The Church

Confronting Pharaoh: Why We Won’t Go Quietly

Earon James

My pastor and mentor taught me there is a vast difference between a father and a pharaoh. A father gives freely, seeks to enable the next generation, and enthusiastically celebrates the success of others. He cares for, listens to, and empathizes with others. A father labors to empower others to even surpass him in impact and influence. A father sees this as a blessing and not as a threat.

Not so with a pharaoh. A pharaoh seeks to perpetuate the dynamics of oppression. A pharaoh’s values are based on the illusory foundation of hierarchy and superiority. There is no progression. Much energy is devoted to instituting systems designed to subjugate the so-called inferior. The spewed rhetoric serves only to foster fear and mistrust so that the dysfunctional status quo can be maintained. Oddly enough, this is all done with warm smiles and heartfelt calls for unity.

Norms and Mannerisms

At first glance, the father and the pharaoh are hard to tell apart but I’ve found that controversy is a major element in revealing the distinction between the two.

Fathers are tenderhearted and quick to repent. Pharaohs resist the move of God’s Spirit and actively make life more difficult for the oppressed. When confronted by prophetic witnesses, pharaohs resolve to conserve power and cultural norms. Those who dare to speak truth to power and resist the cultural norms are branded as divisive and antagonistic to the gospel. Theology is weaponized by pharaohs to keep minorities and women in their places of silence and impotence. It is constantly implied, and, in some contexts, it is plainly spoken that white is right.

In these environments, black men are covertly conditioned to dismiss their heritage and to view black and brown skin with suspicion. We feel a need to tone down our God-given personalities and styles for more “respectable” mannerisms. This has tragically perpetuated the marginalization and abuse of black women.

The jaded lenses of Euro-centric cultural norms and standards have blinded us to the value, intelligence, courage, resolve, virtue, and beauty of black women. Many times, brave black women have been left alone in the cold of battle while black men enjoy the warmth of our proximity to power and whiteness.

Holy Defiance

Pharaohs preach in pulpits every Sunday, lead seminaries, serve as professors, write for popular theological blogs, chair local church committees, and head associations. They speak at major national conferences, drive the agendas of state conventions, and possess the audacity to pay homage to civil rights and black history.

Please allow me to draw a couple of parallels between the exodus of the Hebrew people from Egypt and the current state of affairs within white evangelicalism. I take biblical interpretation very seriously and I believe that the book of Exodus bears certain implications for us today.

The first parallel that I would like to draw is that the descendants of Israel did not go quietly. Pharaoh the man and the demonic forces at work were confronted by God’s truth and God’s power, saying, “Let my people go!” It was the power of God at work, crushing the evil principalities and powers while showing himself to be the strong and mighty deliverer that he is. God is glorified in the liberation of his people.

I am writing this because I hold the conviction that black people’s exodus must not be silent. I call for the modern-day prophetic witnesses to rise up. I make my appeal to the sisters who have a prophetic word burning in their hearts. Many of you are already speaking, writing, and blazing the trail for us to follow all while enduring attacks on your bodies, character, and faith.

I challenge my brothers to forsake the comforts of silence and conformity. During the Pass the Mic podcast that went in depth on the NY Times article by Campbell Robertson, Tyler Burns used the term “holy defiance.” I believe that our holy defiance begins with fervent prayer because our warfare is spiritual. If we neglect the fact that it is spiritual wickedness at work in some of these white evangelical spaces, then we have already lost. However, I also believe that fervent prayer gives birth to fervent resistance. It is looking a pharaoh squarely in the eyes and saying, “Let God’s people go!”

A Time to Sift

The second parallel we can draw is that the Egyptians were plundered by the Israelites.

Please do not read what I am not writing.

I am making the case that God did not just defeat Pharaoh, but he also dealt with the structure of Egypt itself. After the exodus, Egypt was left in a weaker state. My point is that if/when we leave, we are not leaving empty-handed. Our exit needs to be felt deeply and I am not speaking of carnal vengeance.

I am talking about a public prophetic witness so strong that it literally creates a dividing line. Sometimes controversy is necessary because it has a sifting effect, a revealing effect (1 Cor. 11:19). If the structures we are in are unsafe and oppressive then we need to actively subvert them in such a way that leaves them weaker and exposed for what they really are.

It also means that we stand for a model of repentance and restitution that reflects what is taught in Scripture. We need to fall in line with what John the Baptist said and bring forth the actual fruit of repentance.

Evangelicalism has mastered the art of verbal expression void of significant action. Public declarations of sorrow ring hollow when there is no systematic restructuring. We must refuse to allow ourselves to be pawns used in the game of public relations. Who cares about improving public image when all that is being done is putting a softer touch on white nationalism and racism?

I would like to offer one final word of encouragement.

