Race and Christian Faith

I learned something radically new this year. At my age this does not happen often. This year "BLM/CRT" became prominent in people's minds and in the media, including ChristianityToday: a cover emphasis, plus several more articles in other issues about racial problems in megachurches, in which I consistently saw the exact same complaints I had already seen in secular publications about mega-corporations like Google. Because I worked in high-tech all my life, I understand the economic dynamics at Google, and why they did what they had to do according to their (and their stockholders') values.

The growing realization that this is not about ethnicity crystalized for me when I finally read Erin Chan Ding's piece in April CT. Quotes like "Do we matter? Do we really belong?" and "The music we played didn't speak to them; the songs we sang, they don't know how to sing it..." and "I hid at [a megachurch], just flying under the radar, didn't want to get involved, anything like that, just attend services... But then I realized my cup wasn't being filled with the community of believers," these were my thoughts, some of my own exact same words -- except my face is the same color as the church leaders.

This is not about race or ethnicity or color, it's about core values. "It has to be diverse not just in appearance but in perspectives," somebody else said in Ding's piece. Appearance may factor into core values in many people of color (and some whites), but core values drive the leadership, not color.

You need to understand that 500 years ago Martin Luther lit a flame that spread north to the arctic and west to England, where every plowboy and milkmaid could read the Bible in their own language, and see for themselves what God requires of us -- basically the First and Second Great Commandments (1+2C) and when we do it, the world becomes a better place. More than any other place in the world, the entire cultural value system of the USA was shaped by the Mayflower Calvinist theology. Values are mostly caught, not taught, and it happens at an early age deep in the psyche of the child before they can figure out that these values are based on religious teaching in their family back when somebody actually did think out the inferences. They were good values, and they percolated through the culture, although obviously not through the ante-bellum South (slavery is a violation of 2C). The result of these values acting in the entire economy made the USA the richest country in the whole world and in all time.

More recently the Ten Commandments were removed from school walls, thereby shifting the kids' value system from "Do the Right Thing" to "Don't get caught," and corporate values also gradually shifted from Golden Rule (2C) ethics to "Make a profit" which mostly looks the same, except when it isn't. Google was one of the few mega-corporations that actually admitted their shift, and some of their more spectacular racial gaffes came from that shift.

A very large (and for Google, profitable) segment of the tech industry in the last couple decades is the wholesale adoption of so-called "AI" (Neural Nets) based on the Darwinist hypothesis instead of the more scientifically accurate (1C) Creationist interpretation, so we can expect Google to fail even more spectacularly before the pendulum swings back or the whole economy tanks. But that's my opinion. The point is that by abandoning 1+2C for ill-conceived profit-based values, Google became unable to work out an equitable resolution with the race-based activists they tried to hire.

The megachurches in America are staffed by people with the same Puritan cultural values as the leadership in (secular) corporate America. The senior pastor whose church does not grow is out of a job, and the first job in any job (sacred or secular) is to still have your job at the end of the day. The pastors know what builds churches -- Biblical inerrancy and unconditional affirmation (not necessarily in that order) -- and they are very good at it (or rather, the ones who are not good at it have much smaller churches), but this profit-centered value system is neither the whole teaching of the Bible, nor is it consistent with some of the values of other ethnic groups, especially those who did not get their values from Puritan Calvinism.

It's about values, not skin color.

How do I know? I have the same disconnect, but there's no skin color to blame it on. Half of the American people (or at least of the whites) have a personality that favors Truth, Justice, and Duty in their value system over the unconditional affirmation ("relationship") taught in pretty much every church. We cannot retreat to the church of our heritage, because there aren't any. So most of us never darken the door of any church for any reason.

Like every kid everywhere, I got my values at an early age, long before I was old enough to figure out where they came from. One of those values was 2Tm.3:16, so I (and my sisters, to a lesser degree) consciously sought to reconcile those values with the Bible. And I experienced cognitive dissonance between the Biblical values and what is taught and practiced in the churches. Most people in that position throw away the whole thing -- church, the Bible, sometimes even their values -- but 2Tm.3:16 was too strong in my value system, so I stayed and either tried to make the system better (and got crucified for it) or as today "fly under the radar." I have been in a lot of churches, and in two of them (different cities) the senior pastor preached the Biblical values (Truth, Justice, and Duty) and they had more men than women in church on Sunday morning, but the pastors did not know what they were doing, and they did not train their lieutenants in the same values, and I got myself explicitly ejected from both of them for trying to be helpful.

The Bible does not teach the for-profit value system, it is irrelevant (because God owns and controls everything) and counter-productive (witness the racial tension in our churches), but it is unavoidable in our American ecclesiology, where anybody who wants to believe he has the Call of God, and who can preach the sermons people want to hear, can grow a church. There are no volunteers in the Bible. I mean there were, and Jesus sent them away. Maybe some of these pastors really do have God's Call (I am no Prophet, so I cannot know), but all of them teach and preach things I cannot find in my Bible.

The zero-sum-game promoted by the CRT crowd is contrary to the Golden Rule (2C), but so also are deacons cracking ethnic jokes behind their pastor's back (no matter what his color, one of the complaints of non-white pastor who gave up a multi-racial pastorate in another CT article), and women's groups too selfish to work with one of their members who got herself into an abusive marriage (the lead incident in Ding's piece). This is not a racial thing, it's a failure to teach Biblical values to our children and to our church members. The solution is not more articles in CT bemoaning the racial problems, it is teaching the Truth like we were taught inerrancy six decades ago. "Relationship, not religion" (a line I often hear from the pulpit, even in churches where the pastor should know better) is the problem, not the solution.

Tom Pittman
Rev. 2021 October 5