White evangelicals are trying to rewrite their racist past as nationwide Black Lives Matter protests gain support and reshape policies.
The Mississippi Baptist Convention has pushed for that state to remove Confederate symbols from that state flag, and white evangelicals are being called to support demonstrations against police brutality and racism -- without confronting their movement's historic bigotry, according to Washington Monthly's Nancy LeTourneau.
"[Federalist managing editor Joshua] Lawson is right to suggest that there were white Christian leaders in the abolitionist movement, such as John G. Fee," LeTourneau wrote. "But one of the founders of Christian nationalism as we know it today was Robert Lewis Dabney, an anti-abolitionist, who argued that opposing slavery was 'tantamount to rejecting Christianity.' He is perhaps best known for developing a pro-slavery theology that fused religion with a racialized form of nationalism."
While Black Christians -- including Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy, Fred Shuttlesworth, Hosea Williams, James Lawson and John Lewis -- were civil rights leaders, their white counterparts often slowed progress or opposed racial justice outright.
"The truth is that, while King lived, the best he got from white evangelicals Christians was distance, and the worst was outright condemnation," LeTourneau wrote. "The Civil Rights Movement of the 60s wasn’t seen as something to be embraced in the spirit of brother/sisterly love, but as a threat to the established order."
LeTourneau applauded white evangelicals opening their eyes anew to systemic racism, but she said they must take an honest look at history before working toward the future.
"White evangelicals who are willing to open their minds and hearts to the struggle for equality in this country are to be commended," she wrote. "But a big part of that process is learning from history and not making the same mistakes as those who came before us."