It is February 28 and we are at the end of Black History Month. Tomorrow, we return to the ouroboros of white history and I would advise my friends and acquaintances to be cognizant of that much. Eleven months out of the year is what we spend celebrating the inconspicuous and ubiquitous nature of whiteness in culture, history, and our social formation.
Your awareness of that is, in and of itself, already a step toward ending racial supremacy, namely, white supremacy in the world. Let us not turn a blind eye to color-blind racism nor the prevalence of Whiteness (capital W) attempting to control who our heroes are and who our villains were, well knowing that the line between hero and villain wavers between triumph and defeat.
The only reason we consider our historical heroes, namely, our founding fathers as heroes, is because they won a war, not a single war or battle, not a named war that took place in one particular location. No. They won a race war when crossing the Atlantic, a war won for the thirteen colonies; a war won over the indigenous people of the land; a war won over competing imperial malefactors seeking gold, land, and prosperity; a war won over religious and denominational exclusivity; and lastly, and most lasting, a war won over racial superiority.
We risk a great deal of disservice to our fellow countrymen, namely, those of color who have lingered and toiled under oppression and terror in a land of democracy, freedom, and liberty, if we did not share their side of the story in American history, not just on February, but every month of the year. It was on their backs that the foundation of the nation was laid. It was their work that built the White House, the United States Capitol, Southern aristocracy, and Northern fiscal flexibility and international influence.
Black Americans have fought in every single war America has dipped its feet into, from the Revolutionary War to the recent war against terror. Black bodies have often spilled blood for a nation that saw them as either property or criminals. A uniform and service serving for little more than an opportunity to get away from slavery on the field or terror at home. Neither granting them resolute equality.
Black bodies built this nation and Black bodies are buried under it, usually, in unmarked graves.
America has a responsibility to its historically most industrious workforce, who, at the multiple chances for insurrection, violence, overthrow, insurgency, mutiny, genocide, and mass killings, seldom acted upon these liberating actions; actions they learned from white American founding fathers. The select few uprisings that did take place were suppressed with utmost prejudice and the ensuring collateral damage wiping out scores of innocent bystanders and honest family men, women, and children.
Black uprisings were seen as Black uprisings, not as revolutionary acts working toward freedom.
It is this same group of people who, under continuous assault, defamation, decimation, exploitation, humiliation, and insurmountable dehumanization, fought for their liberty, freedom, equity, and for a piece of that Constitutional pie and liberal American ideals with intellectual prowess, industriousness, humility, faith, and humanity for equal footing and equal rights.
No group is owed more than Black Americans because no other group has endured more ostracism from white Europeans, white Americans, indigenous groups who were forced to hate Black skin, Latin Americans, Irish, Dutch, French, and Italian immigrants who assimilated to the American way of life by their shared disdain of Black skin, and lastly, under manipulation and brainwashing (whitewashing) Black people who were taught to hate their Blackness.
Reparations are still in the talks and I hope that descendants of slaves and descendants of people who were displaced, robbed of work and income, refused housing opportunities via the G.I. Bill, terrorized by white neighbors when they moved westward or north from the Deep South, and murdered by white locals before and after the Civil War, before and after World War I, before and after World War II, before and after the Vietnam War, before and after Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.s’ assassination, before and after Rodney King’s filmed torture at the hands of police officers, before and after those same officers were acquitted, before and after the innumerable police brutality cases, before and after the innumerable and unlawful and unnecessary killings of Black Americans on American soil at the hands of police officers.
There is a debt over America today that will not be paid, it cannot be paid in gold, diamonds, or dollars. Hell. Bitcoin, at its zenith, won’t cut it either.
But Americans will work toward this debts extinction, more so white Americans will work to reduce this debt by becoming aware of white history and its legacy on American identity. Once there, once aware, eyes opened, soul quickened, and empathy amplified, will we see endemic and systemic cultural changes that will allow us to elevate American heroes who stood for the freedom of all Americans; not just the ones who stood for the betterment of white Americans.
We will see statues of tyrants and monsters relocated to museums, where they belong, and in books, where we will learn about them. Their memory is ever real and ever-present in our conscience, however, far from the public eye.
We know much about a nation by the statues it chooses to erect and which it chooses to relocate or demolish.
And rest assured, iconoclasm isn’t the goal, moving forward. Iconoclasts are often replaced by younger enthusiasts with the same goals. But we shouldn’t reduce ourselves to our current state of iconophilia, favoring people who were more monsters than they were human. Their presence, their monuments, their obelisks are a reminder that we refuse to confront them for what they were, what they are, and what they signal to those who seek to destroy the fabric of a diverse and integral American society.
Once this cultural awakening and transformation are enacted, we will see statues of enslavers and treacherous rebels eradicated from the public eye and replaced by statues of true American heroes like King, Truth, Garrison, Turner, Douglass, X, Morrison, Tubman, Bennaker, Cone, Bell, B.T. Washington, du Bois, and more.
And not that American history and cultural understanding ought to be Black majoritarian in effect but that it portrays American ideals and American resilience in the face of unimaginable tyranny and despair, conquering not through the violence and savagery their white American counterparts used to expand westward on land and upward in wealth but through bravery, fortitude, love, kindness, and faith.
We can learn more about what it means to be an American when we better understand what it feels like to be a Black American.
I will share a snippet of a story written by the now infamous but truly magnanimous lawyer, clergyman, spiritual, author, and inventor of the often misunderstood Critical Race Theory, professor Derrick Bell.
He penned a short story called Space Traders. Very few people know about this story because its thesis is triggering to a white American audience, and I believe this trigger was intentional on the part of professor Bell when he wrote it.
In Space Traders, a super-advanced alien society descends from space and graces the shores of America with their intergalactic ships, with all sorts of treasures, technological advancements, and benevolent gifts they intend on bestowing on planet Earth through America.
The catch, however, is that the alien race wants every single African American in trade for the goods. White Americans then rush to question the ethical and moral implications of this trade, on whether it is good, bad, questionable, etc. Here is a part of that same story.
“Those mammoth vessels carried within their holds treasure of which the United States was in most desperate need: gold, to bail out the almost bankrupt federal, state, and local governments; special chemicals capable of unpolluting the environment, which was becoming daily more toxic, and restoring it to the pristine state it had been before Western explorers set foot on it; and a totally safe nuclear engine and fuel, to relieve the nation’s all-but-depleted supply of fossil fuel. In return, the visitors wanted only one thing – and that was to take back to their home star all the African Americans who lived in the United States.
