White Christians: Can I trust you?
By Ulysses W. Burley, III
Lately, I’ve found myself not wanting to be associated with christians. Not Christianity—nothing’s wrong with Christianity or Christ for that matter—but Christians. I’ve just been disappointed with so-called “people of the way” who have recently shown that their way and mine are markedly different, even though we say the way begins and ends at the same place—Christ.
Christians doing unchristian-like things in the name of Christianity is nothing new however. From the Christian Crusades to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 in Great Britain, the Tripura rebellion, the religious violence in Odisha, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland and their religious cleansing in Manipur—all in India, the sectarian violence against Muslim civilians by Anti-balaka Christian militants in Central African Republic and Maronite Christian militias in Lebanon, the Orange Volunteers in Northern Ireland, and The Lord’s Resistance Army led by infamous Joseph Kony in Uganda, to the Ku Klux Klan in the United States whose early goals included reestablishing Protestant Christian values in America “by any means possible,” the history of Christians being unChristian-like abounds.
That’s what makes us Christians, right? Our brokenness and fallibility is generally understood to be a result of our separation from Christ. It’s my separation from these historical events and actors in Christianity that allows me personal comfort in my present day faith. They are not me. I am not them. Every thing that is good today was not necessarily good yesterday. “This is not Christianity today,” I tell myself, until Dylan Roof, a Christian baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran Church just like me, walks into a historically black church and murders, in cold blood, other Christians who welcomed him or until confronted by the likes of Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine killers; James Eagan Holmes, the Aurora, Colorado theater shooter; and Dennis Rader, the BTK serial killer, who was even the church council president. The list goes on.
While I’m not sure what any of this means exactly, I have been examining my faith a lot lately as it relates to other people who claim to believe what I believe, who were ostensibly taught what I was taught about the gospel, by the church. Is this Christianity today? Is this my Christianity?
I feel guilty by association. Particularly in the wake of the last 1.5 years of politics and subsequent election of Donald J. Trump as president, thanks to a heavy lift from 81% of white evangelical “born again” Christians, people from whom I am not that separated. People who I am very connected to and with whom I share the gospel. Was it you? Or was it you?
I feel guilty by association. While my personal faith is in no way dependent upon other people, I find myself not wanting to be associated with people with whom I allegedly share the same God, who are capable of committing such unGodly acts, or capable of committing to such an unGodly candidate who is now president of the United States.
I just wonder which part of the gospel, or which message of God’s grace, they heard over their lifetime that was different from what I’ve heard and internalized over mine? I’m questioning everything and everyone these days. I thought we left THOSE Christians in the past with history—in some far away land and even further away from God.
Yet, we are right here. You are right here. History repeats itself.
Then I look in the mirror. Can I, a black man in America trust you, the 81% of white evangelical “born again” Christians whom I’ve embraced as my brother and sister in Christ for the better part of the last decade, despite our very different interpretations of what it means to be “evangelical”? Can I? Can I trust you not to kill me like members of Mother Emanuel AME Church trusted Dylan Roof not to do when they opened the doors of the church to him?
I have no problem with white people. I can deal with racist white people. However, I’m terrified of Christian white people who have weaponized their faith to other the other instead of loving the other.
Can I trust you not to hurt me, the women I love, the Muslims in which I share tea, the disabled for which I offer care, or the LGBTQ to which I advocate, or the foreigner I welcome into my home, unlike the president and cabinet we just inaugurated? Can I trust you?
God didn’t. God didn’t trust us to love our neighbors as ourselves because God understood that some of us didn’t even love ourselves. So God sent Christ to give us a new covenant to love our neighbors as God first loved us. In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he affirms me, the poor, the mournful, the meek, the merciful, the pure of heart, the persecuted, and #blacklivesmatter.
For that, I still trust Christ but Christians? Lately, I find myself not wanting to be associated with Christians, especially white Christians. While I’m not sure what that means exactly, I have been examining my faith a lot as it relates to other people who claim to believe what I believe and who were taught what I was taught by the church; yet, who are capable of committing such unGodly acts or capable of committing to such an unGodly candidate who is now president—and I’m having a hard time trusting some of you these days.
So while we’ve been busy trying to put “Christ back in schools,” “Christ back in Christmas,” or even “Christ back in the White House” as if He took a sabbatical when the Obamas took office, we should have been more focused on putting Christ back in Christians because I haven’t seen Him there for some time now.
This article is an adaption of an article originally published at The Salt Collective.
Follow Ulysses III on Facebook and Instagram|@ubthecure and Twitter|@ulyssesburley or visit his website www.ubthecure.com.