Where Is the Love?
But why? Why has this one group amongst many been centered so completely in the narrative of American Christians—who we are, what we believe, and how we vote?
The explanation is that white Evangelicals are an influential voting bloc and the most reliable part of the Republican party. And that’s true enough. But it misses important facts lurking beneath the surface. It doesn’t tell us anything like the whole story about Christianity in America today.
Let me say this clearly so that even those in the back can hear: White Evangelicals do not own the market on American Christianity. Despite the amplification of their voices loudly and persistently above all others.
I am a black Evangelical. I am not a unicorn; despite seeming lack of evidence in the public landscape, we do exist. In fact, according to Reuters, 61 percent of black Americans identify as Evangelical—a much higher percentage than you see among white folks (only 38 percent of non-Hispanic whites are Evangelical).
Yet black Evangelicals are largely erased from the public discourse around faith in America. And we are not alone. Christians of all colors and creeds are largely absent from the discussion of American faith. And it is time for our story, and the broader story of people of faith in this country be told—because what has been presented is not our faith. And the differences could not be more clear.
White Evangelicals as a bloc made a Faustian bargain—trading the essence of their faith for political power and status. Their near uniform adoption of nationalism mixed with personal devotion to Donald Trump is theirs and theirs alone. No other religious group has anything like it.
In most groups this would only be a regrettable choice. But for Christians it is abhorrent: the idolization of a man who neither exhibits any of the cardinal virtues nor acts in a manner even remotely consistent with the Biblical mandate to elevate love of God and neighbor above all else has deeply harmed our public witness.
But because the voices of white Evangelicals are prized above all others, their choices have become shorthand for what Christianity is in America today.
And this is an abomination.
Remember Galatians 5:22:
But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions:
joy that overflows,
peace that subdues,
patience that endures,
kindness in action,
a life full of virtue,
faith that prevails,
gentleness of heart, and
strength of spirit.
These qualities are the essence of the Christian faith and they are the qualities that motivated so many non-white Christians to reject Donald Trump. And this story—the story of the “others”—is one worth telling.
So, if the lens was zoomed out and the presentation broadened, what would people find?
They would find that the Christianity of the “others”—Evangelicals like me—is not diametrically opposed to the cause of justice but instead fixed and rooted in the Biblical mandate in Micah 6:8 to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before God. And that because of this mandate, many of us speak out and act up to defend the rights of those on the fringes, the immigrant, the poor and needy, just as we are commanded to in Proverbs 31:9.
They would find that the Christianity of the others compels us to care for the least of these among us—those most marginalized and oppressed in our society. And that this command is the clarion call of our faith.
They would find that the Christianity of the others looks like caring for our neighbors by engaging in even the most challenging of public battles. This is what caused a candidate like Jaime Harrison to take on a David and Goliath-sized battle in South Carolina, stating, “I talk about faith quite often because it is a part of who I am. . . . The foundation is my faith: My belief in helping others, taking care of the least of these, being our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.”
They would find that Christianity of the others looks like moral clarity and leadership in the cause of justice. This is what enlivens the work of Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, who heads Repairers of the Breach, an organization that published the Higher Ground Moral Declaration in 2016. In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Declaration declared that rooted in our faith and the Constitution, “we believe in a moral agenda that stands against systemic racism, classism, poverty, xenophobia, and any attempt to promote hate towards any members of the human family.”
They would find that Christianity of the others looks like inclusivity. As Lisa Sharon Harper, the founder of Freedom Road, says, “God’s grace is available to everybody. Period. His is an unconditional, wholly inclusive affection. There is no skin color, country of origin, or medical condition that can make you incompatible with the love of Jesus Christ!”
And they would find that Christianity of the others looks like the radical notions of love for all mankind rooted in the Bible.
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.
There are three things that remain: faith, hope, and love—yet love surpasses them all. So above all else, let love be the beautiful prize for which you run.
1 Corinthians 13:13
Cornel West famously said that “Justice is what love looks like in public.” We, the other Christians, agree. It is this ethic of love, rooted in the Christian command to love others because our God is love, that causes many of us who claim Christian faith to seek policy solutions to systemic injustice. Not for our power, status, or the protection of our position. But for the extension of systemic justice rooted in love for others.
If we want to tear down systems of supremacy, inequity, and injustice then it will take the collective actions of people from all areas of our American society. And we cannot engage everyone in this pressing task until we see them, until we recognize them, until we hear their collective voices. And this is absolutely true when discussing American faithful.
White Evangelical Christians are a vital part of the faith story in America. But we must lengthen the table so that there is room for us all and expand the discussion so that a more complete picture of faith is presented to a watching world.