I know that at this point we may have more questions than answers. The wilderness is not a place of comfort. It is a proving ground where we learn how to trust the Lord to be our protector, provider, and sustainer.

We have much more to say, write, and do so I will leave you with this: Pioneering is hard but it is worth it because it is far better to be a liberated pioneer than it is to be a settler in slavery.

20 thoughts on “Confronting Pharaoh: Why We Won’t Go Quietly

  1. Querida Duncalfe

    Thank you for your perspective and fearlessness. This piece resonated deeply with me and encourages me to know that I am not alone and indeed have been called for such a time as this. Bless you for this and your continued work.

  2. david

    Adam – the funny thing is you’re literally on a website w/ multiple answers

    the real question is why are you committed to darkening your heart to the answers

    and while you darken your heart, the consequences outlined in this article and others about separation are what will happen

  3. Gabriella Nagy

    Hello Dear! I am a white people. BUT, is does not mater at all! The only thing, what i would like to say is, in His kingdom there is nothing to do with the colour! Christianity is not linked to any skin colour at all. I agree with You.
    The heart, the inner man, the thinking and acting by His Words will experience, where we are in a Christian life. Please do not fallow white people, black people, any colour …Only ONE person worthy to fallow! JESUS CHRIST, by His Words. by His Spirit!

  4. Breana

    I can tell you heard some things.. Satan doesn’t have a realm. I don’t take slaves. People who attempt to enslave GOD with prayers become slaves.

  5. Breana Campbell

    Your source for information is wrong.

  6. Harry

    Amen

    If anything, Pharaoh is the white Leftists of the Democrat Party who are dependent on the Black vote for survival.
    When elections come around they give a lot of attention & make promises to the Black community.
    After the election they are nowhere to be found.
    The only race where over 90% of it’s people vote the same party. (That is voter enslavement)
    When this is challenged, the black leaders build a Golden Calf (set up by the White Liberal Democrats) to give them small crumbs that end up destroying the Black Family by ridding the FATHER & making all more dependent on them.
    Over 60 years of Pharaoh’s complete rule & things have not improved.
    Yet every time there is a small rebellion of those who want to be freed from Pharaoh rule, the elders remind their people how good it is in Pharoh’s plantation & too leave it is too dangerous.
    “Who will save you then, surely not the Republicans” “You Have no other choice but to go back”

    It is God the Father who offers Freedom thru Christ his Son by the Power of the Holy Spirit
    The Father who uses Grace & Mercy to set our souls Free, but also expects his children to show the same towards one another in Christ
    The Father who wants to transform the heart, renew the mind & set the captive Free in Pharaohs Plantation & thru out satan’s realm
    But one can not be set Free if one does not see themselves enslaved (manipulated) by Pharaoh

    It’s a LEAP of FAITH into the large baron desert where only then God can lead us to the Promise Land
    The length of wandering in the Desert is depended on:
    -The Forgiveness of our transgressors replaces all anger & bitterness towards them
    -When the Promise of the Lord’s Future replaces the evil memories of the past
    -When our Identity in Christ replaces identity in race, social stature, words or any worldly gain
    -When living as children in the Family of God replaces living in a fatherless broken family
    -When Trust & Love for our Spiritual Brothers & Sisters of all races replaces ALL distrust, disappointment & any lingering hate of white sisters & brothers

    Pharaoh’s heart hated God/Heart of the Democrat party wants to get rid of God from it’s platform

    Satan seeks to divide & devour the Children of God
    The Father Calls His Children to be Light of the World, the more we are united the Brighter we shine

    Choose Whom You will Serve

    14-Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve the LORD.

    15-And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell:
    * but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
    -Joshua 24:14-15

  7. Harry

    Please read fully before juding…

    Pharaoh is the white Leftists of the Democrat Party who are dependent on the Black vote for survival.
    When elections come around they give a lot of attention & make promises to the Black community.
    After the election they are nowhere to be found.
    The only race where over 90% of it’s people vote the same party. (That is voter enslavement)
    When this is challenged, the black leaders build a Golden Calf (set up by the White Liberal Democrats) to give them small crumbs that end up destroying the Black Family by ridding the FATHER & making all more dependent on them.
    Over 60 years of Pharaoh’s complete rule & things have not improved.
    Yet every time there is a small rebellion of those who want to be freed from Pharaoh rule, the elders remind their people how good it is in Pharoh’s plantation & too leave it is too dangerous.
    “Who will save you then, surely not the Republicans” “You Have no other choice but to go back”

    It is God the Father who offers Freedom thru Christ his Son by the Power of the Holy Spirit
    The Father who uses Grace & Mercy to set our souls Free, but also expects his children to show the same towards one another in Christ
    The Father who wants to transform the heart, renew the mind & set the captive Free in Pharaohs Plantation & thru out satan’s realm
    But one can not be set Free if one does not see themselves enslaved (manipulated) by Pharaoh

