One Minute Video Introduction
In his address to America’s churches, Mike Pence said,
“It was the pulpits around America that spoke of the evils of slavery and brought an end to the scourge of slavery in America, even through a great civil conflict. And it was voices of faith, and communities of faiths that transformed our nation through the civil rights movement in our own lifetime. And we’re a better nation for it.”
But that’s not the whole story, is it. In fact, the statement is so sweepingly incomplete as to be a significant revision of truth.1 Many (perhaps most) white pulpits, in the South especially, thundered against civil rights.
Here’s a little challenge for everyone: find as many posts, tweets, Facebook media uploads as you can showing Mike Pence delivering his campaign advertisement in a black or Hispanic or Asian church. I welcome them in the comments section. All the ones I’ve seen have white congregations, like the ones above and below.
The Second Largest US Denomination
In point of fact, the entire existence of the Southern Baptist denomination was a direct result of a split in the denomination at a convention in Augusta, GA, in 1845, specifically over the issue of slavery. A significant number of churches vigorously supported slavery. That group became the Southern Baptist denomination. They insisted on keeping their slaves and were willing to die over this issue. About 20 years later many of them did.
(Hey, Mike… Remember that thing called the Civil War? You alluded to this “great civil conflict” in your political ad. It was a war. The Southern Baptists were on the wrong side of that war.) The Southern Baptist denomination sold their moral authority because they wanted to own people!
The Southern Baptist denomination is the second-largest Christian body in the US, the Catholic Church being the largest. And, even the Civil War didn’t change the denominations’ deep, abiding belief in their justification of slavery. In fact, they needed over a century after the Civil War before their denomination could muster the support necessary to pass a resolution renouncing their racist roots and apologizing for their flagrant racism.
The way in which Mike Pence’s political advertisement glosses over these important details misrepresents the truth to such an extent as to rise to the level of his rewriting history as he speaks of America’s churches. He is whitewashing the ugly truth that so many white church-goers were racists that the Southern Baptist denomination couldn’t renounce racism until 1995! And just over 20 years later, Mike acts like that none of that happened? He pats the churches on their back: good job, guys! No way! The whole truth matters!
White Supremacy and Nationalism
Mike Pence can not gloss over history and all but pretend that the American church that would probably broadcast his advertisement (trying to make the morally indefensible Donald Trump palatable to church-going people) stood against slavery. He’s carefully and craftily diverting attention from the fact that Donald Trump did his very interesting and bizarre dance with David Duke, the former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. (Read the Washington Post summary of that at this link.) Trump apparently wanted the KKK under his campaign tent. And why?
Well, we mustn’t forget that the Trump/Pence campaign manager, Steve Bannon, “was a founding member of the board of Breitbart News, a far-right news, opinion and commentary website which, according to Philip Elliott and Zeke J. Miller of Time, has ‘pushed racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic material into the vein of the alternative right’.” Source: Wikipedia
Trump designated Bannon as his White House Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President. You don’t whitewash that, Mike! You don’t get to pretend that all of the whites are the good guys wearing the white cowboy hats transforming our nation through the civil rights movement while a yuge number of them died to deny those civil rights. And then you and your boss hang with some of the bad boys? Yeehaw! And you completely leave out the fact that the second largest denomination in the country was the spawn of racism? These are significant omissions!
Or was all of this code speak to the racists that remain in the church of today? The church wasn’t so bad. It made a more perfect union. And I get along with the KKK and the alt-right. It’s all so questionable, so open-ended, so ambiguous but visible in the broad light of day (just don’t look), so possible… But the important thing, the thing that matters most, is protecting the unborn. So, vote for the morally indefensible. Vote for us!
Insult to Injury
The black churches in the United States are primarily2 the ones whose pulpits thundered against racially motivated injustice, persecution, bullying, torture and murder. These black churches did so at great risk. Some black leaders were murdered. Churches were burned to the ground by white supremacists. That black Americans rose up peacefully against this tyranny is astonishing beyond my comprehension and truly represents the heart of the teachings of the Christ of Christianity. On the other hand, the Southern Baptists were having none of it.
You don’t get to paint American church history with a large brush dripping with globs of white paint. No way! The whole truth matters!
“I’m a Christian,” first, he said.
For all of the good people that bought what Mike Pence sold you from your pulpits (that Trump was the Christian choice to make), I’m sorry: you were conned. You were had by a really good salesman. You were taken advantage of. Mike knew exactly how to wrap you around his little finger. He knew what words would make you feel all warm and spiritual inside. He knew how to dress and look concerned, look “spiritual.”
But far more seriously, for those who think being a Christian is simply summed up in a vote against abortion, you truly need to rethink the scope of your faith practice as it relates to what Jesus Christ actually talked about from his own mouth! His teachings are far, far more demanding than simply being a single-issue voter!
And for all of the ministers that allowed Mike Pence to have time in your pulpits: shame on you! And if you endorsed voting for Donald Trump and Mike Pence from your pulpits3, you broke the law: The Johnson Amendment. You know that. Don’t you! Shame on you! More on that later.
A significant number of self-labeled Christians need to stop pretending they serve Christ in the ballot box and get on with the hard work of actually doing what Jesus Christ personally talked about doing in the real world every day. By electing Trump and Pence, your church has completely lost its moral authority in the world. Completely!
Were that you were more like your black brothers and sisters whose churches dedicate themselves to serve the deep physical and spiritual needs of their communities and try to redress their injustices with only one condition: non-violence.
Shame on you for selling out so cheap.
The Other Posts in this Four-Part Series on Pence’s Speech to Churches
- Introductory Overview
- Mike Pence’s Speech to Churches (Part 1)
- Conned By a Christian? (Part 2: this post)
- Still Outraged by the Big Con (Part 3)
- Selling You Soul (Part 4)