Part 4: Inspecting The Wall
Toward A Recapitulation of Faith and Faithfulness Amongst Black Students in Racialized American Society.
The Task Before Us
My mentor, the late James Baldwin, said it best.
“To be Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time”.
The daily experiences of micro-aggression, micro-invalidations, and microinsults send messages to Black Americans that go beyond character judgments. These experiences have an ontological impact.
The treatment and subconscious assumptions about Blackness over centuries of overt and covert racism have permeated much of the church. White evangelicals have consistently taken a posture of color blindness and indifference in the face of global outcries against police brutality and the rise of white nationalism.
Due largely to the overwhelming support of Donald Trump by evangelicals during the 2016 U.S. Election, the Barna Group conducted a study called Black Lives Matter and Racial Tension in America. The research showed that the church is a large part of the problem with conciliation efforts in our country.
According to Brooke Hemphill, Vice President of Research at Barna Group, “if you are white, evangelical, Republican, you are less likely to think race is a problem, but more likely to think you are a victim of reverse racism. You are also less convinced that people of color are socially disadvantaged.”
“More than any other segment of the population, White Evangelical Christians demonstrate a blindness to the struggle of their African American brothers and sisters.”
Robert P. Jones echoes these sentiments in his fantastic work, White Too Long,
American Christianity’s theological core has been thoroughly structured by an interest in protecting white supremacy. While it may seem obvious to mainstream white Christians today that slavery, segregation, and overt declarations of white supremacy are antithetical to the teachings of Jesus, such a conviction is, in fact, recent and only partially conscious for most white American Christians and churches. The unsettling truth is that, for nearly all American history, the Jesus conjured by most white congregations was not merely indifferent to the status quo of racial inequality; he demanded its defense and preservation as part of the natural, divinely ordained order of things. 
Today’s ministry practitioners, like Nehemiah in his day, do well to shift questions from what to why. This is the purpose of the Babylon exile in Israel’s history. The knowledge and revelation of God they possessed was not enough to withstand the contemporary landscape and pressure. YHWH sent the prophets to guide and make sense of what was happening, but it ultimately boiled down to a need for reformation. In her book The Great Emergence, Phyllis Tickle argues that Christianity is currently undergoing a massive upheaval as part of a regular pattern that occurs every 500 years, in which old ideas are rejected and new ones emerge. These new ideas are the basis for a recapitulated expression of faith.
The Black religions that have emerged filled gaps that the previous theological explanations inadvertently created. At the time, God raised up prophets of truth from outside the Christian Church tradition to challenge the current expression of faith.
As in Nehemiah's day, the arduous work of rebuilding the ruins of Christianity's relevance and splendor stands before the people of God today. As in that day, foundational acts of truth-telling and repentance are paramount to the process.