Examining the church's role in racism
White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity
Robert P. Jones, 2020
I recently finished reading White Too Long; The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity (2020) by Robert P. Jones, one of the most powerful books I've read about white racism in recent years. Jones asserts: "The historical record of lived Christianity in America reveals that Christian theology and institutions have been the central cultural tent pole holding up the very idea of white supremacy." On pp. 175-76, Jones summarizes findings from use of a 15 question Racism Index survey in white Christian denominations. He writes of the application of multivariate models to data from use of the survey: "The models reveal that the more racist attitudes a person holds, the more likely he or she is to identify as a white Christian. " And ... " this relationship exists not just among white evangelical Protestants but is also equally strong among mainline Protestants and white Catholics."
Jones is a white Protestant minister who combines the story of his childhood in Mississippi with devastating stories from U.S. history, including from from the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. The Equal Justice Initiative, the organizational force behind the memorial, has documented more than than 4400 lynchings verified by at least two independent sources which occurred between 1877 ( the end of Reconstruction) and 1950. According to Jones, "approximately 10 percent took place outside the South" including:
In Springfield, Missouri .. three black men were lynched in the town square by a mob of a thousand whites in the early hours of Easter Sunday in 1906. Arthur Hodge, a Springfield community leader who organized a memorial for the victims in 2018, summarized the events this way: "They hanged them. They threw kerosene on them. They burned them to a crisp . And then they went to church." Further, "A few white entrepreneurs even struck medals to commemorate the occasion. One read, "Easter offering."
There are many more gruesome stories of lynchings and other terrorist acts in this book, but the most powerful part of White Too Long is Jones analysis of white ministers' and priests' rationalizations for white supremacy. Jones unflinching conclusion is that white supremacist attitudes have shaped white Christianity in the U.S. in all major denominations to a far greater extent than Christian beliefs have weakened white supremacist attitudes and beliefs.
© Dee Wilson