Monday, October 25, 2021

Looking for ways to improve

and (spoiler) not finding them.

Robert P. Jones wrote a little essay on "Things White Christians Can Do To Address White Supremacy. He wants to get past "the paralyzing notion that the weight of this history is so enormous that meaningful action is impossible."

He proposes "seven places to start"

  1. Does "the physical embodiment of your church communicate whiteness?" I'm not versed enough in the subtleties of architecture to have the vaguest notion of what this could possibly mean. I can assure him that very many Liberian churches use lots of white paint.

    Do you "depict a white Jesus", Mary, Joseph? Well, of course. Is Jones serious? If so, take it up with the Almighty, not me. Yes, I know "Some Children See Him"

    "If only predominately white groups meet there, why is that?" Maybe because the city is predominantly white?

  2. "Does the website use predominantly white people's images?" Yes, but not proportionately.

    "is there anything communicating a commitment to be in solidarity with Black and Brown congregations?" Not spelled out, but there's support for partner congregations and specific schools.

  3. Review the children's educational materials. I think we're OK on that score, but I've seen some really unfortunate stuff. One group in particular depicted middle class white suburban 50's folk--nobody looks like that. The point of the illustrations was to make it easy to connect with the stories and interest the kids in getting the next episode. It failed.
  4. "Tell a truer history of ourselves." Um, it's not that easy to find people who know even an "official history." Most congregants seem to care more about what is right now than anything that happened before they came.

    "Why in this part of the community and not another one? In nearly all cases this question will quickly lead to issues of racially segregated neighborhoods, white flight from cities to suburbs, and land grabs from Native Americans, to name just a few." No, no, and no. One campus is where it is because of land prices, another because a developer thought a church would add to property values in a new subdivision, and the third was deliberately situated in a poor area. He seems to have been hanging out with a subset of the faithful. Some churches fission (not split) instead of moving when they get too big.

  5. "Evaluate the hymns ... Are we still singing "Whiter than snow""? I suspect Jones is being deliberately obtuse here.

    "Or the militant, Crusade-invoking "Onward Christian Soldiers"?" Yep, and more power to it. I'm really thinking Jones isn't serious.

  6. "Has your church been preaching racial justice?" We haven't been fed the BLM line, no, but the topic of racism does come up now and then in the sermons. And up until COVID we were running an annual Kingdom Justice Seminar. I attended a few; it was a mixed bag. Too many unexamined assumptions and books to sell.
  7. "Given the history and complicity of white Christian churches with white supremacy," is your church giving no-strings-attached money to black churches? This seems a bit simple-minded, on both ends of the comma. Sugar-daddies are corrupting.

Summing up: 1 and 2 are superficial. 3 makes sense. 4 isn't very relevant, 5 is stupid, 6 and 7 make some careless assumptions.

I believe the divisions in the church are from evil, but I don't think his advice is going to be particularly useful here. Maybe in the regions he's more familiar with...

Or maybe not even there. He takes objections to his ideas as a "sure sign of white supremacy." That's a bad sign. And he wrote a book about this...

This is verifying another rule of thumb: If it talks about modern American white supremacy, it isn't worth reading. (Other rules include: "Virtual tools eventually have to run on real hardware."; "People don't do 'complicated' well."; "When someone calls "Silence is violence!" look for escape routes and an improvised weapon.")

1 comment:

Korora said...

"What we [devils] want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call ‘Christianity And’. You know—Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring." -- Screwtape