Evangelicals’ Racial Paralysis

My Friend, The Enemy, by William E. Pannell (Word, 1968, 131 pp., $3.95), and Black Power and White Protestants, by Joseph C. Hough, Jr. (Oxford, 1968, 228 pp., $5.75), are reviewed by Dirk W. Jellema, professor of history, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Many evangelicals seem to have difficulty understanding the charge of the younger generation that the Church is “irrelevant.” These two books, each in its own way, should help.

Commenting recently (in the evangelical civil-rights-oriented periodical Freedom Now) on the assassination of Martin Luther King, William Pannell spoke of the “good people” whose “eloquent silence has contributed most to this ghastly problem.” This impassioned book elaborates. Pannell, a black evangelical, describes his boyhood in southern Michigan (where racism was polite) and his joy at enrolling in an evangelical college. Disillusionment followed; he soon felt that “Bible school” and white evangelical ethics had “nothing to do with justice” for the black man. He now concludes that “most of the major evangelical concerns are effectively paralyzed by racism,” which emasculates the Christian message, and charges that white evangelicals indirectly support a “bondage so pervasive as to leave a man stripped of his humanity”—the bondage imposed by white racism. A stinging and slashing attack on white complacency, hypocrisy, paternalism, and smugness, the book sharply attacks white evangelicals in particular for failing to practice what Jesus taught. How can men who claim to follow Christ so blatantly deny the clear teachings of the Gospel?

Pannell’s heated essay is emotion-packed, somber, written from the heart, a compound of sadness and bitterness and love, a desperate ...

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