The jaw of every one of the welcoming officials dropped, not a word of the many speeches they had prepared suitable for the occasion. As the Americans stood in stupefied silence, the visitors’ leader emphasized that the proposed trade was for the Americans freely to accept or not, that no force would be used. Neither then nor subsequently did the leader or any other of the visitors, whom anchorpersons on that evening’s news shows immediately labeled the “Space Traders,” reveal why they wanted only black people or what plans they had for them should the United States be prepared to part with that or any other group of its citizens. The leader only reiterated to his still-dumbfounded audience that, in exchange for the treasure they had brought, they wanted to take away every American categorized as black on birth certificate or other official identification. The Space Traders said they would wait sixteen days for a response to their offer.”
In eventuality, white Americans opted to trade their fellow Black citizens for that treasure trove of wealth and stability. They voted against their countrymen of color, favoring financial stability over moral and ethical integrity in the face of tremendous woes.
America, or rather, white America, has a history of and current deference for, and this is cultural, societal, and systemic, a continual willingness to throw Black Americans to the curb to accomplish national and international goals that benefit elite white Americans.
And if posited with an opportunity where Black Americans are granted not only access to financial means by which to accomplish not only social but also financial equity with white Americans, the same white Americans in positions of political, financial, and social power will sooner shipwreck America as a whole than see the day in which all racial groups in the country are, by intent and desire, equal.
Black History Month is not a steeple of pride. It is a reminder of sin. A corporate and national sin that allowed for Whiteness to burden Caucasians with the fallacy of racial superiority and minorities with the burden of supposed racial inferiority.
One day, I pray, our children will celebrate American history and what will come to their mind, involuntarily so, will be an array of colored faces, hand in hand, combating white supremacy in all of its spheres.
Off to white history month(s) we go…
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
We must take note of America’s unique ability to develop populist demagogues — at the rate in which it does — whose condescending vitriol always finds fertile ground through which to germinate and yield nationally catastrophic results.
Donald J. Trump and Trumpism are not unique to the American narrative. In fact, Trump’s archetypical strategy of demonizing opponents and outsiders is the natural and prescribed method by which nativist populists and proponents of Americanism launch their campaigns.
In the 1840s, Lewis Charles Levin, an American politician, native of Pennsylvania, would instigate a thunderous race riot in Philadelphia against immigrants, primarily Irish immigrants and Catholics. You see, Levin disdained the idea of Romanism disrupting the theo-political control of protestant America. So much so that on one particular day, he built himself a makeshift soapbox and began channeling his hate from that mini-platform. His vitriol animated Philadelphia regulars to the point of violence. The riot that ensued, the violence and destruction of property, that of Irish immigrants, Catholics, and Black Americans, were all Levin’s fault. This riot, and his rhetoric, launched his political career even further and on that point, namely, hatred of immigrants and Catholics, he started the Know-Nothing Party; a violent anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic political party. The Know-Nothing Party (they called themselves this because every time they were apprehended by the police for rioting and pillaging, they were asked what political party they belonged to, to which they would say, “I don’t know nothing.”) The Know-Nothing gang and sentiment would spread from Philadelphia to Ohio, New York, Maryland, and even California. Instigating violence against immigrants wherever they went, blaming “outsiders” for economic woes, immorality, pestilence, and the devaluation of American ideals. Shortly before the start of the American Civil War, Levin was institutionalized and died of “insanity.”
And in the 1870s, another demagogue named Denis Kearny, an Irish immigrant who settled in San Francisco, California, would also instigate violence against Chinese immigrants and laborers by blaming them for the city and the state’s financial ruination. In fact, Kearny’s Kearnyism launched a wave of riots in San Francisco that led to the death of many Chinese immigrants and the destruction of San Francisco’s wharf and Chinatown; and its wealth with it. Kearny would later launch a local political movement called the Workingmen’s Party of California, later known as the Socialist Labor Party.
In the 1950s and 1960s, America would again be sabotaged by the likes of Joseph McCarthy, a Republican U.S. Senator, and George Wallace, former governor of Alabama, a Democrat. These two men elevated their political platforms, one, by demonizing anyone who affiliated themselves with Communist Russia. McCarthy’s McCarthyism would be the advent of the Red Scare, a series of witch-hunts that found Americans usually under surveillance, at times by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, for minor offenses, like, disagreeing with McCarthy’s tactics or disagreeing with segregationist views. McCarthyism would fan the flames of the FBI’s unlawful surveillance of American citizens, namely, Civil Rights activists, most notably, its incessant obsession and surveillance of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. McCarthy’s nationalistic fanaticism would pit police and federal forces against non-violent Black Liberation movements as well.
George Wallace’s staunch segregationist vitriol would solidify him as a savor of White Rule for Southern Jim Crow aristocrats who despised the idea of a racially integrated South. Wallace pegged Civil Rights activists as agitators, criminals, and unAmerican entities who wanted to disrupt the peace. Wallace would eventually denounce his racist rhetoric, attributing his change of heart to his newfound faith. His poisonous rhetoric, however, was here to stay.
And in 2015-2016, we saw the resurgence of nativist sentiments in Donald J. Trump’s birther movement, attempting to discredit the office and administration of Barack Obama, America’s first African American president. Donald Trump would later accentuate his right of passage by blaming the woes of American society on Mexican Americans and Latin-American immigrants, by calling them criminals, rapists, murderers, and vowing to restore the purity of American identity, namely, American identitarianism, by building a border wall that would protect America from immigrants. Donald Trump would fan the flames of nativism and racism once more by attempting to prohibit certain Middle Eastern immigrants from entering the United States of America in an attempt to thwart the spread of ISIS militancy. He portrayed Muslims from the Middle East as extremists, a dangerous and erroneous strategy. This tactic was used before in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Immigrant Act of 1924, which barred Chinese and other nationals from entering the country because of their race and nationality. Donald Trump would fall in line with Kearnyism by calling the virulent coronavirus the “China Virus” or the “Kung Flu” virus as a way of demonizing the Chinese to further his ideals and political influence. His followers bought the rhetoric and to this day they repeat his inflammatory and incendiary Levinistic vitriol with pride.
Levinism, Kearnyism, McCarthyism, Wallacism, and Trumpism are nothing new. In fact, if you’re American, there is a very high chance that in the next decade or two, you will fall victim to the influential rhetoric of another demagogue. As the nation’s demographic makeup continues to evolve and white Americans are forced to grapple with their new reality, namely, that they will be a minority in America, we’ll see an acceleration of populist separatist demagogues rising from the shadows and launched into positions of political power and influence on the platform of nativism, anglo-Americanism (cloaked racism), Protestantism, nationalism, tribalism, and hyper-capitalism.
