The Pilgrim Fathers and the Puritans were ardent Calvinists. As Great Britain swung back and forth between Catholic and Protestantism, as each monarch dictated, the British Calvinists moved back and forth to Holland and Geneva, Switzerland, to practise their Calvinism with freedom and enthusiasm. When the opportunity arose to sail to the New World and establish a pure church, some jumped at the chance, starting in 1620.
Meanwhile Scotland took a more Calvinist route than England. By the time Alexander Campbell left the Old Light, Anti-Burgher Closed Communion Presbyterian Church in Scotland, to sail to the New World in 1790, Calvinism was firmly established. But the Protestant Reformation had reached a new horizon in the brand new United States of America. There was a burgeoning unity movement. Instead of closed communion and clearly delineated catechisms, there were those who wanted a unified free church based on the priesthood of all believers, no professional clergy, and a bootstrap relationship with God.
The Cane Ridege Revival of 1802 on the western American frontier, had enthusiastic singing, hours of preaching about unity of all believers, and ecstatic pentecostal demonstrations.
What sifted out was the Restoration Movement: the Disciples of Christ, Christian Church and Churches of Christ.
The hard line Churches of Christ, contrary to their mythology, inherited the most of Calvinism of all three of the groups. Similarities between the Churches of Christ and John Calvin’s church in Geneva:
Congregational: decisions are made at the congregational level, no bishops over the for churches. Only elders over each congregation.
Establishing authority for each act of worship via Command, Example or Inference found in the New Testament Scriptures, post-crucifiction only.
A harsh God. Calvin interpreted that as a God who was going to send everyone to hell, but chose a few (through no merit of their own) to be saved. God chose them before they were born. If you didn’t get chosen, you have no reason to complain, because you were a sinner anyway, and we all deserve hell. In contrast the Churches of Christ teach that God is an angry God who will send you to hell, but you can save yourself from hell if you choose to believe, and be baptized in the biblically commanded way. Nobody else will be saved. Also, nobody can be sure they are saved. The best we can do is obey God, mostly by attending church as much as possible, worshipping in the authorized manner, according to the approved example of the early church as recorded in the New Testament. If you make a mistake in this regard, you will be lost. So choose your congregation carefully.
A capella singing, with no musical instruments. Calvin, the Pilgrim Fathers, the Presbyterians and the Puritans were all clear: there were no instruments of music mentioned or commanded in the New Testament, therefore to use them is a sin, and might endanger your salvation.
Ex-communication: Calvin was strict about not allowing blatant sinners to take communion in his congregation, and the hard line churches of Christ have followed his tradition, with a few modifications.
The comfort of knowing we are the only ones who are doing it right!
Old Joke: Why does your church ban sex standing up? Because it might lead to dancing.
For those too young to get that joke: Many churches considered dancing a sin that would lead to promiscuous sex.
A recent NYT article outlines the dilemma that evangelicals face around premarital sex: Do we move with the times, or does celibacy outside of marriage promote healthy sex in marriage, and better mental health over all?
The theory goes like this:
God instituted marriage as the healthy way to express sexuality, to join a man and woman together sexually. The most quoted passage in the Bible by Jesus and NT writers is “In the beginning God created them male and female. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh‘?”
This promotes physical health (less STDs), mental health (less trauma), and more intimacy between husband and wife.
There is less abortion when sex is reserved for marriage.
Sex before marriage promotes disease, mental disorders (especially among women), and dilutes the intimacy later in marriage. It also promotes infidelity later in marriage.
Pornography does the same thing sex before marriage does.
Half of evangelical churches include masturbation as sinful as well.
Conservative Catholics elevate the virginity of Mary, and view celibacy as especially holy, and sex as carnal, causing infants to be born in sin. The latter is not Catholic doctrine, but is definitely a Catholic myth.
What is the truth about these claims?
It is true that sex promotes a healthy marriage, and the fewer previous partners one has had before marriage, the better the sex is in marriage. A Redbook survewy in the 1980s reported that women who were having the most orgasms per week were in their 50s, in a long marriage and had had few sex partners.
It is true that there is less abortion among married women. Though older married women are the second highest group that have abortions.
Sexual promiscuity does promote STDs, affects women to have similar symptoms as rape victims, and sometimes dillutes the intimacy of sex in marriage.
Research on porn indicates it promotes less intimacy. However 70% of evangelical men use porn and perhaps 40% of women.
Almost everyone masturbates whether they believe it is sinful or not.
Have about the same level of premarital sex as non-evangelicals, though they tend to wait about 6 months longer to start having sex (average age 16).
