Recently, Denton Bible Church held a conference to decry “wokeness” ideology.
They described “wokeness ideology” as rooted in social justice. They didn’t mean that as the compliment it should be. The senior pastor, Tommy Nelson, was quoted as saying, “I am 70 years old. I have been in the ministry almost 50 years, and this is the most insidious and dangerous and pervasive ideology that I have ever seen in all of my life, in all of my ministry. And it is dangerous to the Christian church, as well as to our culture.”
I want to tell Reverend Nelson a story about my life and what I view as dangerous and insidious. I recall sitting at my desk in my classroom at 14 years old. In response to the proposition that Martin Luther King’s birthday be made a national holiday, the student in front of me turned around to share her views about religion, about who I was and about who she was.
She said Black people were descendants of Cain, the son of Adam and Eve. Cain is considered the first murderer because he killed his brother Abel and lied about it to God. As a result, God cursed him by turning his skin black, or so she was taught. Unfortunately, it didn’t end there. She continued to articulate that chattel slavery in America was ordained by the Bible. Therefore, Black Americans were rightly enslaved because they were the descendants of Cain, who was after all a murderer and those slaves were biblically instructed to obey their masters.
This wasn’t a random student; this was a girl who went to the same Southern Baptist Church as my family.
And the position she voiced was what she learned about race from my church. As a child, I was taught that the color of my skin means that I carried the “Mark of Cain.” This teaching shaped my classmate as well, making her sure that God ordained her superiority over me because of her skin color.
Today, a Black Southern Baptist is almost an oxymoron given the Southern Baptists’ continued lack of reckoning with its racism and its willingness to promote white supremacy. And it’s clear that it’s not just Southern Baptist churches that promote white supremacy ideology.
White supremacy has allowed religious leaders to pervert the gospel and justify crimes against humanity for centuries. In America, that worldview serves as the foundation of our country’s greatest sin, slavery. But it continued past slavery in the justification of lynchings. Lynchings were often attended by white families dressed in their Sunday best, coming to the events with their church communities to watch “strange fruit” hang from trees. White supremacy continues to this day in churches who refuse to stand up for Black lives or who support lies about our democracy.
Pastor Nelson, I believe there are two documents that were inspired by God — the Bible and the U.S. Constitution. Both were inspired by God and written by imperfect men. They are both interpreted by imperfect men. To be an American Christian is to constantly help our country evolve into making that divine-inspired constitution live up to its own words and God’s promise. In a country whose founding was rooted in rebellion against injustice, what is more American and more Christian than being woke to social injustice? So, to Pastor Nelson, who claims that the most insidious, dangerous and pervasive ideology he’s ever seen is wokeness, I ask: What about white supremacy?
Delia Parker-Mims is an attorney, writer, public speaker, and strong advocate of Democratic policies. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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