Exvangelical Musings: The Emperor’s New Clothes – A White Exvangelical’s Thoughts on Critical Race Theory

Just for purposes of complete transparency, there are a few irrefutable facts that really aren’t up for debate in my exvangelical essays. We can move forward with the confidence that they are so obvious that they are assumed. Here are a few examples: The Earth is round, Nazis are bad, vaccinations save lives, and the Evangelical Church is a nationalistic, white supremacist, multi-billion member cult specifically designed for purposes of empire building. You may want to debate these facts, but this is my blog and my rules. If you’re choosing to read it, you’re choosing to read a voice operating under the pretext that we hold these truths to be self-evident. 

Not remarkably, all of these facts have fallen under heavy scrutiny by many white evangelicals of late. But among them all, the fourth fact I’ve listed has certainly been the most divisive. Despite being part of an organization with historic ties to racial genocide, white supremacy groups, anti-abolitionism, apartheid, segregation, and the general subjugation of the BIPOC community, evangelicals simply refuse to believe that their brand of Christianity – dedicated to the proposition that Christ died for all of us equally – could possibly have ties to institutional racism. So for my thesis statement to make the case, I’ll simply defer to Jesus: “By their fruit you will know them.”

And now, permit me a brief history lesson. Let’s role the clock back to Emperor Constantine’s Rome. 

Christianity was literally designed by Roman Emperor Constantine as a religion to assimilate nations in his expanding empire under one unifying religion. The Council of Nicaea was his orchestration in 325 AD, in which all of the various versions of Christianity spreading around the globe independently of each other were consolidated into a single Apostle’s Creed that could easily be transmitted to every culture and tribe over which Constantine cast his shadow. Anyone at the council who refused to sign off on this Creed was banished forever. Once established, Constantine weaponized this Creed as soul-saving propaganda, using it as a pretext to expand his empire. His army was all baptized into this newly revised faith – except for their sword-baring arms, which were raised into the air and kept out of the redeeming water (think about that).  Turns out, Nothing gets people more excited to be subjugated – and more to the point, subjugating others from a position of power – than believing that it is God’s will. 

All of this information is readily available in basic history books – perhaps even in the ones that white evangelicals don’t consider radicalized with a liberal agenda. Christianity as we know it today has evolved for the last seventeen-hundred years not as some radical social movement by a zen Galilean storyteller (though evidence of his actual words are probably in some of the Gospel accounts, and I praise new Christian mystics trying to steer the religion back to those radical roots), not by the twelve disciples’ early church in Jerusalem (led by Jesus’s biological brother – shit they don’t teach you in Sunday school), not even by Paul of Tarsus (though I suspect he intended to squash that social movement by turning it into a religion – and he succeeded). All of that was just theological and missionary groundwork that made Constantine’s idea possible – he needed a religion; Christianity was popular and would do. 

His plan ended up going better than he could have imagined. In fact, it outlived his empire. In most of its form, the entire chain of Christianity’s history returns to Constantine, from which its imperialistic and nationalist agendas clearly evolved. Evangelical Christianity is an offshoot of the Protestant Reformation (which did its own share of witch burnings), which is an offshoot of the Holy Roman Church, which is where Constantine fashioned it. Even after Rome fell, the roots it planted remain the foundation of every empire that’s come after it.

I often wonder what Constantine would think if he could peer into the future at what he wrought – if he could have even comprehended just how thoroughly his parasitic religion swept through the world like an invasive species, assimilating everything in its path. I’m reminded of Einstein, who famously said after the H-bomb dropped that if he’d have known of the devastation that it would cause, he’d have become a watchmaker. In contrast, institutionalized Christianity has destroyed billions of lives – and it continues to.  Constantine’s parasite never died; it just evolved as empires recognizing its usefulness rose and fell. America is simply the next empire, and white supremacy is the next manifestation of the way that Christianity has been used to subjugate children of a lesser god for hundreds and hundreds of years. See also the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Holocaust, slavery, Native American genocide, suffrage, segregation – noticing a pattern here? All justified by the scripture, as interpreted by God’s mouthpieces from nearly every pulpit ever constructed. Christianity’s history might be layered and complex, but its design is that simple. 

