Danny Cardwell's picture

    Segregated Faith: America's First Sunday

    “I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”


    Today was America’s first full day of church services since candidate Trump became president-elect Trump. The outcome of the election has been received quite differently depending on the racial makeup of a church’s congregation. The data shows 80% of self-described White Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump while Black support for Trump was between 8-10%. The old aphorism about 11:00am Sunday morning being America’s most segregated hour was evident in the way Christians voted.

    As I walked towards the lectern in the pulpit this morning I knew the words I chose wouldn’t and couldn’t do an adequate job of placing this moment in a proper biblical or historical context. This election magnified the racial divide in America’s churches. The truth is: many churches haven’t made any substantial progress in desegregating that segmented hour of our week dedicated to worship. As I prepared and meditated on my remarks, I was (once again) forced to face the reality that due to our aging congregation and the racial demographics of our area the only way our church can survive is to bring more of our white brothers and sisters into our fellowship. We are one of the two historically black churches left in our county. I often find myself wondering how can we grow our church in a Republican enclave surrounded by Christians who don’t understand why Donald Trump is anathema to a majority of our members?

    Since Tuesday, I’ve read social media posts and watched videos by White pastors who have likened the election of Donald Trump to an Old Testament prophecy coming to fruition. As an ordained member of clergy and a student of human history I find myself questioning what matters most to some of my fellow Christians: nationalism or their membership in the kingdom? I don’t know how so many pastors were able to overlook the obvious racial undertones, xenophobia, misogyny, and overall vindictive rhetoric Donald Trump uses. I can’t understand how the Christian right was able to so easily embrace a candidate who embodied so many of the actions they’ve spent decades worth of lip service fighting.

    I’ve been assured by close to a dozen of my fellow Christians that their support for Donald Trump wasn’t based on any racial, religious, or national calculus. They assured me they want “real change”. I’ve been told that Donald Trump won’t govern the way he talked on the campaign trail. I was told that we need to give him a chance. I was told that Donald Trump isn’t a racist, “he just puts Americans first”. I was told all of this by people who assured me they aren’t racist. I had someone tell me how bad they feel that so many racist organizations have aligned themselves with their movement. I’ve come to the conclusion that none of their reasons really matter to me. I don’t have the time or energy to analyze each and every motivation people used to make their decision. It almost feels like some of them are looking for absolution. I know all Trump supporters aren’t racist, but that won’t help me if, and when, I’m subjected to state sanctioned discrimination.

    It’s deeply upsetting listening to pastors provide religious cover to a man who hasn't shown the ability to engage in civil discourse with anyone he disagrees with. Donald Trump speaks worse about his political opponents than Dr. King spoke about the people who were trying to kill him. Let that sink in! The Religious right have turned ecumenical back flips finding ways to forgive Donald Trump for behavior they would have crucified President Obama for. I can’t help but question what makes family value conservatives embrace a man with 5 children by 3 women, or his womanizing ways. Legendary conservative womanizers like Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani think the Donald has had a good run.

    In the 18th and 19th centuries the enlightenment caused the disenchantment with the church. In the 20th and 21st century it’s been our hypocrisy. What it means to be a Christian, and who decides are traps civilizations and cultures have fallen into since the church was founded. The church has survived crusades, inquisitions, reformations, and countless other existential crises; as an institution, it will always be here. I don’t question whether the church will live, I wonder how many people will want to be affiliated with it after we’re done?

    I started this post with Dr. King because he has simultaneously been the best tool America has produced for the destruction of systematic racism and for shaming civil unrest. There’s much to learn from his sermonizing and writing. He possessed the ability to weave secular and religious texts from the past into road maps for an egalitarian future. No figure in American history has had their legacy more distorted to the detriment of the people he died advocating for than Dr. King. He has been reduced to the role of Black America’s principal or daddy. The moment there’s racial unrest America would rather dismiss than engage Black people are bombarded with images of MLK and told how we should or shouldn’t conduct ourselves. Almost fifty years after his assassination America has convinced herself and three generations of her children that she loved him when he was alive.

    The protesters in our streets have very real issues they’re concerned about, yet the inexcusable actions of some knuckleheads have overshadowed their pleas for help. The electoral process has yielded a President-elect who’s caused some in our country to question how safe they are moving forward. Many of Donald Trump’s most loyal supporters don’t have to worry about the kind of collateral damage that can come from Draconian immigration policies or a national stop-and-frisk campaign. When members of the LGBTQIA community talk about losing civil liberties based on the religious beliefs of others they are dismissed as drama queens (double entendre intended). The left and the right are equally guilty of dismissing the concerns of the other side. When we ignore or diminish the pain others are experiencing we don’t make their pain go away; we only show them how little we care about it. Now would be a great time for some understanding and resolve. Maybe we can talk about how we got here without yelling at each other?