Evangelicals who wait until marriage are not more mentally healthy than their counterparts, and they do not have better sex in marriage than their counterparts who did not wait. The Christians that are successful in waiting until marriage often have homosexual orientations, and thus it was easy for them to shun heterosexual sex before becoming heterosexually married.
Evangelical writers sometimes point to the past or to the Amish as examples of healthy marriages where there is no premarital sex.
Those writers are not really familiar with the Amish, and don’t know how much premarital sex the Amish are having, or how healthy their marriages are. They are relying on a romanticized view of religious people working on farms in old fashioned clothing, driving buggies.
We do not live in closed communities. Evangelicals, in an effort to protect our children from sexual immorality, have established private Christian schools and colleges, have established church youth groups, and invite speakers to come and convince our teens to save themselves for marriage. One of the most famous speakers has repented for discouraging teens with his book, “I Kissed Dating Goodby”, is separated from his wife, and no longer calls himself a Christian.
Evangelicals who have been successful in getting teens to wait until marriage:
Have strong support groups for their teens, especially the young men.
Encourage their teens to get married much younger than the general public: at age 18-21yo.
Have high divorce rates.
Another argument that evangelicals and fundamentalists make is that it doesn’t matter whether saving oneself for marriage helps or hinders, it just is a rule that God made and we have to keep it. This argument doesn’t make much sense. Under the Law of Moses rules were laid down with not much justification, but in the New Testament every rule is given a justification, the writer attempting to persuade the reader. (Interestingly the rules about rape and adultery in the Law of Moses were the most progressive for women of that time.)
The rules about sex were given:
In an era when women had very little power.
When pregnant women and women with children needed a lot of support (they still do today).
When there was very little birth control that was reliable. Every era has had access to birth control, with varying degrees of reliability.
When the most successful child rearing happened in intact mother-father families (still the case today).
Concerns that everyone has are:
Women still tend to get hurt more than men in dating relationships and in hook-up culture.
Women still have more to lose in a promiscuous culture that leaves her to raise her children alone.
I grew up in the Churches of Christ, which traces their history through the Cane Ridge Revival of 1801 in Kentucky and back through Alexander Campbell to the schisms of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, and the Reformations of Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin in Switzerland.
So, to me, having grown up with the biblical interpretation model of Command, Example and Necessary Inference, it is fascinating when I find these principles focussed and enforced by the first Puritan settlers in the New World.
The Puritans arrived in the New World in 1630, and were slightly different from the Pilgrims who had landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620. The Pilgrims were Separatists (refusing to be associated with the Church of England). The Puritans who landed a few years later, wanted to be associated with the Church of England, but also wanted to reform it. Both the Puritans and Pilgrims had spent time in Holland or Switzerland worshiping in Calvinist Churches when it was not safe for them in England. They fled to these churches because they had been influenced by their theology earlier, and when they arrived they were further indoctrinated into Zwinglian and Calvinist theology.
Side note: Puritans and Pilgrims wore bright clothing as evidenced by the museum preservation of much of their clothing. The reason that later artists depict them in somber black, white and gray is because they are conflated with the Quakers who came 200 years later.
The Puritan immigrants (not Separatists), not wanting to use the same Psalm book the Pilgrims (Separatists) used (Ainsworth’s Psalter), decided to translate the Hebrew Psalms of the Bible afresh into English poetry for singing in their church. They imported a printing press and away they went!
In the preface to The Bay Psalme Book of 1640, the first book composed and printed in the New World, is their scriptural justification for composing this book, and their biblical arguments for why they sang the way they sang: acapella, congregational, Psalms only.
How surprised was I when I discovered that the arguments they used were none other than the arguments that were drummed into my head growing up in the Churches of Christ acapella in the Bible Belt of the United States, 350 years later, though they came to slightly different, and stricter, conclusions.
First of all they insisted that only the Psalms be sung, no other hymns allowed. They understood that someone could be “ordinarily inspired” to write a song of praise to God, but that song would possibly be contaminated with worldly influence. The only way to be sure that the song was totally pleasing to God was to sing one of the Psalms contained in the inspired Bible. Only then would you know that what you were singing was wholly pleasing to God. They went through lengthy arguments about how prayers and sermons are not wholly inspired by God, but there is a clear distinction in their minds between prayers and sermons, and Psalms of praise to God sung by the whole church. Clearly, in their minds, Psalms of praise require a higher level of inspiration.
When the apostle Paul said we are to singpsalms, hymns and spiritual songs, we find that he was referring to the Hebrew labels for the Psalms referred to by King David as Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, each one labelled with one of those labels. So, to be safe, we have to use only those Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs found in the Psalms. With one notable exception: singing the Ten Commandments. So, to be safe, we have to use only those Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs found in the inspired Bible. With one notable exception: singing the Ten Commandments.
