To my white Evangelical family:

You birthed me and raised me and gave me principles and sent me out into the world. I owe my character development to you. But now you’ve gone insane.

I’ll just say this: a man, woman, or child does not need to be perfect in order to be treated as a human being who, according to our theology, bears the Imago Dei — the image of God. We were taught as Evangelicals to believe that all human beings are gloriously unique and valuable. This is embedded into our very theology of the Incarnation: we believe that Jesus was — and is! — not only God Eternal but Man incarnate. He didn’t take on a body like a costume. He was and is fully man as well as fully God. And as the confession says, “For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven.” Not just white Evangelicals.

I’m grieved, shocked, and horrified that in the past few weeks three more Black men have been shot down by the police.

All human beings bear the image of God in our lives, and that means that we are to cherish and love and protect and respect everyone. This is a call on all our lives. All of us. And we are bearers of that image in the bodies that are us, as unique creations of the God who made us and loved us and gave His dearest son for us.

We need not be faultless in order to be granted the dignity of our human, civil rights. We need not be without stain in order to be treated with love and respect.

And we do not need to be white or faultless in order to not be shot down by the police for actions that are well within the range of normal human behavior when confronted by stress.

I’m grieved, shocked, and horrified that in the past few weeks three more Black men have been shot down by the police.

Trayford Pellerin.

Anthony McCain.

Jacob “Jake” Blake. (Jacob, who survived the seven shots in his back and is in recovery in a hospital, is now paralyzed from the waist down.)

These men should not have to prove that they are sinless in order to be treated as human beings. They should not be required in the moral economy to prove their worth in a crisis lest they be killed, and their deaths should not be dismissed justified because “well, in the past they committed crimes.” Their relatives should not be required to prove that these men were beloved and wanted. Their communities should not be required to dredge up proof that counters the things that we Evangelicals have been dredging up from who-knows-where. These men were worth loving, worth cherishing, worth their very human life.

A man, woman, or child does not need to be perfect in order to be treated as a human being who, according to our theology, bears the Imago Dei — the image of God.

We white Evangelicals have thoroughly messed up our understanding of Jesus of Nazareth and the Kin-dom he announced that he was building. We’ve entirely screwed up our understanding of the relationship between power and truth. We’ve gotten it 100% wrong in seeking to rule the Empire rather than serve the broken people in this world according to the model of Our Lord.

And holy moly how much we have gotten it wrong when we worship the police and justify their killing of Black human beings.

Now, if we research the formation of the white Evangelical religion, we’re going to find a lot of white supremacy and anti-Black racism. It’s there, in black and white, and it’s easy enough to find. Take a look at Jonathan Edwards, who was a white slaver. Or George Whitefield, who pushed to legalize enslavement in Georgia in order to fund his orphanage. Or, in the modern era, Jerry Falwell, Sr. who declared that the eternal separation of white people and Black people was his God’s divine plan.

But that past should not control us.

We have gotten it wrong when we worship the police and justify their killing of Black human beings.

We can choose to take what is good from our faith traditions — a belief in individual responsibility for our own selves, a belief that we can have a connection with God, a belief in the reality of Jesus as a man born, raised, and killed in the time of the Roman Empire for all humanity— and expose our racist past that by design and by desire has corrupted our view of Black human beings, all of whom are part of that Beloved Community of God’s creation.

You made me what I am, white Evangelicals. I’m from you and I see you and I understand you. I’m simply trying to still live out what that faith means.

Photo by Topich on Unsplash

And so, I am urging you, as someone who comes from you, to turn away from hatred and fear and panic. If the Jesus whom we worship and follow was able to equally love the people of God and the rejected of society, then we can, with the same grace and power that he held, also love our neighbors as ourselves.

I believe that’s in the Book somewhere. Maybe we’re supposed to follow that.


Top photo by Judith Prins on Unsplash