Two former evangelical Christians recounted that it was racism, rather than a crisis of faith, that led them to cut ties with their fundamentalist churches.
Patheos’ Sarahbeth Caplin described in a Friday op-ed how reading another ex-evangelical’s musings on the church’s race failings recalled her own experiences with white supremacy in church.
In a coming-of-age story published by BuzzFeed earlier in the week that Caplin cited, Nigerian-American writer and editor Tomi Obaro wrote about her “zeal for the trenchant conservative politics of white evangelical America” — and the realizations that led her to leave that world behind.
In the wake of Christian right support for failed Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, Obaro wrote, “it’s clear that the story of evangelical Christianity in the US and, to be honest, the world, has often included ruthless white supremacy. There was never really any place for someone like me.”
Evangelicals, Obaro continued, viewed racism as a “personal failing” that “didn’t seem to matter in comparison to the horror of abortion or the perceived impending threat of same-sex marriage.”
“Evangelicals like to preach that we are all one in Christ,” Caplin wrote, “but sadly, they don’t often know what to do with people like Obaro who don’t quite fit the typical mold. From portraying Mary, Joseph, and Jesus with Aryan features in art, to whitewashing the history of indigenous peoples in homeschooling textbooks, Christianity has a long and unfortunate racist legacy.”
Rather than leaving Christianity entirely, both Obaro and Caplin instead joined more progressive churches after realizing, as the former wrote, “there could be a form of Christian faith that recognized these injustices.”
“I’ve attended evangelical churches for most of my adult life, and it wasn’t until I found an Episcopal church that I heard a sermon about Black Lives Matter — and how white Christians should take ownership of their racist history,” Caplin wrote. “There are progressive strands of the faith that are starting to address these issues, but doing so means running the risk of offending parishioners who likely don’t see themselves as racist. That’s a chance that more pastors should be willing to take, since Jesus offended people all the time.”