Evangelical Christians are becoming aware of the racial disparity in American culture, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell D. Moore said in the wake of unrest over the police killing of an African American teenager in suburban St. Louis.
The funeral for Michael Brown, 18, was held Monday (Aug. 25) at St. Louis’ Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church, which is near the suburb of Ferguson where Brown was shot to death Aug. 9. Police officer Darren Wilson shot Brown, who was unarmed, six times. The killing was greeted by protests that sometimes became violent and police crackdowns that received criticism. Recent nights in Ferguson have proven more peaceful, and Brown’s father, also Michael, asked for a protest-free day Aug. 25 in remembrance of his son.
Brown’s death also has been greeted by what many Southern Baptist leaders are citing as evidence of a discrepancy between the treatment of whites and blacks by law enforcement officials and of a divide that still exists between the two groups.
Speaking on a Public Broadcasting System program, Moore said he thinks “there’s an awakening across evangelicalism to see that we have a legal problem, we have a systemic problem, we have a cultural problem, and then behind that, we have a spiritual problem.”
Alton Pollard, dean of the Howard University School of Divinity in Washington, D.C., joined Moore in the discussion on PBS.
Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said he is “particularly concerned when I see white people and African-American people not having conversations with one another about what’s happening in Ferguson, reading this in completely different ways in many contexts. I think that needs to change in our own congregational life, when we have congregations where reconciliation is modeled within the pews of the church.”
White evangelicals who have expressed concerns about issues the events in Ferguson have brought to the surface are “in contexts where they know people and are serving together in congregations with African American and Asian and Latino people,” Moore said on the episode of PBS’ “Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly,” which was telecast Aug. 23-24. “And so the more that we have congregations that aren’t neatly segregated up into white churches and black churches and white-collar churches and blue-collar churches, the more you’re going to see people recognizing, ‘This affects me. I am part of a body of believers who have a very different experience than I have.'”
As an example of an evangelical awakening on the issue, Moore pointed to a 2013 resolution adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention that called for sentencing and prison reform. He also mentioned a conversation he had with an African American Southern Baptist pastor as an example of the disparity in America.
The pastor told Moore, “You know I was going through applications for my son to go to college, and there were certain schools that I was praying, ‘Lord, please don’t let him go to those schools, because I didn’t think it would be safe for him.'” Moore said he realized, “I had never had to have that sort of prayer. Those sorts of conversations, I think, spark a beginning of an awareness of what’s going on in ways that we need.”
Source: Baptist Press | Tom Strode