I want to believe Americans are no longer susceptible to this kind of subterfuge but history has shown us time and again just how much they love a good ol’ demagogue, a strong man, who will restore America to its traditionally racially monochromatic and denominationally singular way of life by bending the rules just enough to get things done.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
Growing up in a Brazilian offshoot of the Assemblies of God taught me so much about the Bible, Biblical characters, faith, prayer, church community, developed in me a fervency for social reform, the temperance movement (anti-alcohol consumption), the holiness movement (high ethical standards and separation from what is deemed sacrilegious), the pentecostal movement (continuationist belief of spiritual gifts such as, speaking in tongues [glossolalia], new revelation [prophecies], interpretation of tongues, healings, miracles, signs, wonders, gift of discernment and etc.).
I grew up in a church of diverse people groups, both wealthy and impoverished, white and black, mixed, even. Former drug and alcohol abusers and users. Former sex trafficking victims. Former wife beaters. Former battered wives. Abuse survivors, really. Former drug kingpins and cartel leaders (some from within my family). I grew up listening to the story of one of my family members exchanging gunfire with police officers, surviving the firefight, although not unscathed as some of them would show me bullet wounds. One family member still has bullets lodged in his body, deemed non removable by surgeons lest they risk his life mid-operation.
Many of the drug users and criminals within my family became laypeople. Some went on to become clergy, holding pastoral roles after kicking the drugs and crime, the life of substance abuse and homicide (probably), to become emancipators and heralds of the gospel. Reaching their impoverished and crime-ridden communities for Christ. Feeding the poor and preaching a message of holiness, hope, and societal change.
I witnessed various transformations in my family and it was a sure reminder that what we believed was what everyone believed. Or at least what everyone else should have believed. Who wouldn’t want drug addicts to kick drugs after attending Christian para-ministry-funded halfway homes and rehabilitation centers? Who wouldn’t want criminals to ditch the life of drug peddling and then take on honest work to support their families? Who wouldn’t want to see a community focused on caring for the poor, gifting children with toys, homes with food, and families with sustenance?
We were part of a movement that promoted pastors into politics and politicians to the pulpit. There was no divide. Pastor so-and-so would preach at our church on Sunday and after the sermon, we would give him an offering to help his political campaign. Next Sunday we would host a politician who had a Christian bark but an adulterous bite. Men who wanted votes would sweat on stage to deliver barely substantive Christian messages of hope, love, and political party lines, for the sake of political dominance in our municipality.
Honestly, it felt as if we had monopolized morality, politics, and social work. In a way, we had. At least in my mind, we had. We looked down at Baptist denominations as spiritually dead churches. We thought of the ‘Four Square’ denominations as culturally errant because they did not dress as modest as we did. We thought Presbyterians were theologically compromised because they sipped whiskey, drank beer by the barrel, and smoked Cuban cigars or any make of cigars they could get their hands on. Little mention was made of Methodist/Wesleyan and Episcopalian denominations because our beef was primarily with interdenominational Pentecostals and majority protestant groups, namely, Baptists and Presbies. Baptists because they called us heretics for speaking in tongues and beef with Presbies because they also called us heretics for speaking in tongues but they were drunk when they did so.
We chided Catholics, priests, and nuns as non-Christians because they hailed Mary, worshipped saints, and shunned the Holy Spirit’s spiritual gifts. Not just that, but because they were Catholic and were by definition a morally depraved collective for following every beck and call of the Pope and allowing the Papacy to exist for as long as it did.
We were at war with a culture that perhaps didn’t even know the church, our church, had declared war against it in the first place. Brazil at that time was predominantly religious, most adherents attributing their faith to Catholicism and later Pentecostalism, primarily to the Assemblies of God.
Hate was never named from the pulpit but it was definitely disseminated to anyone who failed to fall in line with our perception of Christianity and holiness standards.
Granted, what the Assemblies of God had in doctrinal prowess and social reform it lacked in clarity of theological thought, compassion, and common sense. I thank this denomination for existing and evangelizing Brazil at the start of the 1900s. White men coming from the North to preach Jesus to Catholics and disenfranchised addicts and impoverished blacks in the Americas. What could go wrong with a Eurocentric theology in a predominantly colored South America?
Anywho, the Assemblies of God espoused love for God, doctrine, holiness standards, and literature. Well, as long as the literature in question was not antithetical to the Bible. Our ministry, as part of the Assemblies of God, was called Assembleia de Deus, Ministerio Belém. Assembly of God, Bethlehem Ministry.
This is where I spent most of my church life. Where I studied scripture, I met pastors who wore the robes of politicians and politicians who covered themselves in sheeps wool to pass as pastors. This is where I developed a love for theology, unaware of what kind of theology it was I was falling in love with, but, nevertheless, a love for God. Here is where I met church friends who made up most if not all of my social circles for years to come.
‘Murica – We Ventured North
Once we immigrated to the United States and settled in Florida, we began to attend church six nights a week. It was community forming and community building. People helping each other out. We spoke Portuguese only because the community was made up of Brazilians with a few scattered Latinos and the rare white American soul who ventured into the building. These Anglophonic individuals came either out of curiosity produced from the loud music we played or because they were dating one of our church members.
Either way, Brazilians in America were opening up churches and ministries for Brazilians. And, the same assiduity that was so fervent in Brazil for doctrinal purity, denominational clarity, focus on spiritual gifts of glossolalia and prophecy, and holiness standards were present in the Brazilian Assemblies of God in the United States.
The small and budding community of the Brazilian Assembly of God, Bethlehem Ministry teams were spreading like wildfire in Florida, Massachusetts, California, and beyond. (As of today, there are Bethlehem Ministry churches in Dallas, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Charlotte, Pittsburg, Columbus, and more spread throughout the United States of America. In the Pacific, there are churches in Honolulu, Kanalui, Wahiawa, Christchurch, Queenstown, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Rockhampton. In the European continent they can be found in Madrid, Almeria, Barcelona, Paris, Orleans, Geneva, Lausanne, Bern, Zurich, Basel, Munich, Nuremberg, Hamburg, Berlin, Cologne, Rome, Bristol, Cardiff, and London. Just to name a few spots. And in the African continent, Mozambique.) Wherever Brazilian immigrants or tourists land, there, in that city, we would open a church and rotate ministers through them so as not to develop independent churches. But the pastor rotation rodeo situation a whole different post.
But in America, (North America), we did not see as many disenfranchised souls as we did in Brazil. In the US., everyone was hyper-individualistic, unlike the community-centric vibe found in the motherland. We could not see the impoverished because we rarely ventured out of the church to evangelize and minister to our communities. And ‘evangelism’ in America simply meant reaching Brazilians in America. Not white Americans. That wasn’t our focus just yet. We wanted nothing more than to grow the Bethlehem Ministry brand by finding and dragging (nicely) as many Brazilians in Orlando, Ft. Myers, Miami, Lighthouse Point, Ft. Lauderdale, Pompano, Vero Beach, Sarasota, Kissimmee, and beyond into our churches as possible.
And we did.
