Do We Still Harbor Racism in the Church?

Jarvis Williams asks a few questions in an attempt to shed light on what may be intellectual racism in the evangelical movement. He asks, among other things, “In certain cases, why are black and brown intellectuals not taken seriously by evangelicals unless some prominent white evangelical voice grants his stamp of approval on them?” In this particular situation, I wonder if the trappings of celebrity are more involved in who is popularly accepted. I don’t quite know what being taken seriously means, but if it means that scholars and writers are ignored, couldn’t it be that established scholars and writers have already gained our interest and more likely to draw attention than one of many unknown authors? I’m sure Dr. Williams recognizes this possibility, which is why he is asking questions, not making accusations.

The same rationale would not apply to another of his questions, “Why is black and brown scholarship often ignored in many evangelical colleges and seminaries?” For this question, I have to ask what scholarship on non-racial issues is recognized as being black and brown. Is there a particularly good study that hasn’t gained the attention among evangelicals that we might think it should? Is there a seminary of black and brown scholars producing good work without adequate recognition from other seminaries? From where I sit, there are a handful of ways one seminary or individual may be dismissed by another: declared denomination, professed theological perspective, suspected theological perspective, and guilt by association with disrespected scholars. The essence of it all is simply a lack of trust. They don’t know the scholars they are ignoring and will not be challenged by or interested in scholars they don’t trust.

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