My students at Wheaton College in Illinois come from all fifty states and are three-quarters white and one-quarter American ethnic minorities. They offer one snapshot of American evangelicalism today. When I teach classes on race in America and the Civil Rights Movement, students’ first assignments are to write a brief history of the subject. Some students are aware of race’s enduring power in America, but many see it as ancillary to American history, surfacing mostly during slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. Many know of more recent events, made prominent by the Black Lives Matter movement and others. But almost no student mentions the role Christianity played in creating and institutionalizing racial hierarchies. Neither their schools nor their churches teach them about this history. This historical knowledge deficit constitutes a scandal for pastoral reasons, therefore tying it to seminaries, because it hamstrings evangelicals’ ability to work toward racial reconciliation and justice in the present. Race matters tremendously, both for unity in the church and for Christians’ witness to those outside Christ. Racial dynamics, hierarchies, and subjugation, which have never been static, have deeply wounded and divided the body of Christ in the past. While not the only cause, contemporary Christians’ thinking about the history of race and religion continues to foster these sins. As Carl Becker, a former American Historical Association president, observed in 1955,

The kind of history that has the most influence upon the life of the community and the course of events is the history that common men carry around in their heads … [their picture of the past], however little it corresponds to the real past, helps to determine their ideas about politics and society.1

As I tell my students, stories about “our” past are stories about who “we” are. If we—American evangelicals of every race and especially white ones—are not implicated in the problem of race, we have little responsibility for the solution. And if we do not know how we got to this point, we cannot walk forward in wisdom. Seminaries, therefore, have a responsibility to foster deep understanding—Christian thinking, as Mark Noll put it in The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind—about race in America.<span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>2

This article offers a model both for thinking Christianly about the history of race and for shaping seminary students as whole people as they engage that history. In the first section, I explore American evangelicals’ relationship with history and use broad strokes to sketch out a history of race and Christianity in the United States. I argue, however, that helping seminarians develop a general understanding of the history of race and religion is not a strong enough position to foster reconciliation; their knowledge must also be local. In the second section, I use my own institutional context as an example to suggest how seminaries can ground their institutions and students in their particular racial historical contexts by situating themselves in local racial histories. This knowledge component connects most obviously to questions of the “evangelical mind.” In the third section, I argue that helping students learn what happened must be paired with teaching them to practice the disciplines of love and lament as they engage these local racial histories. These habits are crucial, because knowledge without action—knowledge without love—is dead and cannot shape Christians’ affections. If evangelicals’ affections do not bend toward flourishing for all members of Christ’s body, race will continue to rend the church and stunt its witness.

The Scandal Continues: Evangelicals’ Minds and Narratives of Racial Histories

Sociologists suggest that contemporary white American evangelicals who live in majority-white contexts are unable to see how race matters for one’s life experiences, opportunities, and social relationships.<span id="ND4hO2knCBeeFzbzUu8cL" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["3893624494"]" data-footnote="Emerson and Smith, Divided by Faith.”><span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>3 Michael Emerson’s and Christian Smith’s Divided by Faith argued in 2000 that white evangelicals’ theological toolkits, which included emphases on individuals’ free will, personal relationships, and anti-structuralism, limited white evangelicals’ ability to see systemic discrimination against African Americans. Divided by Faith inspired excellent scholarly work on the intersections between religion and race and, notably, did the uncommon—it crossed the divide between the academy and the pew.<span id="NVw_sTqSvb5V4IAmBkIBK" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["3929381399","454972541"]" data-footnote="Sinitiere, “Will the Evangelical Church Remove the Color Line? Historical Reflection in Divided by Faith”; Luke Sinitiere, Christians and the Color Line.”><span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>4 But despite the book’s influence, most white evangelicals continue to prioritize individualistic rather than systemic causes in their assessments of race in America and, often, fail to see how they can live in and contribute to systemic racism if they are not personally racist.<span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>5 Thus, many of evangelicals’ efforts for racial reconciliation, justice, and inclusion fall short because of a lack of deep understanding. In terms of race, the scandal of the evangelical mind continues.

The history of race in America, and especially the history of Christianity’s intersections with race, certainly has moments worth celebrating: some white missionaries’ support of the Cherokee’s right to land in Georgia in the 1820s, white and black evangelicals’ anti-slavery activism from the 1830s, the black church’s prophetic call to America during the Civil Rights Movement, and many white mainline Christians’ positive response to that call after 1963.

