Where Are All the Black Evangelicals: The Rise of Woke Evangelicalism

Comments (8)
  1. Jaye Pool says:

    Good read – I’m glad I found this blog and site!

    Part of this discussion is understanding what these numbers actually mean. I’m intimately familiar with Gallup, Pew, and other national data sets, as I researched American Christianity (especially white evangelicals and black Protestants) before earning my PhD and leaving academia.

    The numbers that we’re seeing here in terms of black people labeled as “evangelical” is more due to how identification is classified than any dearth of black evangelicals. The way Gallup and other polling organizations classify “evangelical” in their data is most often by “belonging” rather than “belief.” Church denominations considered “evangelical” typically exclude historically Black denominations. Even when “belief” is used to define “evangelical,” black Christians are separated from the data and grouped as “black Protestants.”

    Why does this happen? Part of it is because black people are typically underrepresented in polling samples. So for statistical purposes, if you split us out, there aren’t enough of us for results involving black protestants to mean anything (low statistical significance / low-N for stats nerds reading this). The other reason is that due to the historical segregation of the American church (and it wasn’t just in the South!), there is some utility / purpose in splitting out black denominations from white ones. I know it definitely helped to have the data structured this way when I did my research for theoretical purposes. It does have the downside of missing the nuances and diversity in black American Christianity, though.

    If we look at specialized data on doctrinal and theological beliefs, there tends to be a great deal in common between black Protestants (as defined by the pollsters) and white evangelicals. So I would agree that there are a lot more black evangelicals than the data would show. It’s just that the 6 percent are likely black evangelicals attending white evangelical churches/denominations.

  2. Padremcfly says:

    John, I have read this and tried to understand. I have some questions: 1) What are the social justice “ends” ?; 2) I was deployed to Turkey for a year with the military. I toured many areas: Galatia, Colossae, Philippi, Neopolis, Cappadocia, etc. The origin of Orthodoxy was defined there – by people of color. As it moved East and West it did not change (until 1054 over one clause in the Nicene-Constantinople Creed). So how do you claim that “white evangelicals” defined “Orthodoxy?” What does that mean? What elements of the historical Orthodoxy, defined by people of color, as it came West are you saying are incorrect? 3) I don’t think Urban monikers are helpful. Saying one is “woke” is not only broken language (which will diminish its impact), it will become a “trigger” for Caucasian (not white. No one is the color of your computer screen) evangelicals. It will be resisted before its heard. These are sincere questions.

  3. E L says:


    Paul the apostle said in I Corinthians 10:23-11:1, “follow (some translations say imitate) me as I follow (imitate) Christ”. The real problem as I see it: What reliable bible translation do you read that can define what an evangelical is? Or is the case that “evangelicals” are trying to define what a Christian is. I refer you to Matthew 16:13-20, John 3:16 and Romans 10:8-13.

    Perhaps the real reason every “traditional” Christian Church is the USA (and most likely in most Western Christian nations) are shrinking is that we are not heeding the call to “Go” and “Lo” in Matthew 28, Mark 16 and Acts 1-28. I’m referring to “evangelism” not being an “evangelical”. Evangelism is biblical, evangelical is……???? You decide.

    The only way that I know to define who a Christian is to obediently hear the call Jesus the Christ to His first disciples in Matthew 4:18-22: “Follow Me, and I will make you followers of men.”

    Christian Hymn: “They will know that we are Christians by our love (I Corinthians 13)”. I’d say that sounds like a pretty good indicator. Don’t you think?
    If my memory serves me right (I’ll look it up after this brief post),
    one of the five “Solas” is, “Christ and Christ Alone (Martin Luther)”. I guess this is much too complex for today’s evangelical (and some traditional) Protestant, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox or Non-Denominational theologians. Perhaps this is why we have such a high number of None’s within every cultural division in our society today. Lot’s of confusion about who Jesus really is (Matthew 16:13-20).

    As one of my young bright campus ministry students once reminded me, some smart professors and educated administrators at one of the local universities, “Only Jesus Saves (Romans 10:8-13)!” She seems to be doing well living the Christian life in these very tough times.

    How do I spell justice? J-O-Y. Jesus-O-Yes. Thanks for the stimulating read!

    Be blessed during Advent/Christmas!

  4. Blake says:

    The moment you define orthodoxy as some how the possession of whites you lost me. It is an excellent way to smuggle in heresy through the postmodern use of oppression narratives. Pardon my skepticism about tearing down ideas not because of their truth or falsity but because of the feels.

  5. Toviyah says:

    We give billions of dollars to Israel while it provides government funded abortions. Pro-Life Hyporcrisy? (p.s. google still works, try it)


  6. B says:

    By the numbers and placement of service providers, abortion is absolutely a racial issue that disproportionately affects black babies. May the new black evangelicals challenge liberal orthodoxy where it counts too. I say that because “wokeness” relates to the social justice/critical race theory/neomarxist/liberation theology wave that typically adheres to leftist ideas without always considering their racist underpinnings or unintended consequences.

