How Ferguson Widened an Enormous Rift Between Black Christians and White Evangelicals

NOTE: This article originally appeared at the Washington Post on August 5, 2019.


Five years ago today, a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. A human became a hashtag, an uprising occurred and a movement was born.

Much of the attention today and this weekend will focus on remembering Brown, discussing criminal justice reform and evaluating how society has or hasn’t changed since that fateful day. These are appropriate topics to discuss.

But remembering Brown on the five-year anniversary of his killing would be incomplete without acknowledging the impact that this tragedy had on race relations within American evangelicalism.

I know how that day and the subsequent events affected my faith and my relation to those who I once thought of as my spiritual family.

Six days after Brown’s killing, I wrote for the first time publicly about my traumatic encounters with the police. Every black man I know has harrowing stories of being pulled over, searched, handcuffed or even held at gunpoint. When I encouraged readers to “pause to consider the level and extent of injustice that many blacks have experienced at the hands of law enforcement officers,” the responses disclosed a deep divide.

One told me to submit myself to the authority of the police. He wrote, “Let us exhort each other to be in subjection (Romans 13:5) to police and other civil authorities so long as they are not causing us to commit evil/sin as shown by the example of the apostles and other disciples of Christ’s generation.” He didn’t acknowledge that police can be wrong, too.

Another person said that it wasn’t just black people who had to be cautious of the police. She, as a white woman, had distasteful run-ins, too. “I think cops do stereotype, they did it to me, my dad and no doubt black people. It sucks but don’t think it happens to you alone. Rural cops do it to city folks or people driving out of state plates, city cops do it to minorities, folks who drive muscle cars or people like me who drive clunkers.”

Still another person told me I was just wrong and thought he would correct me. After giving a litany of “facts” related to the Trayvon Martin killing in 2012 and Brown’s death, he said I was being duped by the media. “So, again, I would strongly admonish you to really understand what actually happened and the proper context of each case in which the (liberal) media is saying that somehow we have a war of white police officers killing young black teens. Don’t be hoodwinked.” He ended by pointing me to what he thought were reliable news sources such as The Blaze and conservative commentator Michael Savage’s website.

Those responses came from a single blog post. I can’t list the vitriol that erupted in the comment sections of similar posts on Twitter and Facebook.

I’m not alone. Other black Christians have endured opposition from white evangelicals…

Click HERE to read the rest of the article at the Washington Post.

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