Churches blossomed and swelled from ten to twenty adherents in some parts and in the hundreds and hundreds of members, yes, not just attendees and participants, but members in other parts.
My family first moved to Orlando from Campinas, São Paulo. Well, my dad first moved to Boston with a pastor/politician guy to help the ministry start a church there. When the call to restart a ministry in Orlando, Florida was made, this pastor/politician fellow decided to take my multi-talented instrumentalist dad down to Florida with him. And it is here where we are to arrive to meet up with my dad. In Orlando, we partook in a ministry that grew well and because the ministry was fond of rotating pastors from one church to another they then opened another church in Naples, Florida and that’s where we went next.
The pastor/politician fella didn’t last long in this ministry and was later moved to another church, for reasons unknown or unmentioned, I don’t know because much of it was hush-hush, as is the status quo in churches these days. But my family settled in delightful old Naples, Florida and it is there where we spent most of our time in the US.
Again, evangelistic outreach was an attempt to reach Brazilians in America (North America) for Christ. English-speaking Americans were handed little pamphlets outside of bars, clubs, and large buffets where they would later use them to wipe their nose or just throw them away. We weren’t sure what to do with English speakers other than inviting them to sit through simultaneously translated sermons. Not many members of our church community were able to wield the English language well enough to bring English speakers into our community so we didn’t focus on them that much or at all. This would change but not yet. They would show up, hang out, watch our singers sing, then our worship bands worship, in Portuguese, of course. And towards the end of the service, they would sit through a poorly translated sermon where the minister half-spoke in tongues and half-ministered about hellfire and brimstone. After service, we would have our comes e bebes (coffee, tea, food, and treats; it was a fraternization period) where English speakers were adored, welcomed, and greeted, but few were the church members who actually spent time with them or time getting to know them because we barely spoke their language and they didn’t know a lick of Portuguese. There are Americans we’re talking about here. They barely spoke English well enough.
And remember, this was initially a Brazilian pentecostal ministry in America (North America) with the sole focus of evangelizing unchurched Brazilians and heresy plagued Brazilians who had run off to worship God in pagan centers like Baptist churches.
We wanted nothing but Brazilians and that’s what we got.
Again, in Brazil, evangelism was primarily focused on the poor, disenfranchised, destitute, addicts, and socially oppressed but in North America, we saw abundance, wealth, and lucre. Of course, impoverished families were everywhere but not as visibly so as in Brazil so we had to change our strategies.
As we adapted our youth (myself included) to the culture, assimilating and learning the language, the ministry began to build up new leaders to lead and pastor bilingual church services.
Our initial success paled in comparison with this second wave of evangelistic outreach as our predominantly Brazilian-led services took on Colombian, Venezuelan, Mexican, Argentine, Bolivian, Honduran, Costa Rican, Puerto Rican clergy to lead services in both Spanish and in Portuguese. Because we lived in Florida you can imagine how our Latin American ministry blew up.
The more we integrated with the surrounding culture the more people we managed to bring into the church.
But nowhere was there a higher shift in our evangelistic outreach and ministerial identity than when we focused on the American culture surrounding our churches.
It was here that the fundamentalist aspect of our ministry peaked its head high and above the rest.
You see, American Evangelicalism, in its matured stage in the 1990s and early 2000s had become hyper-political with the rise and prominence of the Moral Majority and the religious Right. Ronald Reagan, Billy Graham, Bob Jones University, Jerry Falwell Sr., Liberty University, Fox News, and a plethora of conservative white evangelicals led us to believe that as we reached out to English-speaking North Americans we ought also to join in the culture wars of the land.
Mind you, we were already involved in political power struggles in Brazil, hosting and supporting political candidates from the pulpit. But in the US, in the land of the American Dream, culture wars were nefarious, dangerously close, impending doom was imminent, and the end of our Christian witness and religious liberty was on assault on the daily, causing us to battle Leftist Liberals and theological liberalism anywhere we could.
We weren’t just attacking Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Catholics, Baptists, drunk Presbies, and backsliding Pentecostals. No. Now were bent on explaining to our churches (which consisted of undocumented immigrants with lapsed visas, living in the country illegally, or having entered and remained in the country illegally) that we should fight the culture wars of America.
I can recall seeing three to four flags flailing from our pulpits every single Sunday. The star-spangled banner flag was almost always center stage. Some pastors joked that if immigration officers burst through the back doors with deportation orders in hand and saw our predominantly illegal immigrant group praising the American flag then they’d turn away and leave us alone. Besides that flag, we would have the evangelical flag-waving about freely. I would later see January 6 insurrectionists bull-rushing the US Capitol waving this same flag. Little did I know, that flag was more about Christian Nationalist ideals than Christian virtues and ethics. Either way, we also carried the flag of Israel with the star of David in the middle. Being a fundamentalist meant you loved everything about Israel and hated everything Arab or Muslim. And lastly, we had the Brazilian flag. We were a Brazilian ministry in the United States of America.
Our evangelistic outreach moved from the disenfranchised people groups to political culture wars.
My evangelical development began as a neo-fundamentalist evangelical. And I was oblivious to it.
You must understand that these religious movements operate in complete invisibility to their adherents and work in frameworks that make everything outside of them or opposed to them satanic, devilish, godless, pagan, spiritually oppressive, occultic, evil, and more. This mindset in its fundamentalist rage would later help elect Donald J. Trump to office in the United States of America because he promised evangelicals religious liberty and freedom, the destruction of abortion rights, exclusive privilege in the White House, and favor toward the nation of Israel against Arab nations and Palestine. He told them he loved and served God. It was near orgasmic for North American evangelicals when Trump actually won. And also a reason for suicidal ideations when he lost. Some still think he won the 2020 election.
This same neo-fundamentalist segment of our church mentality helped the far-right Trump of the tropics, Jair Bolsonario, become the president of Brazil. He ran on the same ticket as did Trump. Hate for left and left-leaning Brazilians, he loved evangelicals and even prayed in public, attended church services. His vitriol against political opponents was unhinged in parts, making Trump sound domesticated. The man was a military lifer turned politician turned religious right hero turned president of a 211 million inhabitants nation. His downfall came through his misogynistic tropes, his islamophobia in equating Arabs with ISIS, and his disdain for liberal politics, his vitriol, and yes, just as with Trump, Covid-19. Jair Bolsonario questioned the validity of vaccines and thought they altered human DNA/mRNA thus postponing Brazil’s access to life-saving vaccines. Now that Brazil has reached well over 400,000 covid complications-related deaths, his popularity, as did Trumps, has faltered.
But how did I come to understand that I was once part of neo-fundamentalist evangelicalism?