  7. Steven Douglas says:

    Mr. Richards,
    First of all I want to thank you for sharing the struggles and the lament of brothers and sisters in Christ; and also for your thorough definitions. I am in agreement with your assessment of the situation.

    As an Evangelical who happens to be white and from the ‘burbs, but who grew up with black friends and intimately familiar with a different viewpoint, I am left with internally competing reactions.

    On one hand, I can acknowledge that black voices have often not been at the Evangelical table, and white interests (which you have graciously pointed out are not always intended to be white interests) have often carried the conversations. On the other hand, this is deeper than disinclusion by whites. In my experience of the situation I have seen at least as strong of an internal black movement away from Evangelical theology among black brothers and sisters toward charismatic movements and toward prosperity theology. Many who have been interested in racial reconciliation recommended I stay away from the study of theology. They saw something inherently divisive about it. I have to say, given our shared history, that isn’t surprising. But we need to acknowledge there are some fundamental interests that are in competition that prevent many attempts at reconciliation and movement forward together – from both sides.

    Also, as with the critics you mentioned in your article, I am gun-shy about borrowing from Black Lives Matter and other interest groups. They are recognizing a problem, but their solution is not necessarily based in the Bible. When BLM requires reparations and suggests punching white people who are not immediately supportive in the face (because they are white, and because they are not supportive of giving away their resources), we have a racially-motivated, angst-fueling condition that demands others submit. That is as unchrist-like as white people who demand black people submit to their rules. The way we communicate needs to change, but I’m not sure borrowing from Ta-Nahesi Coates and BLM is the answer.

    As I have told my white friends and family members, it will require giving up feelings of white superiority and assumptions about how we need to do things, and a giving up of white culture in favor of Jesus’ new culture (which are not the same), but it will require the same of black people too.

    I’ll admit it is convenient to say that as a white person, and in this case the color of my skin gets in the way. There is so much pain. But my continued hope is that we will remain together and not divided, that we can truly learn from each other, and voices like Le Crae’s, and yours, will be valued among Evangelicals of every color and commitment. May we follow Jesus, not culture. May we not have divisions among us. May we find common brotherhood in the Spirit, beyond blood, recognizing we both are wild olive shoots grafted into a wholly other, cultivated trunk. And may we find a love for each other that basks in the love that Christ has for all of us which makes us so satisfied in Him that we need not hang onto any other identity.

    In sincere love and brotherhood,
    Steve Douglas

  8. Carla says:

    Black Evangelicals are where we have always been. We are in our homes, communities, and churches spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. We don’t have time to worry about labels (woke, Evangelical, or even “black”). We are at work trying to reach an increasingly lost generation and hopefully the generations that will come after them. We are not concerned with our platform, book deals, or church obligations the way so many white Evangelicals are. This is not to say that white Evangelicals are not at work. However, so many seem to be much more concerned about their title as Evangelical than actually being an Evangelical. When I was in the 7th grade a man I only know to this day as Brother Gary came to our home. He asked my mother, who was a Christian, if he could speak to my older brother. Brother Gary was the friend of my brother’s schoolmate. My brother was having problems at school and his friend thought Brother Gary might help. I sat at the dining room table doing my homework, pretending not to listen to the conversation between my older brother and this mysterious stranger who came out of nowhere seemingly. My mother had five children and a raging alcoholic husband. We were impoverished and abused. My father forbade my mother to attend church or to take us to church. Our mother taught us to read the Bible, pray, and obey God but beyond her influence, we did not know God. God, using a 9th grade girl, sent Brother Gary to our home. Brother Gary got straight to the point with my brother and asked him if he died tonight what would he say to God when he got to heaven. My brother said he did not know. Brother Gary told my brother that he could know and proceeded to share the gospel with him. He prayed with my brother and gave him some Bible materials to read. He then turned his attention to me and went through the same sharing with me. I can’t say I became saved that day. But the seed my mother planted was helped along quite a bit by Brother Gary that day. Somehow this man with the serious face and wonderful message drove my mother’s words about the love and faithfulness of Christ deeper into my heart and spirit. Over the years I saw Brother Gary all over town with the same tattered Bible that he’d read to me from in his hand. The Bible tracts and handouts were still hanging out of his Bible and his worn briefcase. I saw him at city hall, the hospital, or and at the bus station. This man spent his life walking the streets of my small, impoverished, midwestern town reaching into the minds and hearts of young black kids just like me. He was not eloquent, very educated, well-known, or rich. But he was an Evangelical yet never called himself anything other than ‘Brother Gary.’ He literally went out every day to feed Jesus’ flock. There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of ‘Brother Garys’ all over the black community. They are hard at work without resources, college degrees, or titles to make themselves appear a certain way to others. As an African American woman I wear many labels, none of my choosing, to be honest. I refuse to worry about if white people (or any people) think I or my brothers or sisters out here working to get spread the Good News are woke or evangelical. There are more black Evangelicals out here than you’d think. They’re usually not the types that the Gallup poll or Christian polling outfits call but they are there. God bless you for what you do. Please don’t get sidetracked by labels, titles, or foolish musings about these things. Sadly the title of Evangelical has been usurped by a powerful and divisive political organization that has far, far, more damage than good.

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