Rev. Anthony Trufant (CRDS ’87 and former CRCDS Trustee) is the Senior Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Brooklyn, NY. The following article appeared in BlackPressUSA.
As an African American Christian pastor, I’ve almost lost hope for meaningful partnerships with white Evangelical Christians in general and white Evangelical pastors in particular. There was a time when I was far more hopeful than I am currently. Over the past twenty years, I have attended (periodically) Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit and Saddleback’s Purpose-Driven Conferences. Another helpful, inspirational resource for me has been Dallas-based Leadership Network. More recently, I have either attended or streamed Andy Stanley’s Catalyst Conference, hosted in the first week of October in Atlanta, GA. All these experiences were helpful to me as I have sought to grow my congregation, the Emmanuel Baptist Church of Brooklyn. At these conferences, I learned biblical principles and best practices which informed how I have approached my pastoral work with greater intentionality and impact. Consequently, I have discovered how to think more creatively and strategically at a time when the footprint of Christianity is shrinking in the US and, more specifically, the Urban Northeast.
At the previously mentioned conferences, I not only learned, but also gained the impression that there were white pastors who genuinely desired to build bridges of goodwill and interracial cooperation in the public square. I was encouraged by the heart-felt, insightful comments I heard white colleagues make about how America might be challenged to live up to the high ideals of the founding fathers. Furthermore, I was delighted to learn that black and white pastors were in agreement that drug and human trafficking, torture of political and religious prisoners, insufficient medical treatment for the poor, and substandard housing were unquestionably wrong and should be challenged.
However, it’s been in the last twelve years I have wondered whether partnerships between white evangelical Christians and black Christians are tenable. Admittedly, Christians, from the start of the church, have rarely agreed on doctrinal issues and the look of authentic, impactful public witness. What’s concerned me, nevertheless, is when I found white evangelicals who were sympathetic to and supportive of the “Birther Movement” which carried racist undertones and maintained alliances with hate groups like the KKK, the Alt-Right, and the Heritage Preservation Association. Shocked and disappointed, I was puzzled further by the questions raised about the authenticity of President Obama’s Christian credentials. Never did I hear any compelling evidence to support the specious claims parroted by so-called Christian patriots.
Admittedly, I was un-happy about and stunned by the election of our 45th president. Still, I accepted the fact that he had won the election, notwithstanding allegations of tampering with polling places in communities of color, and the Russian interference in US elections, both of which recently have been proven factual. What I found and find problematic is the inconsistency and hypocrisy of white conservative Christians (and moderates) who have clamored for American presidents to toe the line of personal piety and morality, yet who have given President Trump a pass on those crucial areas of Christian character and practice. Thus far, our 45th president has paid little but lip service to the vision and values of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Yet, he seems to have received some sort of purgatory pass from white evangelical pastors who are quiet in the face of our president’s egregious and embarrassing behavior, inflammatory tweets and texts, and racist, sexist, dog-whistling rhetoric.
White evangelicals claim they want us to be united as a nation and as the body of Christ –so do I. Yet, I have no intentions of throwing in with them and feigning a false sense of unity. At this time of national crisis, I have learned, painfully and repeatedly, blacks and whites see things from vastly different and sometimes antithetical points of view. Prominent pastors like Rev. Franklin Graham, calling for Christians to pray for the protection of President Trump, is something I deem disingenuous. What about calling for him to repent of racist, sexist, and isolationist pronouncements and policies? Whatever happened to the baseline Christian belief all public servants, inclusive of President Trump, should seek to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before God (Micah 6:8)—and fellow citizens of the world?
Despite my reasonable disappointments and real doubts, I yet have hope. I, based on personal encounters and past experiences, still believe there are white Evangelicals who will call out conduct contradictory to the Holy Scriptures and the fundamental documents of our great nation (i.e., Declaration of Independence, USA Constitution, and the Bill of Rights). I’m convinced there must be more Christian ministers who are less interested in the national spotlight and functioning as personal chaplain to the President. There must be a hidden stash of prophets amongst Evangelicals who refuse to bow down to Baal. Ultimately, I still have hope because of Jesus.