When the apostle Paul instructed the church to sing, he instructed everyone to sing, no solos, because there are no Examples of solos in the New Testament Church! If God had wanted choristers, then God would have given the qualifications of choristers in the New Testament. God gave qualifications for Apostles, elders and deacons, but no qualifications for choristers. Since there are no qualifications that we can read in the New Testament, therefore there can be no choristers in the New Testament Church. (Nevermind that there were choristers in the Hebrew Old Testament and no qualifications that we can read there.)
In the preface of the psalm book it is determined that we are free to make up our own tunes, because God had not seen fit to preserve the Hebrew melodies, therefore God was setting us free to make up our own melodies for the songs of praise. They said they were familiar with almost 40 tunes that they would match up with the Psalms according to meter. Most of the tunes were in Simple Meter, or Common Meter, some were in Long Meter, a few were in 6’s and 7’s (number of syllables per line). The Psalms were printed in the Bay Psalme Book, but none of the tunes were printed. The congregation was already familiar with the tunes, and the Precentor of the congregation would call out the number of the Psalm, and then the title of the tune (e.g. Cambridge) and the first note to start on. Then he would lead the song. The tunes were named after towns.
When it came to instruments of music, the preface to the Bay Psalme Book freely admits that King David used several instruments to praise God. However the writer finds that these instruments were part of the Ceremonial Law, not part of the Moral Law that applies to the New Testament Church. How surprised was I when I realized they used the exact argument the Churches of Christ use against the instruments of music of the Old Testament!
It is clear that the Puritans (and the Churches of Christ later) were people convinced that God is a God of rules and regulations.
And how funny it was that they used the same Command, Example and Necessary Inference biblical interpretation that I grew up with, yet came to some very different conclusions!
A few years later the Puritans joined the Pilgrims and established a small Bible college to educate preachers (Harvard). The Puritans and Pilgrims were later known as the Congregational Church because they made their decisions within the local congregation by voting, shunning the hierarchy of the Church of England. Later they became the United Church of Christ, the conservative wing is called the Church of Christ Congregational.
“You got niggers in your church?” the woman asked me after I showed her my wedding photo album (1980, Churches of Christ, rural Alabama).
Historians have noted that the South has been particularly religious, in the evangelical sense. Since 1980 historians have called the tragic identity of southerners after the Civil War the Lost Cause, and have noted it is a religion that combines southern Confederate values and Christianity.
My relatives raised in the Churches of Christ (non-instrumental) would have said that they were restoring the One True Church that Jesus established on the Day of Pentecost, A.D. 33. Left out of the narrative was that the Churches of Christ split off from the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ in the north (1840-1880) because the northern congregations were beating the abolitionist drum, according to David Harrell, leading up to the Civil War (1860-1865). I heard that the One True Church had to leave the Christian Church because they were using instruments of music in worship, and because they had established a convention and elected a president, clearly the first steps toward establishing denominational hierarchy not found in the One True Church in the book of Acts. But I never heard that we split off because we hated abolitionists and wanted to keep slavery.
Everyone knows that the Ku Klux Klan were racists who believed that the only way to protect white jobs and control the sexual sins of the black man were to lynch a few every once in awhile. But we didn’t know why they burned a cross. It was because they were an evangelical Christian organization. They did not allow Catholics or Jews to join, only Protestant Christians. They sang a hymn and prayed at every meeting. We pointed at them as the racists. They never believed they were racists at all, they were just pointing out the biblical order of society and races. We couldn’t see that we were part of a larger movement that included the Ku Klux Klan and all the white evangelical southern churches.
Almost all of the denominations and sects split during the abolitionist movement, south from north. The Southern Baptist Church, The Southern Methodist Church, the Churches of Christ, the Presbyterian splits, almost all of them embraced slavery in the south and eschewed the Abolitionist Movement. Long after the Civil War they upheld the superiority of whites, and the tragedy of the undisciplined Negro, who unconsciously longed to go back under slavery where they were well treated, and benefited from an organized productive life as slaves.
My parents taught me privately to not be racist. And by the 1950s nobody talked about supporting slavery, but they did hate the Supreme Court for interfering in their Lost Cause Civil Religion, as they hated “Martin Lucifer Coon” for registering black people to vote. “What are they even marching for?” “Why are they causing trouble at the lunch diners? Nobody wants to mix. They prefer being separate.” “Why are they rioting?” “Excuse me, there’s a Negro congregation across town on Lexington Avenue. I’m sure you would be much more comfortable over there.” (1964)
I never heard about Martin Luther King, or the struggle to vote, in my home, or in my church. I heard that the Baptists were wrong because they believed in Once Saved Always Saved, and used instrumental music in worship (The apostle Paul said, “Sing and make melody in your heart”, NOT on a piano, “in your heart”). But I never heard that black people were not permitted to buy an FHA financed house, and were not permitted to live in a white neighborhood and attend white schools.