If you want more information about the way that Evangelical Christianity has been the foundation of white supremacy in the this country, I’m happy to provide a reading list. Jesus and John Wayne by Kristin Kobes du Mez is the best one I’ve read. White Evangelical Racism by Anthea Bulter is also pretty definitive (listen to a great conversation between her and Exvangelical founder Blake Chastain here). The Bible Told Them So by J. Russell Hawkins is the long-time-coming takedown of the Southern Baptist Convention that leaves no room for doubt. Hell – if you can stomach it, just read A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies by Bartolomé de las Casas, which goes into grueling detail about the genocide of America’s first indigenous people in the name of soul-saving. 

Speaking of which, perhaps you’ve never heard of the Inter Caetera, a papal decree written by Pope Alexander VI on May 4, 1493, in which he granted to the Catholic Monarchs King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I all lands one-hundred leagues west and south of any territory around the Azores or the Cape Verde islands. This permission was granted, of course, for purposes of empire building and under the pretext of soul-saving.  And I quote: “Among other works well pleasing to the Divine Majesty and cherished of our heart, this assured ranks the highest – that in our times especially the Catholic faith and Christian religion shall be exhausted and everywhere increased and spread, that the health of souls be cared for and that the barbarous nations be overthrown to the faith itself.” The phrasing leaves zero room for doubt about the Pope’s real intentions. 

Now to my point: I want to compare Pope Alexander VI’s statement to one found in a conservative high school text book about American history that has been written as a counterpoint to the teaching of Critical Race Theory (as pointed out by John Oliver in his exceptional overview of CRT for his HBO show Last Week Tonight – watch it here): “The slave who knew Christ had more freedom than a free person who did not know the Savior.” Read that again, and keep in mind that it’s being taught to children in our country by people who think we ought to teach curriculum in classrooms that offers alternative perspectives on the motherfucking Holocaust. Behind this curtain, you will find white evangelicals – the latest manifestation of the Emperor’s soul-saving, Christian conquerors. 

Did you know that the Southern Baptist Convention – the largest Evangelical organization in the world – was founded on a pro-slavery platform because Baptists were abolitionists who refused to let slave owners be deacons? Did you know that in 2017, that same Southern Baptist Convention had a vote overwhelmingly fail that denounced and repudiated Alt-Right ideology because the language was “too strong?” It was passed the next day to save face – but I’m curious if anyone thought that previous controversial votes from the SBC – including the one that refused to let women be church leaders and the one that condemned the LGBTQ community – contained language that was “too strong.” I’ve sat in Southern Baptist Churches in which deacons stood up and openly talked about the superiority of the white race, the White Man’s Burden, God’s calling for us to travel to third world countries (you know – the “shit countries” as defined by their new savior Trump) in order to convert the heathens. Now, look me in the eyes and try to convince me that anything has fundamentally changed about Constantine’s purpose for designing Christianity – that we are still clearly not baptizing our soul-saving armies with our sword arms high in the air. 

Am I suggesting that if you are a white evangelical then you are a white supremacist? Not knowing your intentions, your history, or your own personal journey, I won’t state it so vulgarly. Let me just put it this way – I’ve got this friend who likes to tell a joke: Question – What do you get when you have nine people in a room listening to one Nazi? Answer – You get ten Nazis.

The place where I’ve generally been willing to grant grace among white evangelicals on this issue is the place where I personally needed it in order to make my escape from Constantine’s infection – and that is to comprehend that the Evangelical Church has gotten away with its nationalist agenda in exactly the same way that the Holy Roman Church pulled off the Crusades: If it’s God’s will, it can’t be possibly evil. We’re saving their souls by taking back the Holy Land. In the same way, evangelicals have convinced their flock that hatred is actually love – and they even have the Bible verses and bumper sticker slogans to prove it. (“Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner,” for example, is the one coupled by verses in Leviticus that are still the last thing many LGBTQ people will hear as they are beaten to death by evangelicals. And no, I didn’t stutter.) We persecute you because we love you – that’s literally Hell Theology, which is Christianity Evangelicalism 101. 

Every atrocity committed by the Christian Church has been perpetuated in the name of love. Evangelical leaders like those in the Southern Baptist Convention have therefore reframed white supremacy as God’s loving will. They’ve specifically accomplished this by defining racism within its congregations as a personal feeling instead of a systemic issue ingrained in the foundations of our theocratic empire. Evangelical leadership has brainwashed its flock into believing that if you in your white body bear no personal ill will against a person of color, you cannot possibly be racist. After all, Jesus died for the souls of all people, no matter the color. So long as Jesus is color-blind, so are we all! When we look at people of color, we see blood-bought, spirit-filled, born-again, sanctified Children of the King. As long as you see God’s child in the face of every black person, you are filled with Christ’s unifying love. You are equal sinners, equal saved. How could you possibly be racist if you feel that way about black people?

