American Christianity has faced theological-political crises before. Repeatedly, visions of what is possible for the nation have fallen short of reality. In the past, periods of change pushed faithful people to reconsider what they believed, not only about the nation but also about the meaning of God’s call to justice. In each critical moment, for good or ill, Americans altered their religious views, and the horizon of what was possible expanded or contracted. In revolutionary America, disunity resulted from debates over whether faith required obedience to the king or a revolt.
Bathroom bills. The phrase’s bouncy, alliterative nature, plus just the word bathroom, makes it somehow seem light, frivolous . . . oh, it’s just about the bathroom. It’s not.
On Sunday, after a tragic week of race-related killings in Dallas, Minneapolis, and Baton Rouge, I took a seat in my white evangelical middle-class megachurch in central Pennsylvania. I didn’t know what to expect, but as the sermon began I found myself pleasantly surprised. My pastor used his scheduled sermon on the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37) to address the issue of race in America.
The concept of race headlines many discussions in America. If you are talking about education, then you must address the achievement gap between white and black students. If you are talking about poverty, then you must talk about the disproportionate number of people of color who consume social services. If the conversation is about crime, you are pressed to mention the high number of African American male inmates. It’s the fog of race: prejudice and discrimination applied to pigmentation-neutral topics.