The Lost Cause Civil Religion is a continuum. On the right is the KKK, and on the left are those who welcome black people into their congregation, as long as the black person leaves the congregation the same as when they entered, no changes, no discussions of race, except to confirm our beliefs.
Fear of the black man was what drove much of the Lost Cause Religion:
Jingoistic patriotism, flag and country, and Dixie flag and the South shall rise again.
Traditional male-female roles: men provide for their families, men defend women’s honor, women keep the home and raise children, men go to war,
bootstrap ideology, work hard and you will succeed,
opposition to socialism because socialism rewards the lazy,
authoritarianism: harsh towards the weak, obedient to the powerful, competitive with peers.
Children should be seen and not heard, paddled often, should be fearful and obedient.
Whites were righteous, god-fearing and trustworthy. Blacks were addicts, thieves and violent.
Our religion is right, yours is wrong. We’re saved, you’re going to hell. An evangelical prayer before every team sport.
One of the deacons in our church in Indiana used to tell Jewish jokes to his Jewish boss, who didn’t laugh. He was employed as a catalog photographer. When he was replaced by a black photographer he was incensed at the boss, the company, and President Carter’s policy of reverse discrimination. There was no self reflection. When the congregation started using overhead projectors he objected because they were unscriptural innovations. His Jewish jokes weren’t sinful, but the government and the overhead projectors were sinful.
When we drove from Indiana to Mississippi to see our grandparents, every bathroom stall had anti-black pro-KKK graffiti–every bathroom stall.
So now I realize that I was raised in a milder version of the Ku Klux Klan. And when I pointed out inconsistencies in the Churches of Christ I was met with the same nasty attitudes shown to the Freedom Riders and the Lunch Counter Protesters, and the Voting Registration Marchers in the 1950s-70s. I was opposing the real religion: The Lost Cause of Genteel Southern Society based on the backs of cheap black labor. That was and is the true religion of Evangelicalism in the United States.
The Lost Cause Religion can be seen in Evangelical Christians voting for the Republican Party:
The embracing of the slogan Make America Great Again, by going back to the era when there were no blacks in the professional jobs at work, and one could tell jokes about Jewish stereotypes and not get fired.
Evangelical Christianity is the true religion of the USA.
This nation was made for white people, the others need to be quiet and try to fit in. believing that anything that is not white and evangelical is evil. Agreeing that voting stations in black neighborhoods should be closed.
The belief that voting for Republicans saves more innocent lives because they are ProLife.
Accepting that Mexican children can be separated from their parents and housed in chain link prisons for months and years resulting in permanent mental illness.
Voting for more and more military power.
Sending their children off to fight in wars far away.
Wars with Arabs who believe in an evil religion.
Being baffled by the anger around Black Lives Matter. What are they even fighting about? Blacks are treated better than Whites now.
Democrats cheat and Republicans don’t cheat. The belief that Trump tells the truth (everyone who has played golf with him says he cheats on every hole).
Jesus was hated after he told the story of the Good Samaritan. That’s like telling a story about the Good Negro here in the Bible Belt, and how the Evangelicals crossed the road to get away from the bloody body in need.
They told me I was raised in Christianity, but what I was raised in was Racism and Authoritarianism: the opposite of Christianity. Evangelicalism is not primarily about Jesus, it is primarily about perpetuating the Lost Cause Religion of the South. If Jesus can fit in the cracks somewhere, then fine, we’ll let him in. But what the Bible Belt Evangelicals really want from Jesus is a nice Christmas dusting of snow so we won’t have to see the evil in our hearts.
As Black Lives Matter becomes mainstream it is interesting to me to see my religious relatives’ anger rising. Where did this come from?
My parents were less racist than most as I was growing up, but we grew up in the Bible belt, north of the Mason-Dixon line, where there were small enclaves of acapella Churches of Christ, non-instutional (my 90 year old father has never quit preaching about the painful split (1957-1964) in the acapella Churches of Christ.
I had always been taught that the Churches of Christ split from the Disciples of Christ and Christian Church when they formed the American Christian Missionary Society in 1849. What we were taught was that missionary societies, in and of themselves, were unbiblical, an organization bigger than the local congregation, with no authorized organizational structure in the New Testament. Churches (local congregations) were authorized in the New Testament to send out missionaries, but not a larger organization.