This notion was the most commonly taught defense against allegations of racism growing up as a Southern Baptist. On the other hand, every proposed law and policy meant to give the BIPOC community any advantage in a world that Christianity has always kept stacked decidedly against them are labeled from pulpits as part of a liberal, socialist, and anti-God agenda by a Marxist government designed by Satan to take away our freedoms and to distort God’s holy plan for our great nation. But because we acknowledge that Jesus also died for black people, we cannot possibly be racist. Look up the Civil Rights era, when Billy Graham declared, “Only after the second coming of Christ will a white child and a black child be able to walk hand-in-hand.” Intolerance reworded to sound like compassion goes all the way back to the Crusades.

In short, white evangelicalism’s version of anti-racism rejects every possible chance that people of color have to find any justice in our country, and it steals that right away in the name of love. Abolition, desegregation, affirmative action, checks and balances against police brutality, the perpetual undermining or whitewashing of every BIPOC leader, so many more examples… the most current example of which is Critical Race Theory. I’ll be back to that one in a few paragraphs. 

Evangelicals, meanwhile, just cannot seem to fathom the viciousness that they constantly display against people of color in the name of Christ’s redeeming power. Racism as an emotion and not as systemic reveals its bigotry in churches by methods that must seem obvious to anyone on the outside looking in, but it slipped over my head for over two decades as a Southern Baptist preacher’s kid and eventually, as a preacher myself. But it’s all over the place – “I can’t be racist – some of my best friends are black.” “Not all white people.” “All lives matter.” “I’m not racist, but –.” “I don’t understand why there also can’t be special college scholarships for white kids, because all races are equal under God.” “The blacks have enslaved themselves with welfare, and they deserve better for themselves than the way they are choosing to live.” Every time Jesus was depicted as black, I could always predict that my father would comment that it doesn’t matter what color Jesus’s skin was, so long as he was Savior. Funny – I never heard him make that aside whenever we saw a white Jesus. 

The grace I have until recently extended toward others like me indoctrinated as a child to be a white evangelical is that within the tiny bubble in which they try to keep us, they make it very difficult to recognize white supremacist doctrine for what it actually is. It’s because it’s all we’ve ever known, and we’ve been brainwashed since children to think this doctrine is the only way to restore God to this great nation. I can only speak toward my own experience, but unplugging from that mentality – deconstructing, if you will – takes much work, humility, and an understanding that much of your life will now be spent by perpetually trying to comprehend all of your blind spots. The Evangelical Christians of my generation (I’m 40 as of this writing; born in 1981) didn’t live through segregation, and by the time we were born, its narrative had been spun (like abolition before it) as being radically supported by evangelicals – when it is clear after just a brief look at history that evangelicals opposed the overturning of both these racist and dehumanizing institutions at every stage of their existence.  

Now I fear my grace has found its expiration date, and it’s 2016 when Nazis started walking in the streets again, toting Bibles and guns as the Evangelicals lapped up every ridiculous platitude toward them that tumbled out of that orange grifter’s sociopathic lips. It’s not that Trump was their only option because he won the primaries – they chose him because he was the monster that Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority igors had been willfully trying to create all along. There’s no room for patience anymore – this emperor has revealed its true clothes. After the presidency of Donald Trump, the Evangelical Christians of my age have no further excuses. We were fools not to understand it before, but now we have a clear choice: We either embrace the truth no matter how painful and reject this incarnation if evangelicalism; we go along with it because we’re okay with it (if that’s you, eat shit and die); or we blissfully choose to ignore that all the evidence and go on pretending it’s not real (you know, like a round Earth). If you’re still within this Church’s walls in the latter category, you’re a person in a room listening to a Nazi. Which makes you a fucking Nazi. 

I’m not sure what the solution is to keep the next generation of white evangelicals keenly aware of their origins and less likely to be indoctrinated into a skewed definition of racism. But I suspect that Critical Race Theory would vastly improve their odds, and I guarantee you that the Southern Baptist Convention believes exactly the same thing. 

I’ll provide some resources about how to learn more about Critical Race Theory, about which the evangelicals are currently whipping their base into a fury. (Start here, and here’s a great reading list.) But I think that after this elaborate and long-winded set-up, all I have to do is let Education Week (the #1 source for news and insight into pre-K – 12th grade education in America, so it must be liberal) describe it for us in this really helpful soundbite for you to understand why white evangelical leaders are so afraid of it: “Critical race theory is an academic concept. The core idea is that racism is a social construct, and that it is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies. The basic tenets of critical race theory, or CRT, emerged out of a framework for legal analysis created in the late 1970s and early 1980s.” 

