This article is a response to CT’s November 2015 cover story, “The Power of Our Weakness.”
"There remains an experience of incomparable value. We have for once learnt to see the great events of world history from below."
This quote, from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s essay “After Ten Years,” could describe many evangelicals after the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling. Losing cultural influence is a necessary corrective to conflating Christian witness with political and cultural dominance. Christian witness is never a guarantee of success.
But there is something missing in many descriptions of this “from below” moment. Evangelical Christians are not, and have never been, a monolith. Sweeping statements about past dominance and present dislocation show that, for many, evangelicals of color remain Ralph Ellison’s “invisible man.”
Many Hispanic, Asian, and African American evangelicals are not having a “Chicken Little” moment. Our sky is not falling, because we have lived under fallen skies for years. Conservative Christians have been disproportionately affected by racism, immigration, poverty, and denial of voting rights (to name a few issues) for decades and centuries. Why did lack of progress on these issues not arouse similar concerns long ago?
Author and activist Lisa Sharon Harper put the point vividly to me: “None of church historian David Bebbington’s markers of evangelicalism are racial. While it is true that white males have enjoyed the fruit of sinfully partial US law and cultural dominance since our nation’s founding, the same is not true for all evangelicals.”
For us, being on the periphery ...