    It’s a LEAP of FAITH into the large baron desert where only then God can lead us to the Promise Land
    The length of wandering in the Desert is depended on:
    -The Forgiveness of our transgressors replaces all anger & bitterness towards them
    -When the Promise of the Lord’s Future replaces the evil memories of the past
    -When our Identity in Christ replaces identity in race, social stature, words or any worldly gain
    -When living as children in the Family of God replaces living in a fatherless broken family
    -When Trust & Love for our Spiritual Brothers & Sisters of all races replaces ALL distrust, disappointment & any lingering hate of white sisters & brothers

    Pharaoh’s heart hated God/Heart of the Democrat party wants to get rid of God from it’s platform

    Satan seeks to divide & devour the Children of God
    The Father Calls His Children to be Light of the World, the more we are united the Brighter we shine

    Choose Whom You will Serve

    14-Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve the LORD.

    15-And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell:
    * but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
    -Joshua 24:14-15

  8. Frank

    I think the author is assuming a whole lot of ill-will on the part of white Christians. To put it mildly, that’s beyond silly.

  9. h l munsey

    i am a black, and we need to stop focusing on trying to make (white people as a whole) LIKE us. racism will be over when JESUS CHRIST makes everything new. yes there are political issues and social issues that we can speak against, but it shouldn’t be our focus. focusing on CHRIST should be our main focus. and there are tons of social issues that ‘we’ need to HONESTLY address. want a few, the breakdown of the family, having children out of wedlock, having pre marital sex, not studying our bibles properly, being drawn into lies in the churches especially from ‘rouge’ preachers…… jakes, dollar, hinn, meyers, olsteen, and lots of others right in our neighborhoods. also this fascination with KARMA. do any of you know that KARMA is totally opposite of what the Bible teaches? if KARMA were true, everyone would be dead (and without hope). so i’m saying that many of our issues as a race, are on (us). we need to face the funk. stop focusing on (desiring) white people to accept us. i don’t know about yall, but (my) SAVIOR IS JESUS CHRIST. i have to obey and honor HIM. not white people.

  10. Brian

    JC, I agree with you on points 1 and 2. To the Witness and Pass the Mic Podcast: a little clarification would be really helpful in terms of what needs “systemic restructuring.” These are big statements that need clarification and points of application.

  11. David Atkinson

    I think a degree of assumption of good will would go a long way here….

  12. JC

    Before I wrote this, I read this article several times and listened to the podcast in which Pastor James went into deeper detail. Having said that, I think this article and mindset is very, very weak. After listening to the podcast, Pastor James seems to be an intelligent, thoughtful, and caring pastor which makes this article even more puzzling.

    Here are my concerns (in no particular order):

    1. Nothing is defined very well. Terms like White evangelicalism, prophetic witness, Euro centric cultural norms, etc are mentioned but not explicitly defined. As these are play a major part in the article, defining the meanings of what these actually mean, would be very helpful. For example, who exactly is or is not a white evangelical? Can a non-white person be a part of white evangelicalism? Can a white Christian NOT be a part of white evangelicalism? Who determines these things? Is it up the individual person to decide if they are or does a committee from TheWitness decide if you are?

    2. There are lot of serious accusations made with no evidence to back up these accusations. Furthermore, there are a lot of serious accusations made (or perhaps implied) against groups of people which are extremely vague. If these horrible things are actually happening, then name names. If these “pharaohs” (who are “preaching in pulpits, leading seminaries, serving as professors, writing for popular theological blogs…etc”) are perpetuating the “marginalization and abuse of black women” then we should know about it. Please give us the names of these men and tell us how they have abused black women. Lobbing a bunch of vague accusations against a shadowy cartel of white pastors/seminarians/conference organizers is neither brave or helpful. In fact, I would call it lazy. It’s a good way to get clicks and cause a stir and raise your social media profile, but without having to actually do the hard work of confronting and producing the evidence of your accusations. Tell us who they are and what exactly they have done. For example, what is the abuse of black women? Are they sexually abusing black women? Are they beating black women? Are you saying that a black woman not being a conference speaker is abuse? Have you filed a complaint with their presbytery or denomination about their abuse of black women? Have you informed the deacons or elders of their churches about this abuse? Have you contacted their wives to let them know that their husbands are abusing black women?