However, this history is more often a sobering one. The interconnections between race and Christianity are stunning, from white Christians’ more common commodification of land and removal of Native Americans, to biblical arguments for slavery, to white evangelicals’ antagonism to the Civil Rights Movement, to the racial divides between white evangelicals and black Christians today. Consistently, Christians—their institutions, their theologies, stated and unstated, and their practices—have fostered segregation and discrimination in complicated ways and for complex reasons.<span id="lJXqoMoYbuCTpxhy96vNa" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["2375001668","1554522025","566967834","1807541066","2941690324","3893624494","454972541"]" data-footnote="“See, for Example,”; J. Blum and Harvey, The Color of Christ; Renée Dupont, Mississippi Praying; Marsh, God’s Long Summer; T. McGreevy, Parish Boundaries; Emerson and Smith, Divided by Faith; Luke Sinitiere, Christians and the Color Line.”><span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>6 But overall, we have not lived a life together that is characterized by love.

Why, then, does this gap remain between the history of what happened and the history my students, most of them evangelical Christians shaped by their churches, carry around in their heads? Evangelical scholars have contributed to the rich literature on race and religion.<span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>7 But most of my students were raised in a culture looking forward rather than backward, a culture that, when it remembers, tends to focus on the things that make people feel good about themselves.<span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>8 Young Americans often learn their history from textbooks that avoid discussing racial violence or distort its nature, blaming acts of violence on the moral failings of those who commit them, and ignoring the connections between racial violence and institutions that support and benefit from it.<span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>9 But students’ sense of history, the place of race, and what their faith might have to do with race, not only comes from their schools but also from their churches, which often do not counter these narratives in their local practices.

To foster reconciliation in the present, seminaries must teach those who lead our churches to remember rightly America’s racial past, and especially the church’s role. This remembering must have two components. First, it must be concerned with knowledge: true and accurate understandings of what happened. This knowledge should be both national in nature, drawing on scholars’ meticulous good work, and local, specific to the particular places where students are learning. Many national stories have already been written, and they matter, certainly, for reconciling members of Christ’s body to one another.

However, the work of reconciliation is always placed, always specific, and so the knowledge must also be specific to the places where seminaries seek to foster reconciliation. Christians in the West neither imagine themselves bounded by particular places nor think of their faith as fundamentally about joining people together in Christ’s body, as the theologian Willie Jennings demonstrates in his magisterial The Christian Imagination.<span id="UgRhsLFeGqj504sagsSxs" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["2706057224","2825974542"]" data-footnote="“Jennings Shows How Christianity in the Late Medieval Period Helped Legitimize Racial and Social Segregation by Making Separation a Fundamental Component of Christians’ ‘Social Imaginations’ – What They Saw as Possible, as Constituting Christianity – When a World ‘Where People Were Bound to Land’ Was Lost.”; James Jennings, The Christian Imagination.”>10 This faith, in Jennings’ words, is mangled. Christian institutions, therefore, must not hover above the spaces where they exist, but rather connect themselves to those places, a connection that includes learning those places’ particular pasts and the institutions’ roles in them. This knowledge will require more research and work, but it is crucial to reconciliation. Learning and teaching this history can help seminaries model to students what it means to seek the good of the places God has planted them, so that when students leave, they can lead their congregations in local social, cultural and historical exegesis.<span id="yOgzJWgespVpjsHgaXYJo" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["2095090772"]" data-footnote="R. Baker and Bilbro, Wendell Berry and Higher Education.”><span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>11