Well, shit. Teaching that to their base would certainly blow the Southern Baptist Convention’s cover. 

Compounding it all, this isn’t really a convenient time for evangelical leaders to have Critical Race Theory brought into our schools. Ex-churchgoers are formally calling bullshit on their theocratic dystopian cult in droves – so much that evangelical leaders are finally issuing panicked responses about the deconstruction and exvangelical movements. And let me tell you something – we’re just getting started on that front. Meanwhile, MeToo has manifested in the Church in the ChurchToo movement, which is revealing the misogynistic theology intentionally designed to enable sexual predators to slip in under their steeples. Articles in major publications are starting to talk about us. Black Lives Matter demands changes to the systemic racism that the Church mostly continue to deny exists at all, and no one is buying the evangelical leadership’s spin except their increasingly skeptical base. Peer reviewed, academic studies are underway about Religious Trauma Syndrome (donate here), which is starting to become more prevalent in public conversations about mental health.  Church attendance is plunging, because everyone is just so fucking sick of it all. 

All this to say, the Church is in more trouble than it has been in since the 1980s, when scandals within the televangelist movement blew their covers left and right. People forget how much credibility they lost back then, when the public was starting to ask questions about whether or not these were really the leaders we wanted. Their power during the Reagan era cannot be overstated, so these pubically-expressed doubts put their entire racket in jeapordy. But the evangelicals survived that turbulent time, because they still controlled so much of the media.  Fast-forward to now: Falwell dead and his son is disgraced, the Moral Majority is grasping desperately for new leadership, while Q-ANON reveals just how gullible to nonsense many of them continue to be – and if you think that’s not fair: Have you ever met a Q-Anon member who isn’t evangelical? Neither have I.  

Not to say that they’re still not a force to reckoned with. The evangelicals continue to hold immense influence over their interest groups, their considerable base, and a few very successful media outsets. They’re everywhere, infiltrating every level of a country that their progenitors made pretty easy to infest.  That being said, something feels on the verge of rupturing in ways that haven’t felt this dangerous for them a long time. The internet is increasingly rising against them, while their numbers increasingly shrink. And the scales don’t seem to be in a hurry to tip back toward their side. 

So when Critical Race Theory – which seeks to simply educate children about the true history of this country in order to encourage the next generation of leadees to do better – becomes part of the conversation for emerging curriculum in our public schools, white evangelicals can’t afford to take that sitting down if they intend to survive.   And make no mistake – intend to survive they do. So the question stands: What the hell are they going to do about the shit show in which they’ve found themselves?

If you’ve read my previous article on the last time the Moral Majority tried to distract their base from all the scrutiny coming at them (and if not, now would be a good time to stop and read it first), you’ll already know what the only play could possibly be if they are going to stop this juggernaut from shattering what’s left of their clay feet. It’s the same play that has always enabled them, since Constantine: They create a “moral panic” with which to whip their base and therefore large swaths of the media’s algorithm into a frenzy, and then ride in as God’s knights offering the only salvation from this terrible Satanic threat that puts the freedom of both our souls and our nation at risk. 

Follow that chain all the way back to the Crusades – it’s easy to do. Witch burning has always worked before, and they’re counting on it to work now. When I was a kid, it was the Satanic Panic, with everyone distrusting their family or neighbor or children’s teacher because they all could potentially be part of the Devil’s cabal. This shit was on every corner of Christian media and even secular media. It infiltrated all of our schools and PTA meetings. Sermon after sermon, both on the radio stations we listened to and from our pulpits of the churches we attended, warned us of the great Satanic takeover that was signaling the imminent need for a great revival to sweep our land. 

The theatrics never change. Not really. It’s like they just dust off the same Moral Panic Playbook and start to work their chaos magic spells. Sure, they make adjustments in their language, their approach, but the end goal is the same. Leaders always emerge with all the talking points that all evangelicals will repeat over and over because God has laid it as a truth on their hearts. They will fight to preserve their sacred theocracy that they’ve been brainwashed into believing is freedom, while taking away the humanity of those whose continued exploitation keeps their privilege safe. You know – the witches, the liberals, the Satan-worshippers, the Marxists, the anti-Americans, the feminists, the heathens, the savages, the children of lesser gods… all those whose existence threaten to disrupt Constantine’s still ravenous Monster. 