We spent a great deal of time with the Assembly of God, Bethlehem Ministry, but once we received a recalcitrant, malcontent failed former lawyer turned pastor as a pastor of our member bleeding church, something clicked and then broke in me when the man would not stop bashing other pastors from our very denomination. Remember, bashing outsiders and apostates was acceptable but our own? It was too much even for my pharisaical heart. He had a knack for calling them monges (monks) because monks, according to him, were religious hypocrites.
He did this so often that during one of his diatribes at one of our weeknight bible studies I stopped him mid-sentence to ask him to desist from such nonsense.
I don’t believe a man of his stature and prominence had ever been confronted by a church member before. Less so a black one who was not clergy but mere laity and part-time voluntary treasurer for the ministry.
The man lambasted me for being ignorant, young, foolish, and a dunce. This all happened in front of the church. I then called him morally corrupt, immature, disqualified from ministry until he could seek reparation and reconciliation with the people he hated.
His son was present and his son said his father, the then pastor, had trouble controlling his words and tone. This poor man, the pastor’s son, even admitted that he tried time and again to correct his father’s problematic ways for years but to no avail.
This waltz of verbal assault and abuse between me and this pastor went back and forth for weeks. Every interaction we had, in front of anyone and everyone, he would call me a pejorative name and I would reciprocate. Never. Never had I had more disdain for a religious leader than I had for that man. Not because of his conduct which is normal for an unrepentant and impenitent man, but for a pastor of a holiness movement, holiness standard church to behave that way was way off for me.
Eventually, my family decided to leave the Assembly of God, Bethlehem Ministry we helped found, build, and advance in Naples, Florida.
We then joined the Assembly of God, The Vine Ministry, just a few hundred meters down the road.
Our leaving that ministry went without issue. The pastor in question and I shook hands, hugged, and said our pleasantries before parting. Whether he saw me as just another monk or not I do not know but that’s not the case here. We left as Christian brothers who knew we could not serve God in the same building anymore.
After that, none of the ministers and leaders from the Bethlehem Ministry that we had come to love, adore, and they love us and adore us ever reached out to us again.
We simply disappeared from their radar. It took nearly ten years for some of us to visit my parents place and some of them had also left the ministry.
What you have to understand is that it’s just a natural thing within the neo-fundamentalist evangelical circle to ostracize anyone who abandons not Christianity or Pentecostalism, but those who dare leave our particular ministry. Outsiders and backsliders who venture out of this Bethlehem Ministry.
So outside of this, we met new friends with The Vine Ministry, rebuilt lost or broken friendships with other Brazilian friends who had also fled the Bethlehem Ministry years earlier. People who had been traumatized by our authoritarian structure and fled for their lives. They escaped years of spiritual abuse. God bless them.
It was great to worship God and serve one another at The Vine Ministry but then my wife and I moved to Canada in search of financial stability and a future for our family.
Canada – Land of Apologies and Snow
In Canada, we joined a Slavic-Canadian pentecostal church that was stuck between modernity and early 1900s Communist Ukraine.
Having recently joined the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada the church had to shift its services from their regular hybrid of Ukrainian-Russian speaking services to English-speaking services only. This was great because I wanted to understand what in the world they were singing about in their songs.
This church, being outside of the Brazilian paradigm of poverty and social issues and outside of North American hyper-capitalist, hyper-individualistic, and culture wars framework was primarily focused on religious consistency and discipleship, more than anything else. Minor struggles and disagreements surrounded what style of worship songs we should sing, whether we should stick to hymns or play to the tune of Hillsong, Planetshakers, Jesus Culture, or Elevation music. Some members dawned jeans and t-shirts while others, the Slavic grandmas in particular, dawned head coverings and skirts from their motherland.
Evangelism here was inner-centric. More about preaching Jesus to former communists and people who had survived communism as Christians but still struggled with legalist understanding of the gospel.
We wanted to teach the bad Christianity out of ignorant Christians. And it was working. Our community grew. Our youth group developed from a bunch of kids who were at first scared to ask tough questions to a group of Christianized hooligans willing to think for themselves. They went on to lead worship and lead services, participate in plays, mission trips (not on my part but still, awesome incentive on their part), pursue baptism, get married, and more.
Because this Slavic community was so removed from the neo-fundamentalist evangelicalism I was raised within in Brazil and in America (North America) I was able to see my faith a little clearer.
But before we proceed on how I went from neo-fundamentalist evangelicalism to neo-evangelicalism I must define and categorize evangelicalism as understood through the North American perspective. And because I’m not a scholar I will allow a scholar named Michael Graham, a writer for As In Heaven and the executive pastor at Orlando Grace Church to explain these categories for you.
In writing for Mere Orthodoxy, Graham states that there are six iterations or rather categories of evangelicalism so far. Here is Graham:
“The 6 Categories
As I have surveyed the evangelical landscape and discussed with pastors all around the country, evangelicalism seems to be fracturing into at least 6 different subgroups. Three of those groups (#s1-3) still have at least some connectivity to evangelicalism and the other three have cut ties (#s 4-6):
Neo-Fundamentalist Evangelical– Neo-fundamentalists are those who have deep concerns about both political and theological liberalism. There is some overlap and co-belligerency with Christian Nationalism (a syncretism of right wing nationalism and Christianity) but neo-fundamentalists do so with more theological vocabulary and rationality. Concerning threats within the church, they have deep worries with the church’s drift towards liberalism and the ways secular ideologies are finding homes in the church. Outside the church, they are concerned by the culture’s increasing hostility to Christianity, most prominently from mass media, social media, and the government.
Mainstream Evangelical – Historically this term has been Protestants who hold to the Bebbington Quadrilateral of conversionism, activism, biblicism, and crucicentrism. The emphasis for this group is on the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Concerning threats within the church, they share some concern for the secular right’s influence on Christinaity, including the destructive pull of Christian Nationalism, but are far more concerned by the secular left’s influence and the desire to assimilate since the world still remains so hostile. Outside the church, they are likely uncomfortable with the rhetoric Trump and other conservatives use but view this direction as the lesser of two evils.
Neo-Evangelical – People who would see themselves as “global evangelicals” and are doctrinally “Evangelicals” (w/ some philosophy of ministry differences) but no longer use the term “evangelical” in some circumstances in the American context as the term as an identifier has evolved to be more political than theological. Within the church, they are highly concerned by conservative Christianity’s acceptance of Trump and failure to engage on topics of race and sexuality in helpful ways, but they have not totally abandoned evangelical identification and likely still labor in churches with the broadest spectrum of these groups. Outside of the church, this group feels largely homeless in today’s world. There is equal concern, or slightly more either way depending on the person, at the threat the left and the right pose to Christians seeking to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness.
