The Death of White Southern 'Christianity'
An oxymoron: Christianity in the American South
No more hate!!
In 1985, when I was a student at Lamar University in Beaumont, TX, a friend invited me to a party at her house in Vidor. It was a party of young Christians and we were just going to sit and have fun. The party was great and I went home that night thinking that a great time was had by all.
The next day when I got to school I found out that some of my friend’s neighbors had put sugar in her cars tank and ruined the engine because I, an African American, had gone to her house. Some of my friends were appropriately angry with the neighbors who put the sugar in the tank, but many of them were angry with me for attending the party.
Vidor, TX is a town that is known for its racism. In 1993, a man was ran out of town just for trying to integrate a housing project. In 1985, it was commonly known that black people did not let the sun go down on them in Vidor. I, however, had been to Vidor several times to visit friends and had even gone to church there once.
That is why my friend’s reaction to my going to the party was so devastating. It demonstrated a couple of things to me. The first was that my ‘Christian friends’ only accepted me in certain social situations and the second was that White Christianity in the South was not all-inclusive. It seemed that the color of my skin would always be a hindrance to even my Christian brothers and sisters. It was the primary reason that I left the church because Christianity was decidedly black and white in the South. It also hastened my exit from Texas. I moved 4 months after I graduated from college.
During the election of 2012, I watched as Americans chose tolerance over hate in record numbers. To my surprise, I watched the death of White Christianity in the South. Notice I did not say the death of Christianity as a whole, but the death of the white Christian South. There is a difference.
For almost 300 years, Christianity for many was defined not by the teachings of Christ, but by the policies of a white majority hell-bent on trying to control the minorities and women around them. Angry white men railed about the failure of the American system to protect them from the onslaught of ‘other people’ who would change ‘their’ country.
When I was 18, I had a life changing experience and in my haste to find out about what happened to me, I went on a search. I first went to traditional Black churches and though I loved the experience, to me the teaching was shallow. So, when I went to college, I found the Baptist Student Union of Lamar University. It was like a well to a man dying of thirst because I learned so much and I knew that this was the place for me. Plus, I was not the only African American there.
It did not take long for me to realize that some people were hostile to my presence, mostly guys. Like the day several of us stood and watched as a white girl walked across campus holding the hand of a black guy. One of the ‘leaders’ of the BSU looked at me and said, “she’s nothing but white trash.” The comment was specifically directed at me. Then there was the time that a friend of mine, a white girl, and I were sitting on her car talking. Three guys came to us and asked her why she was talking to me and not them. Pretty soon our friendship fell apart.
There were countless other incidents. There was the time I went bike riding with a friend and her father found out and had a fit. There was the time that the song leader at my mentor, Floyd Jones’, bible study asked me what I wanted among whites. It culminated in being told by a pastor of an inclusive church that as a single black male, I was not wanted at his church. This is white Southern Christianity. I am told that there have been changes, but this election cycle proved differently.
In the four years since Barack Obama has been elected President, I have watched as White Southern Christianity showed its true colors. Cloaked in the idea that Obama is a socialist (buzz word) and probably un-American or even Muslim, the hatred has been nothing more than astonishing. However, it is nothing new. The rhetoric is the same that I heard all those many years ago and that forced me to reconsider who I was and what I wanted my legacy to be in this world. As a matter of fact, it is the same rhetoric that approved of slavery and Jim Crow. It is the same rhetoric that would deny a woman the right to choose what she does with her body. It is the same rhetoric used to castigate illegal immigrants. It is the same rhetoric that would deny people the right to love whom they want. It is the rhetoric of racism bathed in Christianity.
This time, Americans rejected it and I saw the death of white Southern thinking. Minorities and women said no more. We said in a resounding voice that we will not tolerate hate and if you continue to espouse it and refuse to compromise, we will just make you obsolete.
Many Southern Christians see this as an assault on their religious freedom. No one cares if you are religious. We do not want your guns or your money. We want to live in a country where all Americans have the right to choose their American dream and not have to live under yours. That is the new American way and that is the new patriotism. So if you do not like it, the Middle East and its ilk will gladly welcome you. Ciao!