them. It’s been their M.O dating back decades since before Brown Vs. Board of Education.
I left the faith tradition over 15 years ago and while I was still there, I left it mentally long before that due in large part to it’s inherent racism. See, I grew up in a predominately African American City, went to a predominately black middle school and high school, and while the preachers preached AGAINST interracial marriage – due to inequality of the races – I wondered at who was actually unequal.
The Principle was Dr. Betty Hines. Exceptionally well dressed, professional, she ruled over that school with an iron fist. There was Dr. Granderson, a Chemistry teacher who could always be spotted walking up and down the hall with his lab coat and pushing a cart. He was also always smartly dressed and professional. They all drove nice cars and were this constant stable presence in my life while at home – my personal life was in shreds.
In the 1930’s, according to Charles Marsh’s ‘Strange Glory’ the biography of Bonhoeffer I highly suggest people read – the author makes it very clear that when Hitler began his ascent to power, the Lutheran Church in that era immediately abdicated to him. They wanted the power that Hilter promised them and he did grant it to them for a time. They even flew the swastika in their churches. Until he found no more use for them and unceremoniously cast them aside.
But by then it was too late.
Understand this: Before Hitler was anything, he was a racist and so is this 85 percent of evangelicals. All you have to do is look at case law after the 1954 Supreme Court Decision of Brown V. Board of Education. Bob Jones Sr. v The United States.
Before Donald Trump is anything – he’s a racist all you need to do is look back at his trying to get men put in prison for a crime they didn’t commit, his having to be sued by the Nixon Administration for not allowing blacks to rent apartment space in his buildings, his statement against Hispanics, Muslims, and the list goes on.
They can call themselves Christians all day long and twice on Sunday. They’re not. They never were. They’re anti-Christians since they do the exact opposite of what was told to them by Christ. That being, take care of the poor, the sick, the weakest among you, and pray in private.
I am a Christain. I don’t believe Christianity is dead in America. I think preachers like John Palvolitz, Bishop Barber, and Nadia Bolz Weber (this Emergent or Emerging Church leaders) are Christianity in America – and they’re struggling. And they’re not the only ones. They’re out there.

Is Christianity dead in Evangelicalism? In 85 percent of them, I’d say yes. Yet, again, I think they’ve been dead for a very long time.

 

 

 

Street Preacher (poem)

 

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Alex Hockett

 

I am the street preacher
saint and sinner
dancing along that fine line
and eternal circle
of life and repentance 
When I dare speak in exclamation points

Loving the in between
like grass that grows in busted concrete
pushing upward to heaven
flat broke, I feel like a million bucks
when it rains upon my brow

There are no pamphlets
no special prayer to yank you out of the world
but there is a dirty hand
that points you to where the food is
where the hope is
where eternity is

Touched in the head
touched on the heart
I stumble around just as blind
as the rest of the self appointed saints
and maybe I am a fool for thinking so
but radical equality is the song i sing

Amazing Grace
has a history as sordid as those it saves
and church can be a canopy of stars
as I open my shirt to show you my scars
that make me bitter and afraid and hopeful
knowing you can’t be found unless you’re willing
to get real good and lost

Damnation is only reserved for empire
and cruelty, and hate
and for those who need to be punished
for crimes, for failings,
for the inability to forgive and be forgiven
those flames also familiar to me

But I wander and wonder
and stare at the magnolia tree
and the big fat bees that bumble along
flower to flower with impossibly large bodies
and no sense of urgency

With a shot of whiskey in my system
and a grin upon my face
a hurt in my heart
and a little room where I lay my head at night
with a penchant for storytelling
I wander
a preacher of the streets
professing a gospel of life

 

Check your words three times (Poem)

 

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(Photo by Imani Clovis)

 

check one
check two
check three
sit and ponder – is this me?
pick it apart, tear it asunder
flip it over and look at it under
a microscope, throw it up in the air
a telescope, wondering where
the words they say stop and where I begin
Is it normal to be living in sin
and what is sin? What is this thing
is it still constant even with my wedding ring
and is it still real if I don’t believe everything
that comes rolling out of the mouths of they
who’s sin is wrapped up in the modesty of Sears Clothing?

But there’s no softer side here
no pastel feelings no warmth do they bring
Sat up before us like kings and like queens
of banana pudding and too much hair spray
hair jacked to Jesus – as drag queens often say
who are they? Who are they?
who use rhetorical flourish – who use a book to beat people
when it was origionally created to nourish and bring life
now its a weapon used against a wife
who wants to leave because her man is abusive
the comfort of The Holy Spirit who was supposed to be constant
has now become elusive, obtuse and
M.I.A.
What Can I say?

Tear down that statue, iis what I say, rip down that flag
But they reply , “Don’t say nothin’ boy, you’s nothin but a fag”
those black men, they don’t like you
it’s all gang-bangers and do-rags, its inbred in their race

But those same people who try to sew division
on Sunday they’re the loudest when they sing
Amazing Grace – hands stretched to God
tears rolling down their face
My God, don’t they know?
That John Newton was The Captain of a Slave Ship
Who – back when those men’s backs learned the anger
of the master’s bull whip
said “STOP!” Wait. What have I done?
How can I claim The Father and the Son
How do I try to plea the blood
when I’m the one who failed to read the book of Exodus
So, here, let me fix this – let me become the worlds first Abolitionist and pen a song now that I’m blind
and feeble in my bereavement let me work to do God’s work
and live to free men to see them
so mine eyes can see the glory of the coming of the Lord

Check one
Check two
Check three
sit and ponder – is this me?
Or is this them who be talkin’
talkin’ talkin’ yet they don’t do no walkin’
Their faith has become static – like that statue in N’awlins
lost in time they don’t realize
the differences in mankind aint about them
but this poem is, my flow is, the words often spoken
in hate, and fear, and malice -they’ve used that that I toss back at them
us ‘others’ we ain’t in it
talk about sin
their sin – they sit in it – and are proud of it
and repeat it, and believe it, and wonder why they’re all alone
sittin’ on a throne of bones, tombs, and headstones
When you say you’re saved – ain’t nobody believes it
The God you speak of – yeah he probably still loves
but it’s in spite of and not because of
those words that should make any man hesitate
and say, “Wait a minute, is this me?”
Let me stop, drop, let me see
and before I speak – are these words anointed
in the love I so needed , from God up above
or has my philosophy been informed solely by my geography
and grandaddy’s broke down theology
so’s I’m out creating disciples twice as fit for hell as I was?

Check one
Check two
Check three
Check your words three times before you speak.