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Red and Blue & Black and White: Untangling Race, Religion and Politics in America

Jemar Tisby
They say you should never talk about race, religion, or politics in polite company. Somehow I managed to fit all three into a single talk. The folks at Dordt College gave me the privilege of presenting at their First Mondays series. Conversations about the topic originated after the election when politics was on everyone’s mind in a unique way. I, personally, couldn’t stop thinking about the state of our nation and how Christians had participated in the process. In reflecting on the 2016 election cycle, I crafted a discussion titled: “Red and Blue & Black and White: Untangling Race, Religion, and Politics in America.”
Part of what I hoped to achieve was to explain why black people voted so often, and in such majorities, for Democratic candidates. The reality is black people don’t vote for Democrats. They vote for the party that secures their basic civil and human rights.


From the first time slave traders brought Africans to America in the colonial era up through the 20th century, black people have been treated either as property or second-class citizens. When a political party or leader came along who wanted to support black peoples’ right to emancipation, or integration, or suffrage, the political options were clear. Black people often had to choose between the political party that, however grudgingly and half-heartedly, recognized their humanity and the one that simply didn’t.

I also sought to address the conflation of race and politics with the Christian faith. These three elements have become so intertwined, that we can’t discern who or what we worship. We need to “untangle” race, religion, and politics to remember we serve the Redeemer, and no one else.

Below is the link to the video recorded at Dordt College, and ten quotations from the talk. Thanks to Stephanie Laferriere for transcribing!

1. Although race, religion, and politics are all related, I think for Christians they have become so tangled up that it’s hard to tell them apart. It’s hard to tell what Christians worship: race, religion, or our Redeemer.

2. The goal today is this: to untangle race, religion, and politics so that divisions in the world don’t cause divisions in the Church.

3. As we study history, particularly that of African Americans, it can seem like we are victims, but the reality is we are a people of incredible resilience. We, a people in the face of constant dehumanization, have found ways to assert our humanity.

4. Racism never goes away; it just goes underground.

5. Your faith should inform your politics, but your politics should not become your faith.

6. As Christians we have to understand that even if I disagree with you politically, you might have legitimate concerns that I need to be aware of. “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger,” even with people you disagree with.

7. The solution is not to retreat into our holy huddle. Take your wonderful Christian education and go into the world!

8. “Third-way” politics are characterized by letting God’s Word lead in our political preferences, which will mean sometimes we’re in line with Republicans, and sometimes we’re in line with Democrats, and sometimes neither party represents us.

9. There’s no way one political party can line up directly with the Bible. All of the parties compromise. There’s no Biblical party, and yet there is a perception that there is one.

10. Untangling race, religion and politics is fundamentally an issue of worship. The most important decision you face is who or what you worship.

4 thoughts on “Red and Blue & Black and White: Untangling Race, Religion and Politics in America

  1. J. K. Jones

    Thank you for this speech and the link to it. Very helpful.

  2. Jonash

    really Mark???? Really? Just really. smh

  3. Nicholas

    Don’t you think that you, Mr. Tisby, may be guilty of conflating issues of religion, race, and politics when you claimed on your podcast that you were “afraid to worship with white Evangelicals” on Sunday morning because Donald Trump won the presidential election? If that is not a confused jumble of religion, race, and politics, I don’t know what is.

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