Multicultural churches are addressing racial divides in Trump’s America (ThinkProgress)
“Racism is ultimately a spiritual problem. You can’t educate that out of people. You can’t legislate that out of people.”
By Nadra Nittle, ThinkProgress, May 5, 2017
As widespread reports of racial harassment and white supremacist activity continue across the country, the small, but growing, number of racially integrated churches are organizing. They’re organizing workshops, serving immigrants, and vowing to stand in solidarity with Muslims. In this difficult political climate, they contend that they are uniquely qualified to foster dialogue about race and advocate for marginalized groups — and bring diverse groups of Americans together in faith.
Their progressive social outlook marks a shift from predominantly white evangelical churches, a number of which have aligned themselves with the religious right since the 1970s. Over 100 days into his presidency, Donald Trump still enjoys widespread support from conservative Christians, with eight out of 10 white evangelicals who attend church monthly approving of his leadership, according to the Pew Research Center. Only 39 percent of the general U.S. population feels the same. In fact, white evangelicals were heavily criticized when exit polls from the 2016 presidential election revealed that 81 percent of them backed Trump — a man repeatedly accused of sexually assaulting women and of peddling racial stereotypes.
Love L. Sechrest, an associate professor at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, said that Christians have long voted differently depending on their racial backgrounds. She pointed to the book Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, first published in 2000, as evidence that Trump’s victory didn’t deepen racial divides among American Christians, but simply exposed them on a larger scale.
“The racialized rhetoric that came out of Trump’s campaign — it exploited a deep lack of comfort among white evangelicals regarding issues of race,” she said. “Many of them would say that they did not vote for Trump out of racial animus, but when it comes to the social psychology of race, no one wants to self-identify as a racist, even when one holds implicit aversions to people of color.”