Evangelicalism & The African American’s Battle to Believe

By: Kyle J. Howard Topic: Ethnic Reconciliation

OCTOBER 19, 2016 (Original Publishing Date)

As a Biblical Counselor, I daily tell Christians to fight to believe the Gospel. In the midst of suffering, discouragement, and spiritual warfare I am to encourage the people of God to Believe and walk in the reality of the Gospel. For African American Christians, the fight to believe the Gospel comes with a unique challenge. Not only must the black Christian fight in the midst of the things above to believe the Gospel, but he must also fight in a unique way. He must fight to believe the Gospel when the majority culture he lives and moves within constantly tells him that it isn’t their gospel. Slave masters called blacks to believe the slave master’s Gospel. Racists called blacks to believe in the “White Man’s” Gospel. Evangelicalism calls blacks to believe in the White Republican’s Gospel. Throughout the African American experience, blacks have been told to believe in a Gospel that is packaged in a way that proclaims,

“it is not yours, but you may borrow it. You may eat at our table, but you must enjoy our seasoning, do not add your own.”

Therefore, blacks have to fight to embrace the gospel in a society that packages it as not their own.

Not only that, but they must fight against the false gospels that are made all the more appealing due to the way the true gospel is presented.

Islam tells them, “this is your religion, you are part of the story.”

Nation of Islam tells them, “be proud of your blackness; this is the Gospel of your people.”

Hebrew Israelite tells them, “Blacks are superior to whites, reject the white man’s religion and join true israel!”

The Social Gospel says, “Their Gospel doesn’t care about your oppression and suffering. Ours does, and it will make your suffering central.”

The Health, Wealth, & Prosperity Gospel says, “you have been oppressed and kept from living life abundantly. Believe upon me, and I will give you wealth & health, and you shall finally prosper.”

The fight to resist the lures of these false gospels is strong especially when those who have historically held to the true gospel have also locked it away in a vault of cultural preference. The challenges intensify when those who have done this also refuse to recognize that their insistence on cultural submission causes the battle to rage more heavily in the African American Christians struggle for faith. The fight for the black Christian to believe the Gospel is an intense fight as he is fighting to believe the Truth when historically, the messengers of that truth have not valued them and have not been willing to grant them the dignity that the Gospel story says they have as image bearers. How does the black Christian fight to believe the Evangelical Gospel when they are constantly let down down by the majority culture who heralds it? here are a few reflections.

The African American Christian must fight to believe these truths:

1. The Gospel is God’s Gospel and does not belong to a certain people group. The Apostle Paul calls the Gospel “the Gospel of God” in Romans 1:1. The Gospel message (good news of salvation & reconciliation) does not belong to any group of people. The Gospel belongs to God, and it is the free message of salvation to all who will believe. If the Gospel is God’s Gospel than my access to it’s truth and benefit isn’t granted to me by a person but by my creator. It can’t be kept from me despite whatever efforts may be made to the contrary. It is a gift from God, and I will not let anyone take it from me.

2. God defines Gospel truths and implications not society or culture. If the Gospel is God’s Gospel, then the implications of The Gospel are determined by Scripture and not by men’s preferences or cultural bias. To add or take away from God’s word is an attack on the Gospel and I am called to believe God, not those who feel that the Gospel needs more… or less. False Gospels take away from the fullness of God’s Gospel. Cultural bias and preferences often add to it. I must believe and apply God’s Gospel even if the very people who introduce me to it call me unfaithful for doing so.

3. The Local church is my support and refuge in the inner war to believe. I cannot fight alone. God in his infinite wisdom And grace has given all believers to one another. We are not called to fight alone, and arrogance is what would cause us to desire to do so. The humble Christian recognizes their utter need for others to remain able to fight. The African American Christian MUST pursue a local church that will help them fight. If a black Christian is part of a church that has embraced a lesser Gospel, they are not part of a church that is helping them fight. They are part of a church that is telling them to find refuge in something less. If an African American Christian is part of a church that is expecting them to adopt majority culture in order to be accepted, then they are part of a church that is telling them that the Gospel they must fight to believe is insufficient. The Black Christian must pursue a church that embraces the true gospel and its implications in a way that that acknowledges that those of every tribe and tongue sit as equals at the table of God’s grace and that there is beauty in the various seasonings used by the saints of God to feast on his glory.

4. As an African American, I can no longer identify as an “evangelical”. For me, that word has died upon the alter of majority cultural prioritization. Evangelical is a racialized category to me. It refers to white conservative Christians who have chosen to bond with the Republican party at all costs including Biblical fidelity. I fully recognize that not all, not even the majority, of evangelicals are like this. However, I believe those that are have so stained the word that it is impossible for ethnic reconciliation to happen under the banner of evangelicalism. Evangelicalism is salt that has lost its flavor and something else must take its place. For many years I have considered myself evangelical but this past year has shown me that I have never truly been part of the camp. I was only invited at the table of “Evangelicalism” as long as I was willing to use majority cultural seasoning. The moment I chose to use some of my own seasoning, I was no longer permitted at the table. Faithful Gospel believing Christians who are seeking to apply the word and abound in love concerning ethnic reconciliation should consider fleeing evangelical classification moving forward. For African Americans, it will be very hard to engage with those who fly under the banner without suspicion.

Critical Question:

If you are a minority, specifically an African American, I want to ask you a question. Have you rejected the Gospel of God because of the fallacy of men? Have you embraced a false Gospel because the skin color of the one who has presented it, made the message more palatable? God’s gospel has three parts to it.

  1. Jesus, the eternal Son of God agreed with The Father to take on human flesh to live and die as a substitute for sinners. As the incarnate Son he lived the perfect life so that he would have a perfect righteousness that he could give to sinners whom would believe upon him. A righteousness that is necessary but which could not be obtained by mankind due to their corrupt nature.
  2. Jesus Christ died under the wrath of God in the Law-place of all sinners who would believe upon him. He was the perfect sacrifice and in dying he justified the ungodly as he himself took their eternal punishment unto himself.
  3. Jesus’ resurrection demonstrates that the sacrifice he made was received as acceptable by the father. His resurrection marks the beginning of a new era in which God through Christ is reconciling all things to himself. This reconciliation includes Human to God, human to human, and nature which is under a curse.  Salvation is guaranteed to all who believe while judgment awaits all those who reject the good gift of God.

The Gospel is the Good news of the reconciliation of all things to God through Christ. Jesus saves sinners through faith in his life, death, and resurrection work.

God has planned this amazing work before the foundations of the world were even laid. Do not let a political season or misguided men keep you from embracing the great gift of God which is received through repentance and faith.

You can follow me on Twitter @KyleJamesHoward. Also, check out my podcast “Coram Deo Podcast” which focuses on issues concerning Biblical Counseling and Practical Theology. You can search for podcast on any major podcast catcher, listen on the web here, follow updates @CoramDeoPodcast, or just click the artwork below.

Kyle J. Howard currently serves the church as a trauma informed soul care provider. Though his Soul Care ministry is comprehensive, he his primarily focused on counseling, teaching, and raising awareness about Spiritual abuse/trauma as well as racial trauma. Kyle holds an Associates in Biblical & Theological studies, a Bachelors in Christian Counseling, and is receiving his M.A in Historical Theology in a few weeks.