    Almost 90% of the black vote went to Hillary. When I point out Trump's racist record, the response is  but, . but...but  "what about Ben Carson, Omarosa, Dennard Paris, Don King, and now Ken Blackwell?". As long as one black person supports Trump, the voice of the black majority doesn't matter to Conservatives. If there were nude pictures of Michelle with a soft core lesbian theme, Sheriff David Clarke would have been at the White House with a pitchfork.

    I agree 100%. I've watched "family value" conservatives bend over backwards to support Trump. I have attended services where pastor friends have chastised people for engaging in the kinds of behaviors they find themselves supporting. I'm drained.

    I think Trump's election dealt a serious blow to race relations. While I have white friends who are more outraged than I when some racist incident happens, I also have Conservative acquaintances as well. I now realize that I no longer trust those Trump supporters.

    The consequences are a huge (yuge, bigly) problem here because, far as I can tell, the consequences for me of a Trump presidency with Republicans controlling the legislature is... a tax cut I would have been embarrassed to ask for but will take, while it seems like people who voted for Trump could potentially lose benefits my taxes were paying for.

    Were this all a zero sum game, I suppose I should be happy. I could (and will) take advantage of whatever tax cut I get to benefit my son through our 529 Plan.  It's what I wish my parents had been able to do for me.

    I am what MLK described. I didn't vote for Trump, but I am going to benefit and will be "liberal" along the way, and will justify it as watching out for my kid and... yeah... anything I can get for him, I will. I didn't ask for this and voted against it, but I will give my boy whatever advantage I can.

    No michael, no you're not what MLK described imo. You didn't just not ask for a tax cut. You didn't just keep your mouth shut. You didn't excuse the racism and misogyny. You fought against the party that's giving it to you. You're going to keep fighting the next 2, 4, 8 or more years. If you fight and you lose you're not complicit if you take the tax cut. Let's not beat ourselves up that much.

    Thanks for the support but let's... do the right thing, too. I know you will.

    I am what MLK described. I didn't vote for Trump, but I am going to benefit and will be "liberal" along the way, and will justify it as watching out for my kid and... yeah... anything I can get for him, I will. I didn't ask for this and voted against it, but I will give my boy whatever advantage I can.

    Michael, I have never met you, but I can assure you that you would most definitely be identified as the cultural other in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I don't believe you are controlled by the in-group out-group distinctions that fuels some of the paranoia on both sides. I will render you my version of I have a black friend or I voted for Obama. My wife and I will never be able to have children; we knew this in our teens- years before we ever thought about it. We were high school and college sweethearts; I broke up with her shortly after her graduation. We spent the next 14 years trying to find a way to get back together. We have two blond haired blue eyed God daughters: Jensen and Jenifer. On October 16th my God son (Landry) was born. I am a black man with three white God children. Race and race issues are complicated. I've been accused of being  a racist by people who don't have any meaningful relationships with any people of color. I am the descendant of slaves. My parents and in-laws went to segregated Rosenwald schools. I can either own this legacy and do everything in my power to fight for the sovereignty of Black skin, or I can hide. There are times when hiding would have been the better choice if all I had to worry myself with was career advancement. Just from reading your writing I can tell that you aren't the kind of person who would obstruct the train of human history. Can you do more? I don't know; that's something you have to decide. I go to church with people who literally risked it all. My pastor has two arrests on his police record, both came as a student protesting segregation. We have a church member who was integral to ending the defacto segregation that was occurring at Eastern Kentucky University while she was there. I go to church with another gentleman who attended Southern Illinois University when Roland Burris and Dick Gregory were students. When I listen to these people say they can't believe how far back we've gone I take them at there word. I'm not going to placate anyone's feelings at Dagblog, but I can assure you for whatever differences we may have, I'm certain no one is advocating for a soft fascism. If you get a tax break: save it, invest it, or take a nice trip. We have to move past guilt and get back to forcing people to engage ideas they aren't comfortable with. In some respects the disagreements at Dagblog are more beneficial to all of us than the agreements. I don't want to be in a place where everyone agrees with me all of the time. I've fought the natural trap of being the Black guy who writes about Black issues, but the reality is: Black issues are more important to me than trillion dollar speculations on Wall Street or pop culture. If King's words have made you think about your role in this struggle: GOOD. That's what he excelled at in his preaching and the little bit of writing he did.

    Have a great day!