Post-Evangelical – People who have fully left evangelicalism from a self-identification standpoint and reject the “evangelical” label yet are still churched and likely still agree with the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed. They are more deconstructed than neo-evangelicals and they are more vocal in their critiques of 1s and 2s than 3s would be. Some remain firmly in Protestant circles and others have crossed over to mainline, catholic, or orthodox traditions while still holding to the basic creeds. Concerning threats within the church, they are focused on abuse, corruption, hypocrisy, Christian nationalism, and the secular right. Outside the church, they are primarily concerned with the matters of injustice, inequity, the secular right, and to a lesser extent the radical secular left. Many 4s are 4s also because their experiences with predominantly white evangelicalism have been so difficult and strained that physical distance seemed to be the only conclusion.
Note – there is likely a halfway point between 4 and 5 known as ex-vangelicals that don’t neatly fit either 4 or 5. This group is difficult to parse as the meaning that this group has taken on has evolved even this year. We did not want to exclude the group from this typology but given the evolving nature were hesitant to pin it down too precisely at this juncture. Some of these folks have actually dechurched, some have deconverted, yet some remain in the faith but are quite vocal on their critiques of the movement. In time this category might evolve and/or swallow up category 5 below or it might fizzle like other labels.
Dechurched (but with some Jesus) – People who have left the church but still hold to at least some orthodox Christian beliefs.
Dechurched and Deconverted – People who have left the church and are completely deconverted with no vestigial Christian beliefs.”
I transitioned out of neo-fundamentalist evangelicalism in Brazil and later in the United States of America thanks to distance but I moved away from mainline evangelicalism in this Slavic community due to racism and anti-intellectualism. What do I mean? The racism I experienced in this church setting was new to me, because, remember, the Brazilian church was very racially diverse. It was ethnically one but racially, we had white ministers, black ministers, ministers with Japanese ancestry, and Latino ministers, ministers from the African continent, and so on. Racism wasn’t acceptable in our racially diverse neo-fundamentalist evangelical churches.
But racism in this mainline evangelical Slavic church? Well, what did you think would happen when a black man walked into a Euro-centric church ministry that operated in Canada… of all places?
Anywho. The racism part I am still writing about and discovering as I am still dealing with it to this day. My experiences with racism in America came from outside the church. My experience with racism in Canada came from within the church. But I’ll write more about that later.
But the anti-intellectual aspect here, and by anti-intellectual I refer to historian Mark A. Noll’s work, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind delves into a group that is hyper-aware of intellectual works concerning construction and other vocational works but when it comes to Christian intellectual works they are limited. Quite limited. The exploration of theology, expositional preaching, exegesis, Christian church history, doctrinal history, and social issues were all lacking. Knowledge surrounding biology, archeology, anthropology, anatomy, physiology, psychology, philosophy, psychiatry, and science, in general, was lacking. No wonder there is a hyper-resistance toward vaccines and virology in the Slavic-Germanic mainline evangelical community here in Canada. Much love for God and holiness standards but a hell of a lot of ignorance surrounding the world around them. The very world God created.
During my last few weeks in membership with this mainline evangelical church, I witnessed an uptick in members spewing their support for Donald Trump. I mean, we’re in Canada, people. Canadians are too nice to support an orange man like Donald Trump. But our Slavic community tossed all brain and heart out the window and promoted pro-Trump rhetoric against immigrants, racial justice, and any issues pertaining to brown people. The irony was there but the masks had come off. I saw some of them for what they were. Racist Christians. The Christian part of their identity was debatable but their racism consumed the air around them. Around me.
It was no wonder that whenever the Black Lives Matter movement took shape in the political sphere and some accused it of Marxist ideologies our Slavic church shut its doors down on the topic. Period. There was no talking about race, racism, or harms done against black people and people of color because the unresolved trauma of Marxism was looming high and mightily in their repressed subconscious. If BLM was Marxist then everything they talked about or fought for was atheistic and diabolic. They were unwilling to consider that the fight for black equity spanned back hundreds of years. But fear triumphs over reason and they capitulated their witness on the altar of ignorance.
And short of my exit I picked up this book by professor Noll and devoured it. Strange thing is that I pulled this book from the church’s library, which no one ever frequented. I could have stolen the book and I don’t believe anyone would have noticed. But I read it, made notes, made connections between the idiocy in evangelical history to the idiocy I witnessed in my church, yes, my church because I was part of it too. And I was broken. I left not long after when the racism became too painful to deal with and far too many higher-ups from the church were spewing it for me to confront it alone.
Being one of two black people in the church stymies one’s aspirations for change, you know.
A short conversation with the pastor, an honest one, revealed just how intellectually and socially limited this environment had become or perhaps had always been.
We left and what was left behind was in fact my mainline evangelical faith.
I was comfortable there until I realized that racism and religious-political syncretism was still very much alive and well there, just not as angry as that within the neo-fundamentalist evangelical circle of my earlier years but it was still there.
I’ve since progressed to a neo-evangelical landmark. I’ve reached the precipice of evangelicalism. Behind me is a horrid trail of trauma and a history of evangelical evils and issues. And before me lies a pit of tenebrous open-theistic worldviews that have robbed Christ of His Deity.
I’m comfortable as a neo-evangelical because I’ve realized that my faith supersedes denominational lines. I can learn so much more about different philosophies without being guilted into thinking I’m a heretic for simply studying different thinkers. I appreciate the social ramifications of liberation theology and I love the fine-tuned nature of big-God/near-God orthodox theology. I love my transcendent Lord but He is also an eminent God. He strengthens my heart out of religiosity that damns the intellect and He pushes me into a wholesome religion that loves God and neighbor. I’m hostile to the idea of marrying religion and political ideologies. I hate poor theology but I love and am patient with people who are ignorant of good theology. They’re teachable you know. My most biting words are reserved for my friends who are still stuck in neo-fundamentalist evangelicalism. I’m patient with my friends who are on the wall between mainline and fundamentalist evangelicalism. You shout too loud and they’ll become extremists and if you whisper too much they’ll forever stagnate in mainline circles.
I’m comfortable being labeled a ‘global evangelical’ as I worship and serve Christ wherever I go. I’m not limited to national superpowers like the United States of America or Israel. Today I’m comfortable condemning Israeli terrorism against Palestinians. Before I would have spat at the mention of these poor souls. Today I favor a democratic society that espouses a higher ethic that values the civil rights of all people, not just Christians.
My views about abortion are the same. I’m pro-life through and through, not just pro-birth. But even there, I fall and lean on pastor Skye Jethani’s idea, preferring a world where abortion is legal but morally wrong and unwanted than a world where we repress laws and allow for the fruition of back-alley abortions to persist. A world where people risk death to seek out an abortion because birthing the child will be the end of their lives and that of the baby.
