White Evangelicalism At The Protest

The protest against the brutal police treatment of black people in Grand Rapids Saturday night was a profoundly Christian moment. People came together and walked shoulder to shoulder from across ethnic, racial, and gender lines, and from every social class. They peacefully and passionately advocated on behalf of the powerless to the powerful.

It was the social performance of Jesus’s action in the temple.

As we neared police headquarters, we saw that a street evangelist had set up shop. He stood apart from the crowd by a few feet and had a banner behind him. He was white, maybe 60.

When chants died down near him, he raised his hands to make his pitch. People ignored him and routinely drowned him out with cries of “No justice, no peace!” and “George Floyd, say his name!”

I’d never seen the man before but I know him well. I was raised in the same white conservative evangelical culture that produced him.

He perfectly embodied that culture Saturday night. It’s a culture that encounters Jesus and does not recognize him. It sees the social embodiment of Christian faith and wants to save it. It witnesses the gospel in action and stands off to the side. It waits for the cries for justice to die down so it can make its sales pitch.

Sarah leaned over to me and said she wanted to tell the man that if Jesus were here he would say George Floyd’s name.

Indeed, Jesus was there and that’s exactly what he was doing.

4 thoughts on “White Evangelicalism At The Protest

    1. Pam

      Ahhhh yes. Evangelicals would rather be known for having spread the gospel than be known for loving others. Ouch.

  1. Roger Medd

    This story uses a classic strawman (street evangelist) that you can easily knock down. We all know street evangelists are not representative of evangelicals as a whole. Why not use Samaritans Purse, or the amazing response of Saddleback Church to feed people during these hard times while also sharing hope in Jesus name. It’s a lot more redemptive than simply walking and yelling the same phrase repeatedly and serving as a pawn in a larger political agenda. Will you speak with the same pride after walking in a protest against killing of the unborn? Or does that not fit your political comfort zone?

    1. timgombis

      I’m glad that there are evangelicals who are doing good, especially in these challenging times. But, for the most part, white evangelicalism–as it is manifest in churches and organizations–has sat on the sidelines and not exercised a prophetic voice to advocate for God’s vision of justice. And when it comes to the unborn, evangelicals have not envisioned political strategies that flow from our identity as the church of God in the world, choosing rather to seek political power. Evangelicals have a problem of an idolatry of political power and of a distorted view of the Supreme Court and have not done the work to imagine how they might act specifically as Christians.

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