Share with your friends










Submit

In the first part of this series, I provided an analysis of the use of biblical and theological concepts among some who promote the notion of racial reconciliation. I argued that exclusive emphasis on texts about unity and oneness functionally operates in a way of discrediting any analysis of or commitment to sub-groups within the body of Christ.

This is relevant in regard to Christians in the United States. Because of the racism of White professed Christians, Black Christians have formed denominations that have come to comprise the historic Black Church denominations. While thinking of unity and oneness, one must consider that there is neither oneness nor unity in regard to economic resources between Black and White Churches.

Because of this, I contend the push for Black people to integrate into White denominations for the sake of racial reconciliation, rather than focusing on strengthening the resources of Black Churches, is wrong-headed and is ultimately destructive to the Black Christian community.

The Economic Reality of Black Churches/Denominations

The health of historically Black Christian denominations is essential for Black Christians and the Black community as a whole. Based on a 2018 Pew Research study on the religious lives of African-Americans, most African-American Christians attend churches that are members of one the historically Black denominations. In fact, 53% of all African-Americans attend one of these churches.[1] It is not an overstatement to say that the spiritual and financial health of these churches should be a central concern for Black Christians.

However, among the 14% of African-Americans who are associated with Evangelical churches, some complain about the lack of resources within historically Black denominations. They contend that White denominations have access to financial resources that will allow Black Christians to further spread the Gospel in their communities and around the world. Unfortunately, some iterations of this notion are couched in the language of the inability of Black denominations to manage funds.

Consider this example of an encounter I had with Pastor Dwight McKissic who shares a similar critique. He is the Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church; a church that is dually aligned with a historically Black denomination and the Southern Baptist Convention.

In a discussion with me on Twitter, Pastor McKissic asserted that although racism toward Black people is not present in the historically Black denominations, they, however, are weak in regard to church planting, ministry scholarships for college and seminary, owning and operating Bible Colleges and Seminaries, and providing Church support services.[2] When I pointed to economics as the underlying issue, McKissic responding saying that “It’s a matter of budgeting & intentionality. More money would come in if more services to the churches were offered. Young Black Pastors are attracted to the SBC for money & services toward church development & disciple-making.”[3]

The reader should notice at least two things about this comment. First, notice that Pastor McKissic asserts that the lack of aforementioned provisions for ministry is due to the inability or unwillingness of these Black denominations to budget their money properly. He argues that those services are not provided because Black denominational leaders do not intend to assist their churches in these ways.

While one may speculate on the validity of his claims, here are some facts that may shed some light on this issue. According to recent studies, the typical African-American family has one-tenth of the wealth of the typically White family. This gap has been increasing since 2004. Although some are tempted to say that these disparities are the results of bad budgeting or the lack of intentionality in the Black community, others have a different understanding.

According to Irina Ivanova, a writer for CBS News, the most valuable possession most Americans own is their homes. She goes on to assert that African-Americans, however, were largely blocked from homeownership by local and federal policy for most of the 20th century. “When they do own, black Americans disproportionately own houses in poorer neighborhoods with lower home values and get less favorable mortgage terms than white Americans.”[4]

This report shows that African-Americans have been systemically hindered from economic growth within their communities; communities that mostly worship in churches affiliated with historically Black denominations. The economic injustice perpetrated against the African-American community seems to be the most likely reason the ministry services mentioned above (all of which require a substantial amount of financial resources) are not as widespread in historically Black denominations as they are in evangelical denominations.

Neo-Colonialism and “Black Evangelicals”

What Pastor McKissic demonstrates, however, is what I consider as the neo-colonialist relationship evangelicals have with Black so-called evangelicals. It may first be helpful to define the term “colonialism” and “neo-colonialism” before moving forward.

Colonialism refers to the occupation and economic exploitation of a country by obtaining full or partial political control.[5] This was the condition of many African countries prior to the movement toward decolonization in the mid-twentieth century.