What we were not told was that the American Christian Missionary Society our sect split over had taken an abolitionist stand. Further we were not told that the Methodists, Baptists and Presbyterians split at exactly the same time (North vs South) over abolition vs slavery. And that most of the Churches of Christ were in the South, and the Christian Church and Disciples were in the North.
There is still doctrine in the Churches of Christ, non-institutional (NI), against any organization on earth, greater than the local congregation, to do the work Christ assigned to the local congregations. There is still rampant racism as well, not overt racism, which is taught against, but I had never seen a black person in a congregation I attended until I was 14 years old. The Churches of Christ are strong only in the South, and areas where southerners moved to, or where slavery was strong in the north and west.
When I studied to be a minister in the Churches of Christ, NI, I first interned in 1977 at a church in Buckner, IL. I learned from the congregation that it was located in an all white county. In the late 1960s a black family had moved into nearby Benton, IL, and people burned their garage down the first night. The family moved out the next day. The congregation told me that there used to be a sign up at the edge of town that said black people were not permitted to spend the night in that town.
The minister (in his 50s) I was working with, Eural, was renovating his house. He casually referred to the black insulation board as “nigger-board”. When I raised my eye-brows he looked embarrassed and said, “That’s what they call it at the lumber yard. I don’t think they have another name for it.” He was very upset when his daughter dated a black man in 1976. He told her that he knew men years ago who would warn the black man, then if he didn’t stop dating a white woman they would kill him, and those men were still alive. So she stopped dating the black man.
One of the elderly congregants, Sister Flatt, asked me if the beast of the field in the book of Genesis wasn’t black people. I later learned this is an old doctrine. (When I acted upset at that idea, she quit inviting me for Sunday dinner.)
The second place I interned in 1978 was in Gainesville, FL in an all white congregation. The minister (50s), Jim, was from Arkansas, wore cowboy boots every day, was writing his thesis for his doctorate in education, and wanted the congregation to sell the minister’s house because blacks were moving into the neighborhood. The other intern I worked alongside, from St Louis, MO, made comments about black people frequently, at least 3 comments per day, thought it was funny to call blacks “Jigaboos”. Nobody thought of themselves as racist.
One of the elders in the congregation invited me for supper. He was a laconic country boy, blue collar, with three sons, living on a small farm. He worked as a postmaster in a small town. He had named his last son, Plenty, because he had plenty of sons. Plenty told jokes at the supper table. (Trigger warning: these will keep you up at night.) “A guy killed three niggers and skinned ’em. He sold the skins to someone as wetsuits, but the customer brought them back, complaining the snorkels were at the wrong end.” I was upset by the joke. His father sat stolidly shoveling food in his mouth. His mother said, “Plen, I wish you wouldn’t tell that.He doesn’t want to hear that.” Plen was a small teenager (16) and attended a mixed rural high school. Looking back on it I realize he was terrified of his fellow black students.
I was taught at home that racism was wrong, but my father, a minister, never taught against racism from the pulpit or in a Bible class. He didn’t see it as a huge problem. (My father treated almost everyone as a second class citizen, white or black.) He relegated teaching against racism to what should be taught at home. He did however teach against mini skirts, homosexuality, women having careers, divorce, pornography, as well as the usual laundry list of lying, stealing and hating, enough to keep us feeling guilty all the time. When Martin Luther King Jr was marching to help blacks in the South gain the right to vote, my father never mentioned it to his congregation, or to us. When Martin Luther King Jr was shot, he never discussed it.
What strikes me now is that I was duped into participating in the Lost Cause movement. The Lost Cause movement is a civil religion of sorts, similar to the movement after the War of Independence in 1776. After 1776 the American civil religion became democracy. “All men are created equal” originally meant “All landed gentry (usually with slaves) are equal to the royals in England.” But after 1776 it meant that we were the newest, most modern, socially progressive nation in the world, and every real American was deeply proud of that fact. That became our civil religion. Almost all churches have an American flag on the dais, illustrating that nationalism permeates American religion. Europeans saw Americans as progressive leaders, but also as naive idealistic teenagers.
The problem with all men being equal is that it made people think that slaves might be equal too, which upset those whose livelihood and economy was based on slaves. (Aside: It is odd that the genocide of the Native Americans 1830-1890 occurred at the same time that abolition was being preached.)
The North has its own brand of racism, as can be seen in the ironic fact that Minneapolis served as the latest catalyst for BLM.