It seems to me that white evangelicals have firmly positioned Critical Race Theory as their new Satanic panic. It all just adds up. In fact, it’s all rather perfect.  By selecting CRT, they could potentially kill all the birds with this single stone. They could somehow, inexplicably figure out a way to link it to the perpetual threat of the Atheist Marxist infiltrator, and in doing so stop it at its root while using it as a distraction from all the sexual abuse allegations and swelling deconstruction communities that are revealing the Church’s tactics to the rest of the world. 

The irony is, the Church still pitches this new witch hunt to their base as an example of perfect love. “We’re not racist for refusing to hold ourselves accountable for the systemic racism that literally built this country – they are racist for pointing it out, because all of that is the past and we need to move on. We are simply trying to make sure that we are all being treated equally under Christ’s redeeming blood.” They’ve literally hijacked the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. during Black History Month to justify their attempts to block their children and grandchildren learning about how they threw garbage at Ruby Bridges when she walked into their school. About the way that Christianity was used as a catalyst for slavery, and for all the oppression and segregation experienced afterwards. How this institution was created by not particularly religious white men who nevertheless understood religion’s immense usefulness for keeping them in power. About how Thomas Jefferson treated his slaves, and how most of the founding fathers were slave owners themselves, or how George Washington realized that the only way he and his friends were going to most effectively steal all this Native American land was as an independent nation not bound to King George’s treaties with the Iroquois Nation. About the way that the system has been stacked against the BIPOC community since this country’s conception to become a world in which they have every reason to fear nearly every privilege that whites don’t even notice that we have. 

The white Evangelical Church doesn’t want its flock to learn the truth. This kind of knowledge spreading about may signal their doom once and for all. 

So here is what I think they are doing: They’re going to keep whipping up this frenzy around CRT. They’re going to push it as hard as they can to stabilize it as the new Satanic panic. They’re going to send their flock out protesting its teaching in our schools in droves. They’re going to make it the talking point of every media outlet they control – and they will do it as they align with every other facet of white privilege that stands to lose their influence if we actually taught the truth to children in schools – because make no mistake: Many sit at that table, not just the evangelicals. But I guarantee you that there’s no one at that table that evangelicals have not been taught to revere. 

As exvangelicals, we have to recognize these tactics for what they are. And those of us for whom it is safe to do so – we have to fight to expose it, to raise awareness of these tactics, to do everything we can to advocate for Critical Race Theory being taught in our schools, discussed around our white family’s tables, included in every conversation (like Religious Trauma Syndrome) about mental health – all crucial steps in paving the way for CRT to inform laws and policies that continue to evolve this country in some direction that will finally make it ready to pay its dues. Because we know better than anyone just how successful Evangelical Christians are at winning this game, of turning this sort of crisis around and tipping the balance back into their favor. We know that every time their credibility seems to finally be diminishing to levels from which they won’t recover – recover they do, with their fabricated moral panics. It works every time, and it has since Constantine. 

As exvangelicals, we cannot allow the evangelical recovery to happen. Because look around – our swords in the air eluding baptism is killing this planet.

What this truth means for you on your own personal deconstruction path, I leave to you to figure out. It’s your own journey; as exvangelicals, we have a right to heal, to find our true selves, to deconstruct in any direction that we need to in order to find some version of inner peace that was utterly robbed from us by the same Church that convinced us that any of this was God’s divine, perfect will. We must heal collectively and individually at our own paces, in our own ways. 

But when each white exvangelical feels that they are ready to heal from the harmful indoctrination in which we were raised, it means that we will eventually have to recognize and confront the layers of Empire-building white supremacy on which our religion has always been built. Because ultimately, Critical Race Theory serves a similar function as religious deconstruction in the way that it holds white American Evangelicalism accountable for its actions and the role it has played in serving white privilege over the basic rights and safety of everyone else. It is therefore inevitable that each of us deconstructing our religion will eventually need to take a serious look at ourselves and ask what we are going to do  – both together and as individuals – with what we now understand is our privilege. And if you choose to do nothing, you will need to ask yourself why. 

One thought on “Exvangelical Musings: The Emperor’s New Clothes – A White Exvangelical’s Thoughts on Critical Race Theory

  1. Pingback: Dispatches: Cognitive Dissonance in Cattle Country – Surviving the Spirit

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