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Religion and Racism

Exploring the Paradox—Can You Be a Christian and a Racist?

Theron N. Ford and Blanche Jackson Glimps

Religion and Racism provides an extensive examination of the paradox that arises from the intersection of being a Christian and a racist. A racist believes that one racial group is superior to another. Yet, since the nation’s revolutionary birth, the United States claims a pious, devout mantle of Christianity that served as the nation’s moral compass, while engaging in horrendous acts of racial violence. How can a white Christian male, sit in a church, engage in Christian prayers, and then in cold-bloodied fashion murder nine African American Christians in their own church? Christians traditionally have always designated "churches" as places of refuge and sanctuary. The binary of whiteness and Christianity emerged and came to dominate much of the world. In the United States and other parts of the world, whiteness and Christianity have served to subjugate people of color even as such people themselves also came to embrace Christ's teachings, often at the cost of the loss of their traditional forms of religion and culture. Armed with the Bible and deep-seated belief in racial superiority, European colonizers came to shape most of the world as we know it today. The result has been an unequal control of the world’s resources and vastly disparate living standards for people of color and whites, both internationally and within specific nations. People of color have been treated as highly valued commodities, while simultaneously being stripped of their humanity—with the sanction of the Christian faith.

The ascent of Donald Trump, a person often perceived as racist and lacking in moral character, was achieved largely with the support of white evangelicals (Wehner, 2020). Rev. James Wallis (2019), founder and editor of Sojourners magazine, called upon fellow evangelicals to reject Donald Trump’s racist attacks. Mark Galli, editor in chief of Christianity Today, called for Trump’s removal from office for his gross immorality and ethical incompetence. In both instances there has been an awakening to the paradox of strong evangelical support of a man who seems to be the embodiment of much that is antithetical to espoused evangelical beliefs. Despite the awakening by some evangelicals, there are many who continue to embrace Trump, believing that God is working through him to achieve their goals.