Flanked by an enormous statue of Jesus holding his cross and an even more enormous tree, I stared at the plot of land a few feet away. Lowering my head into my hands all went quiet. I felt, really felt, the cool breeze caress my face, giving what relief it could from the oppressive Virginia heat.
Lottie Moon: Empire and Faith
Do you know who Lottie Moon is? Lottie Moon was a Southern Baptist (SBC) missionary to China just after the civil war. She spent almost 40 years in China spreading the doctrine of Christianity. Moon is as close as the Evangelical Church gets to a saint. People give loads of money to the annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering; funding half of the SBC’s International Mission Board operations.
I Met Her at the End
Driving home a few weeks ago, I passed a historical marker: “Lottie Moon.” Ends up, Moon was from Virginia. After breathing her last in Japan, her ashes were buried with her brother not too far from where I’m living. Past the enormous tree and past the statue of Jesus stood two headstones. A large arrangement of silk flowers filled the cement vase on her headstone inscribed with, “Faithful Unto Death.” At the base of the stone lay a Christian CD, a magazine about rebuilding the nation of Israel, two small Chinese figures, and a cardboard box containing a rock and an inscription; offerings left by the aspiring faithful to the woman who was faithful to the end. But there is more to it.
Next to Lottie’s headstone, was her brother’s headstone, much older and shaped like the Washington Monument. At his feet stood a confederate flag and the Daughters of the Confederacy Cross of Honor. His initials on the foot stone spelled out I. A. M. I AM. YHWH. There it was: the rest of the offerings. The other half of the story.
Moon is the quintessential example of toxic feminism. When Moon wrote “What women have a right to demand is perfect equality,” she meant all white women had a right to demand perfect equality. The Southern Baptist Convention exists because southern pastors (white men) needed to protect themselves from plantation owners by continuing to permit slavery. They taught it was sanctioned from above. They introduced the idea of saving souls and not the body because it would keep slaves passive. Further, her family owned a tobacco plantation, and she helped manage it after her father died in a river boat accident. She was a slave owner. Her family fought with the confederates, and after forty years of dedicated service to her god, she still wanted to be buried with the “masters.” This is the southern saint. This is the effigy that has commanded over a billion dollars from parishioners around the world.
You can trace SBC and slave owner theology through the figureheads of the Evangelical movement: Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, Jerry Fallwell etc. And lest you think it’s just the SBC that has this problem, you can toss folks like Orall Roberts who was ordained in a traditionally black denomination (Pentecostal holiness) in with the group.
"The Pentecostal Holiness Church was a charter member of the National Association of Evangelicals in 1943 and joined the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America in 1948. At the general conference a year later an attempt at merging with the mostly black United Holy Church failed when the United Holy Church asked if their members could attend the church's schools and colleges.
Christian White Supremacy
Modern day evangelical Christianity is married to oppression. Even if one doesn’t identify or associate as Christian, “fundamentalist” Christian principles, ethics, and teachings have infiltrated the America conscious in such a way as to perpetuate white supremacy. Here are some examples:
Consider this, studies have shown that when white people earn money, they can keep it in the hands of white Americans for 23 days before it moves into the hands of someone from a different ethnicity. Asians Americans and Hispanic Americans can keep a dollar in their communities for a similar length of time. But African Americans retain money in their community for only six hours. Sixty-seven percent of Americans identify as Christian (Catholic and Protestant) and seven out of ten of those Christians are white. 70% percent of Christians are white.
When predominately white tithe money, goes to predominately white churches it gets put into predominately white banks. There are just over five thousand banks in the US and only 19 are owned by black Americans. While black owned banks provide 67 percent of their loans to black Americans, white owned banks give less than 1% of their mortgage loans to minority populations. So, the overwhelming majority (so much you could almost say “all of it”) of the power, stability, wealth, opportunity, and support cycles back into the hands of white communities. That’s white supremacy.
If you want to know how “right to life” got married to evangelical and catholic Christianity, read this article. Spoiler alert, it’s a race issue. Here’s the deal, black women are 3.6 times more likely to have an abortion than white women. At the same time, that they are 3 times more likely to die in child birth. What happens to women who were denied an abortion but survived child birth? They are 3x more likely to be unemployed and 4x more likely to live below the poverty line. According to the Center for Community Change, “People who enter the criminal justice system are overwhelmingly poor. Two-thirds detained in jails report annual incomes under $12,000 prior to arrest.” During incarceration, the system drains money from their families who support them by covering phone calls, necessities, childcare all while losing the income that person may have formerly provided. African Americans are incarcerated at a 5x higher rate than white Americans. “Nationwide, African American children represent 32% of children who are arrested, 42% of children who are detained, and 52% of children whose cases are judicially waived to criminal court. (NAACP)” While the 13th amendment “ended slavery,” it still allowed for slavery as punishment for a crime. When the abortion information I mentioned above mixes with its affects on wealth and poverty, the rates of minority populations living in poverty, the disproportionate amount of incarcerated people of color, free prison labor, the removal of voting rights, likelihood of reincarceration … you have a system that subjugates people of color from cradle to grave. To this day, Sixty-one percent of Evangelical Christians (non black protestant) believe abortion should be illegal in most if not all cases. That’s white supremacy.
Here’s the deal. I am not anti-Jesus faith for most people. What I am against is the Church as an institution. At this point, I think we need to burn it down. Why? Because the entire system is corrupt. So corrupt, that we have participated in white supremacy without knowing. We read books about the sanctity of life, the faith of Lincoln, the meaning of marriage…. it’s bullshit, and I’m okay if you don’t agree. Differences aside, the church has consistently been at the forefront of leading persecution against marginalized bodies, particularly those with black and brown skin. And what makes me the most sick is that I, in all my efforts to be supportive of women, to seek justice and love mercy for oppressed people, have unwittingly supported white supremacy for the majority of my life. Not because I didn’t like people of color, but because my culture told me how to think and interact politically and ethically. Surrounded by mostly white folks, I learned the values of my community which meant I unwittingly learned how to discriminate and marginalize people of color. I was just like Lottie moon. Seeking the benefit of my own sex, telling people about white Jesus, while participating in a culture, system, and government that systematically oppresses people of color and especially women of color.
Sitting in front of Moon’s grave, I could see she and I are were the same. Missionary, martyr, crusade, slave owner…. worshiping the empire and dead to the reality of every person who didn’t look like us. I felt the world go quiet. The wind rustled the trees, the birds chirped, traffic passed, but the voice in my head… the eyes of God disappeared, and the statue of Jesus stood with it’s back to me. I left Him with Lottie Moon.