In 2015, Michelle Higgins, a Black pastor and organizer, stood up before tens of thousands of people at a popular evangelical conference in St Louis, Missouri, and told them that, as she put it, “mission work was really an exercise in exporting racism, and that evangelicalism was a moral protection for white supremacy.”
Today, her criticisms are gaining ground. “For the last five hundred years, Christianity has been influenced by Martin Luther’s effort to decentralize the church,” Lisa Sharon Harper, the founder of a progressive evangelical religious group freedomroad.us, told me. “For the next five hundred years, the principle effort will be decolonization.”
More important than how Harper and others conceive of the last 500 years is what they predict for the ensuing 500: decolonization. And this is necessitated because of what has happened over the past half-millennia (or, at least, since 1619), the global project of white supremacy: “mission work was really an exercise in exporting racism, and that evangelicalism was a moral protection for white supremacy.” There you have it.
These are arid and divisive ideas, ones that are infecting certain quadrants of American Christianity. Left unchecked, they will cause problems for Christian fulfillment of the Great Commission.