I prefer to look to the root causes in society leading women to believe they need an abortion. What leads them to that state of mind? We’re so focused on the clinical procedure, which is horrific and barbaric, but seldom do we focus on the social, financial, and mental issues that precede this decision. I’m in favor of leading a whole nation to destroy the structures that make women think they have to end their pregnancies to work, pay rent, buy groceries, be financially stable, get a job and keep it, graduate from school, apply for school, and have medical care.
Like… why aren’t pro-lifers, mainly pro-birthers from neo-fundamentalist evangelicals tackling those issues as well? They’re more in favor of a big military instead of big health care. I’ve figured that it’s because the left and left-leaning churches and groups are focusing on these issues, therefore, by affiliation, these things are wrong to even consider.
As a neo-evangelical, I still believe in the Bebbington Quadrilateral definition of evangelicalism, namely, biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionsim, and activism by which to spread the first three.
But in my biblicism, I am no longer a biblical literalist. I read the Bible with wisdom, with new tools by which to help me investigate the text, the author’s meaning, his intent, his audience, the culture it was written within, the principles, laws, and religious rules and laws of the time of writing. I consider the geo-political struggles of the time of writing, surrounding nations and their writers and philosophers. I understand metaphors, historical narrative, prophetic literature, poetic literature, wisdom literature, apocalyptic or eschatological writings, pastoral epistles, and the gospels. I rely on the Holy Spirit for clarity and trust Him when I’m told to use the many tools of study available to me. Outside of these tools, I would be a literalist and an idiot. Like the idiot I was in neo-fundamentalist evangelicalism thinking America was at the top of the world and everything around us was the Mark of the Beast and the antichrist. Putin, Hussein, Osama, North Korean dictators, and whatnot. One of them was bound to be the antichrist, I guessed.
I cursed homosexuals and chided Muslims. I damned atheists to hell and mocked them. I understood little of the difference between theistic satanism and atheistic satanism and thought they were both one and the same. This ignorance and arrogance stunted my approachability.
I’ve condemned friends to hell. I’ve ostracized friends by referencing dreams of them wallowing in hell-fire and their immediate need to convert otherwise they would be doomed for eternity. This is how conversations about faith, Jesus, and the Bible went between teenage me and my teenage friends.
I was relentless in assuming everyone’s eternal condition after five minutes of debating them online or in person. Why would I leave any room for doubt when I knew more about them than God did?
Either way, the extremist ways of neo-fundamentalist evangelicalism destroyed my intellect, heightened my fear of non-Assembly of God Bethlehem Ministry Pentecostals, and ruined so many of my friendships thus tarnishing my witness of Christ.
Mainline evangelicalism taught me that so many believers can worship Jesus with their hearts, accept Him into their soul, worship Him and pray to Him in their quiet place, and then live morally duplicitous racist lives in the church and outside the church. Even the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke against moderate mainline believers who spoke so highly of Christ but turned a blind eye to Christ’s creation, namely, black people during the Civil Rights era.
But in neo-evangelicalism, I can seek Christ, preach about the cross, about death, about resurrection, about sin and redemption, and the next advent of my Lord. And in neo-evangelicalism, I can confront the plight of my neighbor, assist them in their troubles, challenge structures and systems that have been set up to oppress instead of emancipate. I can challenge local bodies, both religious and secular entities, to work together, ecumenically, to help everyone everywhere.
But if you think I’m naturally progressing through Graham’s stages of evangelicalism toward post-evangelicalism or apostasy, be assured, I am not.
I have escaped neo-fundamentalist evangelicalism and walked out of mainline evangelicalism, by God’s grace, but I am nowhere close nor am I attracted to post-evangelicalism.
I follow websites and threads written by exvangelicals, post-evangelicals, and former Christians, and depending on their motivation to deconstruct evangelicalism I have found that their results are bleak. They end up destroying their faith instead of deconstructing the cultural colonization of their Christianity. It’s sad to watch people punch holes in the boat that’ll carry them across the lake. They ought to fix their sails, not tear them to shreds. Their faith compass needs recalibration but many of them are shutting their airs and trusting fate to guide them to safer shores. Some have jumped ship altogether, having lost faith in the boat’s ability to keep them above water. And this without a safety vest.
At times I have found more people leaving evangelicalism out of hurt and trauma and in other instances because they prefer to live within an antinomian framework. A framework sapped of moral attitudes and ethics. They want Christ as God of the world but not as Lord of their lives. Meaning, everything goes as far as sinful patterns inasmuch as they can read their bibles to conform it to their momentary pleasures.
In that case, I’d say some of them have moved from monotheism in Christianity to therapeutic moralistic deism. It feels good, must be right, and God or gods is out there, in the ether, somewhere, maybe watching.
Post-evangelicalism can work if one deconstructs not from faith and Christ but from cultural Christianity. Namely, Brazilian-centric or United States of America-centric Christianity. White Christianity. Euro-centric Christianity. Pan-African Christianity. Etcetera.
But if you’re moving away from biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionsim, and activism, then what are you moving towards? I ask myself that same question from time to time. If I abandon the word, the cross, regeneration, and the work that goes into disseminating this message, then what am I moving into? What have I moved away from?
Is this not the gospel? Does the gospel supersede the Bebbington Quadrilateral of evangelicalism?
But does the gospel have to be post-evangelical? It can be. It was before the term was even coined and its meaning as we understand it today solidified.
But I am comfortable utilizing my brain, my soul, God’s Holy Spirit, His Word, the beauty and horror of the cross, and my giving up of myself for my family and my community.
And listen, that community is not and does not have to be a believing community.
Loving God with all my heart, soul, and mind, and my neighbor as myself does not mean that my neighbor needs to be a conservative Right-leaning Christian for me to love, serve, and possibly even die in service for them.
I Am A…
I am a neo-evangelical and God has rescued me from fundamentalism and delivered me from stagnant middle-stance, middle-class centric Christianity that accomplishes much while it accomplishes nothing in mainline evangelicalism.
I am not out of the clear until I reach heaven and that’s why from time to time I converse with my pastor, interacting with him about ideas, what comes next for evangelicals, what ideas, good or bad, will be sucked into the vacuum created by the absence of evangelicalism in our cultural sphere.
What happens when we remove Eurocentric theology from our schools and vernacular? What happens when we burn slave-holding Christian theology to ash? What happens when we begin to listen to the voices that have taken a backseat in literature and theology for the last five hundred years? Who are these voices? Are they white, male, wealthy, and western? Are they French, German, English, Swedish, Scottish, Irish, Dutch, or Swiss?
Are these voices evangelical at all?
These thoughts and questions plague my mind every time I venture to read scripture for my personal development and the development of my church community.
I am comforted by the continual presence of this voice of inquiry because it was absent for most of my life. I thank God for the inquisitive pull in my heart. Not the cynic and skeptic. My faith is firm and sound on the Rock of Christ but the in-betweens that have dimmed my understanding for so long are still to be discovered and challenged.