    Great post

    I am not surprised that some public evangelical figures like Ralph Reed and Jerry Falwell, Jr were backing Trump, as they have long been political hacks. My guess it they were willing to back Trump because he was promising them support on abortion and other issues they consider important, and wanted no part of Hillary Clinton. These guys really don't care who else suffers for their positions. It was somewhat reassuring that at least some of the students at Falwell's Liberty University were not fooled, and were able to see Trump for what he is. But some were fooled, and really think that Trump is a 'good Christian,' which even as an atheist Jew, I find that a bit mind-boggling. But then, these same people deny that Trump is a racist or an anti-Semite, despite the words coming out of his mouth, and that Steve Bannon is standing right there next to him. His rhetoric against Muslims and Mexicans is only a slight variation on what used to be said about Jews and Italians. I don't want to see someone like Rudy Guiliani get his hands on the apparatus of the security state, and I'm sure you don't want that either. A resurgent Klan and neo-nazi movement? No, thanks. It would not just be a turning back the clock, but a fulfillment of their dreams of rule with unquestioned power. I don't know how we go forward from here, but we do have to try to find out common ground, and resist the Trumpenfuhrer as much as humanly possible.

    I don't know how to rally the kind of support necessary without pushing some of our silent allies against the wall, but maybe we have gotten here because too many people have gotten too comfortable? I am and have been thoroughly disgusted with hypocrisy of the religious right, but the silence of moderate Christians is deafening.

    Danny, the best thing I have read about this election was Bouie's article in Slate, "Why did some white Obama voters go for Trump/",--"Trump gave them a choice between multicultural society and white supremacy" --a forced choice question technique well described in direct sales training manuals.  Such a choice had not been presented in such an overt way in a modern election as racism was couched enough that other factors could play out.

    Large or small coke? Drives up total sales.

    I split my time between suburban Dallas and a rural county about an hour away.

    This morning in Dallas where I get my hair cut, I know the two asian women liked Hillary so we could talk. They are mystified, but have no trouble moving forward. One was unhappy that black Obama voters didn't vote as much for Hillary.

    A pastor friend of mine out in the county didn't like either candidate, probably voted for Trump, and puts it all in God's will.

    My six year old black grand daughter, who fortunately is in a very multicultural first grade class, said a girl was bad mouthing Hillary. So, she said back, "How can you say that about Hillary, you don't even know her".  That was the best comment I've heard in a very depressing week.

    My concerns are for my nieces and nephews. I don't want them to experience the sort of normalized racism my siblings left the Blue Ridge Mountains to avoid. In some respects the south followed them.

    Danny, hopefully we can use this as a forum to keep track of exactly what these kids are experiencing. I'm more familiar with the suburban schools here, but I plan to find out more what is happening out in the rural county.

    Dr King taught how the bondage of hatred holds both the victim and the perpetrator captive. However many Trump supporters are not racists does not break the chain that binds them together with racists.
    In this situation, it is not a matter of different groups seeing their interests best served in a political agenda without agreeing with each other on why. Trump developed his power on explicit appeals to hatred, fear, and intimidation. Whatever advantages Trump's non-racist supporters gained were bought with that coin.
    Unlike Pilate, they cannot wash their hands clean of the stain.

    Some TV guy asked the new Chief of Staff if the Trump Administration would make any effort to recognize the desires of the plurality of voters.  Raince at first looked perplexed.  Then he declared that Trump had "an electoral landslide,". He then stated that since the Democrats are completely powerless now, the the trump administration will not cater to any of their wishes.

    These are the people who claim to be believers in someone who, I'm told was a nice guy to all people and especially those in need.  But because the larger number of voters supported the other candidate, nothing they say will even be considered.  These people stole a Supreme Court nomination from the duly elected President, and their hateful efforts to delegitimize this President probably haven't stopped.  Yes, the d has some black acquaintances, but they all seem to be willing to use their skin color as a reverse-racism card to allow trump to say he is equal opportunity in his thinking.  It's true, see?  Because he didn't let whites who didn't look a "certain way" live in his apartments either.

    I just started a book called The Thinking Life, by PM Forni.  In Chapter I he mentions a hot mic moment when candidate Obama was in Europe in 2007.  He was talking to David Cameron and the gist of his comments were that it is essential to have blocks of time each day to simply think; to reflect on the day and on the Big Picture, and he expected that if he was elected it would take more discipline to accomplish that than even the pace of the campaign demanded.

    So we go from a man who schedules thinking time to someone who doesn't even read; had no clue what the job of President entailed; who surrounds himself by people whose agendas are even darker than his own.  

    It's going to get worse and worse.

    Trump has a narcissistic personality disorder that is manifesting itself to levels never reached before combined with delusions of greatness, 'I know more than the Generals'. The people around him are ideological fanatics living in bubbles impermeable to objective reality.

    As much as we might criticize his voters intelligence or bias, I would guess a large percentage of them are more sane and more grounded in reality than Trump and his team. That may become clear to them before long.

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