After the Civil War (1861-1865) and Reconstruction, the South was devastated and demoralized. They were compelled to develop a new identity from the ashes: The Lost Cause, which became their particular civil religion, separate and distinct from the North. The Lost Cause includes:
strict child discipline,
protection of women (especially from uncivilized black men),
having been Victimized by the North, (being misunderstood because the North has had no experience with southern blacks),
slaves were actually well-treated and happy under slavery, but now blacks are adrift, shiftless, and useless. (Therefore they are better suited to prison and not voting, not all blacks, just most of them.)
the South has never been racist.
I served as a minister in Starke, Florida, in 1980, for a tiny congregation. Starke, FL was the home of the state prison. As soon as I was hired an older member, Brother Wall, of the congregation had to talk about whether I was a Yankee or not. He had to tell me how General Sherman’s scorched earth policy included awful treatment of women and babies. Sister Wall told me with disgust that you couldn’t get any blacks to clean your house anymore. There were no mixed neighborhoods in town. I attended the high school graduation. there were ten cum laude students, 8 were females and two were feminine males, all white. 95% of the men in the congregation chewed tobacco, and 25% of the women. Every pickup truck had a spit can on the dash.
The Lost Cause is alive and well in the Evangelical Church and can be seen in reactions to the Black Lives Matter movement:
anger at LGBTQ steps forward, including the latest decision by the Supreme Court that nobody can be fired for being gay or transgendered. This violates their belief that the bible condemns homosexual acts.
empathy for the police who are being heaped with insults during the protests,
viewing the protesters as rioters, violent, against law and order,
a call for more law and order, and submission to authority, and more discipline of children,
seeing police killings as normal reactions to individuals who are rude and obstructing justice,
if people would submit to the Bible, as we understand it, there wouldn’t be all these problems. Why are people upset anyway?
If you told them they are participating in a civil religion called the Lost Cause, my relatives would be irritated and deny it. My relatives would endorse all the values of the Lost Cause, except the ones about blacks. They believe they are not racist, and would welcome blacks in their congregation. However, they are perfectly comfortable with Confederate flags, Confederate monuments, angry at BLM, and happy to attend covertly racist congregations, where they do not hear anti-racism sermons in their churches. They are blind to abuses of the Lost Cause movement.
President Trump cleared protesters out of this square in front of a church so he could have a photo op with a Bible.
Take any class in the world on how to mediate conflict. Rule #1: Get both sides to respectfully listen to the other side. What is amazing to me is the number of white people who have said to me over the past week, with great emotion: “What are they upset about? There is no need for them to be demonstrating.” Well, I wish that those white people would listen to black people before they make those pronouncements.
The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, split off from the Methodists in 1844 over slavery. The southern Methodists embraced slavery and pointed to scriptures in the Bible that talked about slavery as justification for maintaining slavery, while the northern Methodists condemned slavery as against Jesus’ teachings.
The Southern Baptist Convention split off in 1845.
The Churches of Christ (in which I grew up) split from the Christian Church/Disciplies of Christ in 1863 when the American Christian Missionary Society backed the Union side during the American Civil War (in which the slaves were freed). The story I heard was that the Churches of Christ split over the formation of the missionary society, and later over instrumental music. Yes, all those were contributing factors. But the one factor conveniently left out of our oral history is that all the other protestant denominations split over slavery, and lo and behold, all the Churches of Christ/Disciples of Christ were splitting at the same time and for the same reasons. Currently Churches of Christ are centered in former slave states, and in states where southerners moved to (e.g. Michigan to work in the auto factories, and California).
Presbyterians split over slavery 1857-1861.
My theory is that we humans join and shape religions to support what we already believe and feel. Our faith does not often change us, but we often change our faith.
After the ravages of the Civil War, the Southern slave states tried to treat blacks the same way they had been treated during slavery. So the federal government (the North) imposed Reconstruction on the South. About 1500 blacks were elected to local and state offices. Whenever the Federal government let up on control, the southern former slave states reenacted laws that took political power away from blacks. They imposed poll taxes and Jim Crow laws to prevent blacks from voting: literacy and knowledge of the state constitution became requirements for being allowed to vote; in practice only blacks were disqualified from voting. Whites were not required to know anything about the state constitution.
When Jim Crow laws were outlawed by the federal government, redistricting took place. Each district was divided so that the black voters were outnumbered by white voters when voting for a local candidate.
In the 1950s and 60s black people in the southern former slave states marched for the right to ride in the front of the bus, eat at a public diner, and to register to vote unhindered, the way white people were allowed to register. Since that was the age of TV, there is extensive video on how these marchers were treated: whipped, beaten, water cannoned, imprisoned, lynched.
Currently there is controversy over closing 1200 polling stations in largely black neighborhoods, so they have to travel to white neighborhoods to vote.