I need these thoughts and questions to dominate my headspace otherwise I’ll recrudesce to fundamentalist fearmongering and that’ll be the death of my intellect.
This cannot happen.
I am too conservative for my liberal friends and too liberal for my conservative friends. I’m politically homeless. A political vagabond moving from one political railroad car to the next, exploring the goods, acknowledging them, sharing them, and then leaving it for the next. Wherever I find errors and wrongs I attempt to address them with Christic love and when that fails I’m booted forward or backward into another car. Whither this train travels I know not but that it travels forward is without question.
The final station is of less importance to me because no matter where this train of political ideology stops it is still flawed and filled with holes, carrying broken people from one place to another, ever full and ever empty.
I love my Lord, I love my wife, I love our girls, and I love the Church of Christ. The Catholic (universal) Church of Jesus is not held nor constrained by walls and windows and doors. Nor denominational lines.
Are you not sure where you fall on this spectrum and you want to take a quick quiz to find out, hit this link. Towards the end of the page you will find the Evangelical Assessment Tool. Share your findings!
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
WARNING: This is a political, cultural, and religious post. Read at your own discretion.
*This mini-diatribe was written as a result of my watching avideo of American attorney, political commentator, and author, David French commenting on the state of American evangelical hypocrisy in voting for a candidate who not only misrepresents godly biblical character but tarnishes the name of Christ with impunity.*
Please watch his video for context.
David French, a voice of reason in the wilderness of our politically convoluted and criminally divisive culture extends an admonishment, a corrective response to Christians who willfully condemned moral failure in public office in 1998 but have soiled their witness in 2016 and will do so again in 2020 for a bowl of porridge.
The preservation of life and religious liberty notes are important factors but it is ludicrous to think one man and a few Supreme Court justices will reverse the tide of our times.
Christians, no, allow me to correct that moniker, otherwise, I sully the name of Christ.
White evangelicals within the United States have lost their witness to the world by voting for a vile and abusive bully who paid a porn star hush money to keep his affair a secret. This man is an incendiary dumpster fire of lies and for evangelicals to cast their hopes and dreams on his ballot is not only sacrilegious but in line with the religion of the people who vote him in.
Spoiler, it isn’t Christianity Proper.
Like the Christians of old who would praise God from high steeples come Sunday and later, on the same day, whip the backs of their slaves till the flesh was visible, are these evangelicals today?
Like the Christians of old who elected a chancellor into authoritarian rule over Germany in the name of national prosperity and ethnic preservation are these evangelicals who have sold their integrity for a bowl of capitalist comfort and peace porridge.
Whereas character superseded policy in 1998, today, policy supersedes character.
The days are gone, and perhaps this is a good thing, where people would approach an evangelical for honest work, integral judgment, transparent accounting, honorable effort, respectable circles of influence, meek and kind character, upstanding citizenry, patriotism that didn’t denounce or diminish foreigners, Christlike love of all men, women, and children, legal or illegal, law-abiding and preservers of the peace and moral framework of the society local and society as a whole.
Gone are those days.
Gone are the days where evangelicals could pull together, hold hands, and cross elbows to march against injustice everywhere. Where they would cross a bridge only to be met with batons and maul-ready police dogs. Where they would sit-in in silent protest against wrongs. Where they would decry injustice and discriminatory policies, politicians, statesmen, and ministers everywhere.
Gone is the evangelical witness because they have elected and look forward to re-electing a man who represents nothing of the Christ they so oft speak so kindly of.
If anyone were to ask where my allegiance on this political sphere lay I would tell them on neither of the candidates. I’m not condoning a world where I must accept one of two evils when I am in fact accepting an evil and am comfortable with that.
The difference is that in 2016 Trump was seen as a lesser of two evils by evangelicals and in a mere three, almost four years, he is a saint, a miracle worker, a pious, God-fearing, Christ-loving, bible holding a white man who wants nothing more than to bring Gods reign to earth.
How little is required for us to sell our soul in the name of policy?
Curious if Hitler were resurrected, forced onto a three-legged stool and forced to recite, “Pro-life and religious liberty!” If evangelicals would accept him.
I’m sure they would. “He has changed,” they say. “He’s for God and country now. He has my vote.”
If Pol Pot, Stalin, Idi Amin, Mussolini, or Castro were to stand on the plains of American evangelicalism and cite the same empty, pointless, and cyclical notes of modern-day evangelicals I am, without a shadow of a doubt, and to my great exasperation, ashamed to admit that white evangelicals would emphatically vote any if not all of them into an office and keep them there and maintain power and control of American politics until Christ’s return.
No wonder Christ, Himself, asked of his disciples, “When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on earth?”
He will. But not faith in Him. Faith will be on a politician who is a new messiah for American evangelicals.
All in all, the defense of Trumpism in evangelical circles today is just as embarrassing as Christians defending their right to own slaves in the antebellum south.
Anti-intellectualism is alive and well within evangelical America and it shows by how and who they vote for.
“Historian David Bebbington’s influential four-part description of evangelical essentials (the ‘Bebbington Quadrilateral’) tilts toward the theological – biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionism, and activism in spreading the first three. But separate from theology, American white evangelical Christianity has a political character that also boils down to four essential elements – Christian nationalism, Christian tribalism, political moralism, and antistatism. Call this the white evangelical political quadrilateral.”
Christians in America and it would seem also in Canada, need to distance themselves from the “either/or” fallacy of either conservatism or liberalism mindset.
The virulent and counter-productive dogma that has permeated through the western church is that all things “conservative” are Christian-based and all things “liberal” are essentially evil. This manner of thinking is incontemptible with healthy analytical reasoning. The opposite is just as damnable.
For the unbeliever, he must see us, followers of Christ, as people who transcend borders, policies, governments, and political ideologies to demonstrate the redemptive and regenerative work of Jesus Christ on earth.
We are to be representatives of God’s Son. People who seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly before their God. People who love God with all of their heart, mind, and soul and love their neighbor as much as they love themselves.
When Christianity is prey to nationalism, tribalism, political party lines, and other “isms” that diminish the person of Christ only to elevate local, federal, national ideals, it is no longer Christianity. It becomes a pseudo-theocratic institution where politicians perform the assignments of priests, political parties become religious institutions and the president becomes their prophet. And time allowing, by the power, respect, and praise ascribed to that individual leader, he or she then becomes the god and savior of that theo-political-religious identity.
Lest we forget, it was prophet Jeremiah who attempted, time and again, to turn a wayward people from their destructive ways and their response was: ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’
They believed God would never destroy their most holy temple and city, no matter how evil they became because they had a sacred institution to fall back on. Thus enter Nebuchadnezzar. God help us if we fall prey to the same mindset and say, “This is America! This is America! This is America!”