However, while colonial powers may have moved away from explicit forms of colonialism, they have found more strategic ways to continue control over former colonies. This new strategy is through the use of economic policies that assist the “former” colonial power to indirectly maintain influence over the “formerly” colonized country.[6] Former president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah explains:

“Faced with the militant peoples of the ex-colonial territories in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, imperialism simply switches tactics. Without a qualm it dispenses with its flags, and even with certain of its more hated expatriate officials. This means, so it claims, that it is ‘giving’ independence to its former subjects, to be followed by ‘aid’ for their development. Under the cover of such phrases, however, it devises innumerable ways to accomplish objectives formerly achieved by naked colonialism. It is this sum total of these modern attempts to perpetuate colonialism while at the same time talking about ‘freedom,’ which has come to be known as neo-colonialism.”[7]

Neo-colonialism uses the economic dependency of former colonies as leverage to continue to control them. I am arguing that the reality of many Black Christians in evangelical denominations is really analogous to neo-colonialism. This idea brings us back to the second aspect of Pastor McKissic’s statement above that should be brought to the attention of the reader; namely that he states that Black pastors are turning to the SBC for money for ministry.[8]

He then says of himself that he gives to the SBC “so that they can invest heavily in other church plants.”[9] In other words, for him, in order to do ministry at the level he seems to think is necessary, he and some other young Black pastors are depending on the SBC to fulfill their tasks. The dangers of this mentality are numerous, but one is the potential of Black pastors to drag their unsuspecting congregations into relationships and support of denominations that continue to tolerate racism.

McKissic goes as far as admitting that the financial contributions of the SBC during the start of his church causes him to remain loyal to the denomination even when they persist in practicing racism. He says, “The SBC was extremely generous to our church the first 3yrs of our ministry. Although I clearly see dysfunction, I feel compelled to water a ministry, that watered our church in our early years.”[10] Pastor McKissic here immolates the very heart of a person under neo-colonialism; namely the compulsion to remain in relationship with, and under the influence of, an entity that one depends on economically.

Conclusion

I’ve provided information above highlighting the vast economic gap between White and Black Churches. Many “Black evangelicals” who benefit from these financial resources have little incentive to think deeply about their relationship with White denominations. As Trinh Minh-ha argues, “The more one depends on the master’s house for support, the less one hears what he doesn’t want to hear.”[11]

In the next article of this series, I will provide a suggestion for how “Black evangelicals” should move forward with a more existentially informed model for racial reconciliation in mind.

 

 

[1]David Masci, “5 Facts about the Religious Lives of African Americans” in the Pew Research Center (Feb. 7, 2018), retrieved 12/18/19 from: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/02/07/5-facts-about-the-religious-lives-of-african-americans/

[2]@pastormack. Twitter, 6/13/19, 12:33am, twitter.com/pastordmack/status/1139028074027266050?s=21

[3]Ibid., Twitter, 6/13/19, 12:44 am, twitter.com/pastordmack/status/1139030745064886274?s=21

[4]Irina Ivanova, “If Black Families were as Rich as White Ones, U.S. Economy Would Be $1.5 Trillion Bigger” in CBS News (Aug. 15, 2019), retrieved 12/18/19 from: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/racial-wealth-gap-costs-economy-1-5-trillion-dollars-report-finds/.

[5]www.google.com/search?q=colonialism&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&channel=sb.

[6]www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/neocolonialism.

[7]Kwame Nkrumah, “Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism,” from www.marxists.org/subject/africa/nkrumah/neo-colonialism/introduction.htm. Retrieved 12/18/19.

[8]See note 7 above.

[9]@pastormack. Twitter, 6/13/19, 1:18 am, twitter.com/pastordmack/status/1139039397297475586?s=21.

[10]Ibid. Twitter, 6/13/19, 12:52 am, twitter.com/pastordmack/status/1139032769508585472?s=21.

[11]Trinh T. Minh-ha, “Writing Postcoloniality an Feminism” in Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin, eds., The Post-Colonial Studies Reader 2nd edition (New York: Routledge, 2006), 246.

Privacy Preference Center