Lynching was a way to keep blacks cooperative with the white agenda. Lynchings were almost always connected to accusations of black men raping white women and children. Lynchers were revered as protectors of the honor of the women in the community. My nephew teaches modern history at a State College near Atlanta. Each year he teaches a short module on the lynchings that occurred in the city in which the college now resides. The last lynching was near 1920. A special train was scheduled for the event (the lynching was scheduled in advance). There were ads in the local newspaper in advance of the lynching. Families packed picnic baskets, laid out blankets on the lawn and ate their lunches, then watched the lynching, then had their family photos taken with the hanging corpse. Some of those photos are carefully pasted into family photo albums. In the following days the local butcher shop sold the knuckles of the lynch victim.
Lynching was used to intimidate blacks into submitting to whites.
In 1921 an entire middle class black community was massacred in Oklahoma, simply for forgetting their place and being wealthy.
After WW2 white soldiers returning from Europe were encouraged to buy a house with federal assistance (FHA), but they were not permitted to buy a house in an unstable neighborhood (defined as a black or mixed neighborhood). Thus the white middle class began building wealth by owning their own homes, against which they could later borrow for large purposes: starting a business, sending one’s kids to college, etc. Blacks lived (and were confined) in black neighborhoods, which the federal government deemed unstable, therefore they were not eligible for house loans up until 1968, when it became illegal to prevent blacks from living in any neighborhood, and when it became illegal to enforce race clauses in property deeds preventing the sale of property to blacks (or Jews). [edit: Fred Trump and his son Donald were sued by the federal government in 1971 for refusing to rent to blacks, whom Fred referred to as “die Schwarzes”.]
Black neighborhoods were ravaged when they were targeted for the path of interstate highways, because they didn’t have much voting capacity anyway. Everybody wanted interstate highways, nobody wanted them to go through their neighborhood, so the neighborhoods with the least voting influence got the highways built right through them. Black neighborhoods have seldom had equal funds for education.
So in Minneapolis in 2018 (notably not a former slave state, not southern nor a Republican state) white families with an income of $80,000 were almost twice as likely as black families with incomes of $80,000 to own their own homes. Researchers have found that when they filled out two identical mortgage applications and ticked off white or black on them, the white application was far more likely to be approved than the black application. And this is almost always unconscious. The mortgage lenders swear they are not biased, and just go by the numbers, and they truly believe this in their hearts, but the numbers don’t lie. This is called Unconscious Bias.
[One explanation is that blacks generally have less savings because successful black families are helping their relatives to get an education and get our of poverty. Something white families don’t have as much pressure to do, and have houses to borrow on.]
Some of the precursors to our modern police force were the laws in the pre-Civil War slave states that empowered any white person to arrest any black person not in the company of their master, which developed into slave patrols.
The president cleared a path so he could walk to this church to hold a photo op while holding a Bible.
Northern states developed police departments in the mid-1800s (around the time of the Civil War) to protect rich people’s property and to control labor union violence. Lower class people, regardless of race were the original targets for the police.
Never have the police been as gentle and as conscious of their image as now. Before our era they could kill people low on the social totem poll and seldom have to face any consequences.
After the Civil Rights marches, Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination, John F. and Robert Kennedy’s assassinations, the slave states floundered in their ability to control blacks. The War Against Drugs became a way to control black people. The favorite drugs of black people during the early years were marijuana and crack cocaine, because they were the cheapest. Compared to powdered cocaine, which was much more expensive and which became the favorite of whites. Comparing black vs white drug use, they are virtually identical, except for type of drug. So the types of drugs favored by black people were deemed felonies, while the type of drugs whites used were deemed misdemeanors. The War Against Drugs became another way to imprison blacks and ensure they could never vote in the slave states.
When busing of students to create a more mixed student body in each school became the law in the early 1970s, white people moved to all white suburbs that were not included in the cities that were busing.
Middle class people are the most authoritarian people in any society. They know which side their bread is buttered on, and they are faithful to their employers and the social ladder they are climbing. They teach their children to keep their elbows off the table (like rich people), are the most likely to endorse Law and Order as a value, and to condemn anyone that their rich employers condemn.
So all of this is to illustrate the fact that when a police officer kills a black man they are arresting, there is already a boatload of frustration built up to fuel protests. People don’t suddenly protest or become violent. They have a long history. There has never been a time in our history when there has been political equality between the races. Currently whites don’t want to lose “equality”, while blacks still aspire to “equality”.
If we want peace we will have to listen. We don’t have to agree, but we definitely have to listen and listen respectfully.