    3. The comparison of pharaoh to modern day “white evangelicals” is one of the most bizarre treatments of scripture I have ever seen, for several reasons. For starters, the Israelites were slaves (they were kept in Egypt against their own free will). Black Christians in America today are not slaves to white evangelicalism in any way shape or form. Black Christians do not need to attend predominantly white churches, seminaries, Bible studies, or conferences to have a healthy and vibrant Christian life. Black Christians are free to worship in any style or manner they so choose (and may in fact have very good reasons for not wanting to worship at predominantly white churches). However, Black Christians in America are NOT the Israelites in the book of Exodus. Pastor James says he takes “biblical interpretation very seriously” but perhaps he should go back to the drawing board on this one. Secondly, if you are going to compare “white evangelical pharaohs” to the actual pharaoh (who was not a Christian and who murdered and enslaved people), some clarity would be appreciated. Again, that is a serious charge to level. Yet, Pastor James did so with very little evidence. It is as if Pastor James is treating Exodus as an allegory in which he makes his folks the Israelites, his perceived enemies (unnamed white evangelicals) to be Pharaoh, and himself to be Moses. Quite frankly, that is a bizarre exposition of Scripture that I would expect to see from white, hipster megachurch pastor, not someone like Pastor James.

    4. Along these same lines, he mentions “prophetic witness” several times but again, offers no explanation. Now when Moses was speaking, he was speaking directly from God in a “thus saith the Lord” manner. Is Pastor James saying that his “prophetic witness” is in the same manner? Is his version of “prophetic witness” inerrant and infallible? How do we know whose prophetic witness is correct and if it truly comes from God?

    I think that some of the points made on this website are valid. I am a white Christian (I don’t “identify” as evangelical) who is very concerned/disgusted with infatuation with Trump/Moore/etc. I think tying the church (black or white) to politicians or political parties (Democrat or Republican) is a recipe for disaster. Many white Christians watch 15 hours a week of Fox news and read their Bible for less than five minutes. I am well aware of the problems that “white evangelicalism” contains (and there are many). Having said that, I seriously worry about the ideology of this website. I do not believe it is healthy at all. They are making a slightly different mistake than white evangelicalism. Whereas white churches have set up politics and the culture war as an idol, TheWitness is setting race as an idol.

    If a black person wishes to leave a white church (and I totally understand why they might), then by all means, do so. No apologies or explanation is required. But I would encourage you to really pray and consider the most Biblical way to leave a church. The attitude of “our exit needs to be felt deeply” is disturbing. Especially when so little definition and evidence of things like “abuse”, “marginalization”, “unsafe and oppressive structures”, etc. is given. If black people are being sexually or physically abused or being called racial slurs, then by all means cause a commotion. But if abuse is being defined as not getting a speaking slot at a big conference….. Even though Pastor James says it is not vengeful, it certainly sounds like it is. Furthermore, to use the example of Paroah, God was the one who took vengeance on the Egyptions, not the Isrealites.

  13. David Atkinson

    Listen to the podcasts from pass the mic, and the YouTube channel

    There is a deep ignoring and diminishing of justice concerns where white churches discipled ppl to be anti black in law enforcement, housing, job placement, etc.

    And there is a deep unwillingness to confront that

    If you go into a minority esp black or Latino church space (one in which the Christians r not used to being in white/multicultural spaces) you will c what I mean

    If u don’t, u may not

    Unfortunately bc of things like the southern strategy (using coded language to implement racist policies) ppl using neutral language today about race warrants suspicion… sad but necessary

  14. ADAM ROBLES

    How is the church currently acting against minority believers in a serious way?

  15. h l munsey

    as an (older) reader of ‘the witness’, i am a black female, and i go to a reformed church here in pgh., pa. the congregation is very small, and me and a younger gentleman are the only blacks in the church. he is a (member), i am not but i have been at the church for going on 6 years now. this article is interesting, but rather ‘old’ (as i understand it). i think here in pgh., pa is a very ripe place to have a conference. i ‘strongly’ believe the issues of what you have brought up in your article need to be addressed. please pastor james, feel free to contact me. i would love to talk with you.

    sincerely,
    harriet munsey

  16. Ed Dingess

    There is absolutely NOTHING that resembles Christ in this mentally or this movement. It should be vilified or ignored, but not given the right hand of fellowship for a second.

  17. David Atkinson

    I can’t speak for the author but that’s what it seems like
    And in a sense I agree
    We don’t need to pretend like he’s saying they’re satan in order to acknowledge they’ve acted against minority believers in serious ways

  18. ADAM ROBLES

    Earon, Perhaps I am misunderstanding. But is this article putting “white evangelicalism” (whatever that is supposed to mean) in the place of Egypt, and white evangelicalism’s leaders in the place of pharaoh? In other words, are you saying that white evangelicalism is the enemy?

  19. David Atkinson

    Anthony. every empire/superpower built on slavery, land stealing and exalting one group over others does

  20. Anthony Rocco

    What was Pharoah’s enthnic background.? Seems to me every ethic/racial. group on the planet has to deal with the issues you wrote about. Am I right?

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