For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 1 Peter 4:17
In Charlottesville, Virginia, the violence of white supremacy visited our nation once again because its demonic presence has not been exorcised from us. From the founding of this nation until the present hour, the idolatry of whiteness has been a pro-death spirit within our republic. It is easy for us to scapegoat the domestic terrorists who incited violence that ended in the deaths of three Americans. We can call them extremists who do not represent American values, but upon closer examination, the ideology deployed as a weapon in Charlottesville haunts every institution of the country, including the church.
Thus it is with great concern for the soul of this nation that we, the undersigned, covenant to “cry loud and spare not” (Isaiah 58:1) against America’s national sin, beginning within the body of Christ. White supremacy — often called by many names including racism, white privilege, “alt-right” and the KKK — is an insidious doctrine that in manifold ways steals, kills and destroys the inviolable dignity of all God’s children (Genesis 1:26-28). It suppresses the truth of God (Romans 1:18) and walks out of step with the true Gospel (Galatians 2:14). All that is left for an unrepentant stance toward sin is God’s justice and judgment. Alas, many of the Lord’s followers remain hard of heart and hearing, making God’s judgment upon this nation seemingly inevitable.
Judgment begins with the household of God, which has been particularly instrumental in the creation and maintenance of racial inequity. From Puritan pilgrims to evangelical revivalists, churchmen have been seduced by the spirit of the age, calling evil good and good evil. The blood of indigenous peoples, Africans and other people of color cries out from American soil to God our Maker. As premature calls for peace seek to silence the pregnant rage of this generation, the words of Scripture come freshly to mind: “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division” (Luke 12:51-53).
Because of this we do not need cheap grace, cheap peace, cheap reconciliation. We need a revival of spirit, a revolution of values, and the abundance of righteous justice in this land. Now is the time for the church to again be the moral compass for this nation. Now is the time for a prophetic, Spirit-led remnant to bear credible “word and deed” witness to the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As in the generation that preceded us, we especially call upon those born-again disciples who still cherish the authority of Scripture and the enablement of the Spirit. We declare that old-time religion is still good enough for us in this new era, religion that provides us a full-orbed Gospel of evangelism and activism. May we be salt and light witnesses against the kingdom of darkness, knowing that we war not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)
To this end, we call upon white leaders and members of the evangelical church to condemn in the strongest terms the white supremacist ideology that has long existed in the church and our society. Nothing less than a full-throated condemnation can lead to true reconciliation in the Lord’s body. Additionally, this condemnation must not be in word only, but also in deeds that “bring forth fruits worthy of repentance” (Luke 3:8). As Dr. King notes in “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” white apathy is worse than white supremacy.
We also appeal to the black church to urgently remember its historic role of living within the pastoral-prophetic tension in American Christianity. We call black Christians and others back to a prophetic vocation embodied in the ministries of Lemuel Haynes, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Maria W. Stewart, Richard Allen, Charles Price Jones, Charles Harrison Mason, Nannie Helen Burroughs, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Mary McCleod Bethune, Fannie Lou Hamer, Gardner C. Taylor, J. Deotis Roberts and John Perkins. Now is the time to remind the nation and ourselves of the personal and social power of the Gospel.
Lastly, we invite Christians of good will to join in reading, learning and acting on insights found in the ways in which the church both legitimated and resisted white supremacy throughout the last several centuries. Armed with saving knowledge and theological and historical truth, we can persuasively call for repentance and be repairers of the breach. White supremacy will be cast out and dismantled, God willing, by prayer and fasting. We fight for victory in the name of Jesus our Lord! Amen.
CJ Rhodes, D.Min. (cand.), co-author
Pastor, Mt. Helm Baptist Church; chair, Commission on Ecumenical Relationships, National Baptist Convention USA, Inc.
Jemar Tisby, co-author
President, Reformed African American Network; co-host, “Pass The Mic” podcast
Tyler Burns, co-host, “Pass The Mic” podcast
Dr. Christina Edmondson, CEO, Edmondson Consulting
Rev. Dr. Mika Edmondson, author, “The Power of Unearned Suffering”
Lisa V. Fields, president, Jude 3 Project
Michelle Higgins, director, Faith for Justice
Rev. Dr. Mike Higgins, senior pastor, South City Church
Rev. Earon M. James Sr., lead pastor, Relevant Life Church
Cornelius Lindsey, pastor
Rev. William Dwight McKissic, Sr., senior pastor, Cornerstone Baptist Church
Elodie Quetant, managing editor, RAANetwork
Ekemini Uwan, public theologian