The White Evangelical Fallacy of Un-biased Engagement with Scripture

I didn’t expect so much about this blog to be about religion early on, but having just discovered some amazing resources like Brandi Miller’s Reclaiming My Theology podcast, it’s just natural. My goal is not to write what I think uniquely, but primarily what I discover and learn from others, so… what I learn I must share!

I’m listening to the episode “From White Supremacy… What is White Theology? W/Scott Hall” and Scott and Brandi are touching on one of the deepest reasons why I think White Supremacy is deeply at play in white Evangelicalism.

First, Brandi gives a bit of a foundational introduction to the idea that white supremacy in theology means that white cultural values are seen not as white cultural values, but core parts of un-biased theology:

[White supremacy in theology] some times comes through the front door, with, you know, a swastika, a burning cross or whatever. But, more often than that, it’s people saying, whether in word or deed, that the questions they ask, the things they care about, the values that they hold, are the things that matter, are interesting, and that systems need to orient themselves around. That white supremacy elevates values like individualism, the right to comfort, defensiveness, competition, hierarchy, and says, “Oh, those aren’t just a part of white culture, they’re a part of theology, too.”

Brandi Miller, Reclaiming My Theology… From White Supremacy: What is White Theology? W/Scott Hall

Next, Scott talks a bit about cultural lenses:

All of us have cultural lenses. If we are white and have grown up in the United States, there’s just implicit assumptions that we carry that create a lens through which we understand Scripture.

Now, the particular challenge that exacerbates that for white Evangelicals in the US, is that we as white Evangelicals have this sort of swagger about, “We go to the source. We don’t have an intermediary priest or bishop. We see the words of Jesus. My Catholic brothers and sisters, some of them can’t even quote the Scripture!”

[…T]he challenge of that is that, that means, because, anthropology is still true, we all have a lens through which we read the Scripture. And so what white Evangelicals do is that they’re released to read the Scripture for themselves without adequate training of their own cultural lenses—that they therefore project onto Jesus and the Scripture our own context of our own culture.

And so… we wouldn’t say Jesus is white, most of us, but there’s an implicit assumption of the whiteness of Jesus, of Jesus being from mainstream culture[. W]e have all of these assumptions and so therefore we read Scripture out of context.

And I think what’s so significant about that, is that we look at Jesus, and think we’re going right to the source. […O]ur white American Christian ancestors, with [the lenses of the Reformation, the Age of Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and capitalism], as they read Scripture, were comfortable exterminating Native peoples, enslaving Africans as property, and using Chinese and Mexican people as a commodity of labor with almost zero human rights. Our Christian ancestors did that in “good faith” and as Bible-believing Christians.

Scott Hall, Reclaiming My Theology… From White Supremacy: What is White Theology? W/Scott Hall

(I never finished and published this post when it was published on “White Guy, Black Liberation”, but I decided to move it over here and publish it anyway).

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