This morning I was searching for an online Church of Christ service so I could put a screenshot of an online service into my blog. I came across a Lord’s Supper prayer (you’re supposed to take the Lord’s Supper at home during Coronavirus, while everyone else watching the service takes it, so you’re taking it together). In the prayer I heard the familiar phrase: “Lord, help us to examine ourselves to see if we are worthy to partake of this Supper.” This is a misapplication/misquote from I Corinthians 11: 27
The apostle Paul wrote this to the church at Corinth because they were engaging in competitive picnicking as communion/eucharist. The apostle Paul said this was the opposite of the purpose of remembering Christ’s death. But the Churches of Christ I grew up in use the passage to make everyone feel guilty for taking the Lord’s Supper. If I have committed even one sin, then I am unworthy to take the Lord’s Supper. Which is also the opposite of why Jesus instituted communion: feeling forgiven by God.
So the Churches of Christ I grew up in required us to take the Lord’s Supper every Sunday (because the only example we have of the Lord’s Supper is on a Sunday, and Sunday comes every week, Acts 20:7). If you didn’t take it you had sinned (like a mortal sin in the Catholic Church, in danger of hellfire damnation). If you take it in an unworthy manner (or as misquoted: if you are unworthy of taking it–as everyone is) then you have also committed a sin (in danger of hellfire damnation).
So a nice neat double bind: one of the requirements of all sects and cults. If you take away all of the coercion in a sect, and just keep the tight community and wonderful singing, then it all falls apart. The Catch-22, No-Wins are the foundation of sects and cults.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses put out an edition of the Watchtower pamphlet every 2 weeks. Every member is expected to study it and answer questions about it at the next Bible Study. Every month or so a pamphlet will offer a slightly new interpretation of the Bible, not too radical from previous doctrines, but definitely a slightly new angle than they have taken before, or a new prophecy of when the Kingdom will come on earth. If you question the pamphlet, you are disciplined, and if you don’t accept the discipline you are kicked out. So the pamphlet insures that each member is toeing the line. You have a monthly eradication of all dissidents, the kingdom remains pure. A double-bind: I have to accept the previous doctrines, and then I have to accept changes to doctrines without questioning.
Double-binds keep us feeling helpless. The doctrines in the Churches of Christ I grew up in kept me in constant doubt about myself: Was I worthy? Of course not. Well then, why was I taking the communion? But what if I stop taking the communion? Several preachers would speak up and loudly proclaim that we had gotten that verse wrong and to stop using that phrase in our Lord’s Supper prayers, but the poor deacons kept using the phrase, and really, they were the ones who knew the true doctrines of the Churches of Christ, not the radical preachers: You are never allowed to know you are saved, you have to remain always in doubt. That is the most holy feeling: guilt and fear.
It is mostly empowered people who leave sects and cults, so keep the people disempowered. It is not poor destitute people who go on strike, it is the ones who have the most rights and the most empowerment who go on strike. It is seldom slaves who riot, it is slaves who have had a taste of freedom.
COVID-19 is going to end Fundamentalist Sects in the USA. Several states have banned church services. Once people get used to not going to church, the threats of hellfire won’t be enough to bring them back to church.
Why do people go to fundamentalist sects?
born into the sect
believe what they are taught
fear of eternal damnation and hellfire
safety net wherever they go
the singing is great!
Now that their sectarian community has dissipated to online communication during the virus, they have lost their tight community. They have only their tradition and their fear of hellfire to keep them in line. Each week they don’t attend, and don’t eat the bread and drink the grape juice, the hypnotic hold lessens it’s grip on their heart. They find other ways to cope with life. Their sect helped them cope with life by being a tight community, instant friends if they moved to a new city, just show up at the local gathering of the sect, easy job networking. That support is no longer there. They are resorting to all manner of other supports now. And the support of the sect becomes less and less important.
If the virus lasts for 18 months, as many scientists are warning, they may find that once real church services recommence, they will allow a week to go by without attending, and another.
Currently they are tuning in to the twice a week church services, but nobody is checking to see if they are there or not. Nobody is watching. So they can tune in, and just walk around the house in their PJs, and eat brunch while the service goes on. The singing is awful: because there is a 2 second delay, nobody can sing along and be heard, you have to mute your mic in order to sing along. You can’t really see anybody else worshiping. During the sermon you can answer emails, or read the news, post on Facebook,
Centerville Church of Christ online worship service during the virus 2020
turning the volume down if it gets boring. The group pressure to conform is less and less.
Some sects have adapted. They have small Zoom Bible studies every week. Each participant is quizzed and nobody can mute the Bible study and pretend they are there. Those groups will survive. But most sects don’t adapt. They are populated by
They want things to remain the same, and they want things to be safe. This virus has upended those and made them diametrically opposed. Nobody can attend church the same as always and be safe.
Once people find a new way of coping, it will be difficult for them to go back to the old sect.