Grounding an Institution in Its Local Racial History

Let me offer one example out of my own particular context to model beginning to engage our particular pasts.<span id="a40WgqX5clEjYRgLjRNNo" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["3405778163","492389235","4122803239","1073831953","2168498331","678563592","1043459707","2511454275","2592997110"]" data-footnote="“The Racial Institutional History I Lay out Relies on David Malone’s Archival Work. Before Becoming Dean of the College & Seminary Library at Calvin College, Malone Was an Archivist at Wheaton and Presented His Work at All Levels of the College.”; Malone, “The Wheaton Context”; “Exhibition Catalog; ”; Miller and Malone, “Race, Town, and Gown: A White Christian College and a White Suburb Address Race”; “For Wheaton College’s History More Generally, See”; M. Bechtel, Wheaton College; Wyeth, Fire on the Prairie: The Story of Wheaton College; Maas, Marching to the Drumbeat of Abolitionism: Wheaton College in the Civil War; “Wheaton College as an Example Complicates Understandings of Race—Particularly the Black/White Divide—as a Southern Problem.””><span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>12 Founded about two decades after Chicago incorporated as a city in 1837, Wheaton College is an institution that from its earliest days sought to serve Christ and advance his kingdom by ending slavery immediately, not gradually, in contrast to most people who opposed slavery. It was founded as the Illinois Institute by Wesleyan Methodists and the institution’s first African American student, Mary Barker, enrolled in 1857. John Cross, the Illinois Institute’s first president, was a leader of the Underground Railroad. Jonathan Blanchard became president in 1859 and convinced the Illinois Institute’s Board of Trustees to change the school’s name to Wheaton College in 1860, honoring Warren Wheaton, who had donated 50 acres of land to the school. Blanchard was a committed abolitionist, convinced that the sin of slavery was anathema to Jesus Christ, whose kingdom he wanted to see unfold.<span id="uTQKPfdTSOoTDSElkGK1X" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["1499893569","678563592"]" data-footnote="“The College Dates Its Founding to 1860, Although the Illinois Institute Began Classes in Late 1853.”; M. Bechtel, Wheaton College.”><span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>13

But we must also remember the Midwest’s, Wheaton College’s, and evangelicalism’s more unsavory history of racial exclusion, frequent blindness to structural injustices, and support of racial hierarchies. In 1831 Erastus Gary moved from Connecticut to DuPage County, IL and started a farm and a mill. He was part of a new generation in the new state of Illinois who would soon replace the interracial culture of whites, Native Americans and people of mixed ancestry who traded in Illinois. White easterners like Gary streamed to Illinois, drawn by news that Chicago would build a canal to connect the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River, which made land in the Chicago area more valuable to white settlers. In 1832, the people of the Sauk Tribe returned to Illinois, peacefully attempting to reclaim land after being forced west according to a treaty they did not sign. The first regular United States Army troops came to the Chicago region to expel the Sauk in what became known as the Black Hawk War, brutally destroying the men, women and children who fled. The Black Hawk War was part of the federal government’s decisive shift toward a policy of removing Native Americans to west of the Mississippi River that Andrew Jackson’s 1830 Indian Removal Act concerning the Cherokee in Georgia displayed.<span id="ylC3UDnPTQmQANDQ1gSBV" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["1093735421","2751085311","2406787610","1207727968"]" data-footnote="“Wheaton, IL”; “Black Hawk War”; A. Trask, Black Hawk; Durkin Keating, Rising Up from Indian Country.”><span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>14

In 1833, members of the Potowatomi tribe, who inhabited most of the land in the Chicago region and, according to early nineteenth-century accounts lived on the land that surrounded what would become the town of Wheaton, assessed their situation. They had seen the Sauk’s devastation and white Americans’ desire for land, and, under great pressure from the United States government, exchanged their last five million acres in Illinois for desolate land further west and a pittance of money.<span id="lLg6G32_ZMuZY76qgX2mF" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4106940125","1813590914","356031214"]" data-footnote="L. Miller, City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America; “Not All the Potowatomi Left. See”; Low, Imprints: The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians and the City of Chicago.”><span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>15 When Jesse and Warren Wheaton joined their old Connecticut neighbor Gary in DuPage County and claimed almost a thousand acres of land in 1837-1838, they took land where Native Americans had lived. Thus, Wheaton’s generous donation to the College in 1860 was made possible by the unjust exclusion of Native Americans from the Chicago region. The college still sits on Native American land, literally grounded in native soil that American Indians continue to see as their homeland. Years later, Jonathan Blanchard would lament the American military’s poor treatment of Native Americans, but, like most white men of his time, Blanchard nonetheless thought removal was necessary and, in line with the federal government’s policy by the late 19th century, believed Native Americans needed to be “civilized,” which meant eliminating their native cultures.<span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>16 Many Native Americans today view this position as promoting cultural genocide.

Despite the school’s radically inclusive posture toward African Americans from its founding, in the early 20th century, change was afoot. Black students had mixed experiences at the college and the historical record seems to suggest that in 1909, fellow Wheaties forced Nellie Bryant, a light-skinned African American, from the school when they discovered she was black. Bryant’s situation seems strange because just years earlier, Charles Raysor, a black student, had been president of the Beltonian Literary Society. Nonetheless, from the 1920s to World War II, college leadership excluded African Americans from enrollment as an unofficial policy.<span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>17 In the 1930s, Wheaton College refused to consider Rachel Boone for admittance. The Executive Council said she would cause “social problems” and the College could not “provide for colored students on the Wheaton campus.”<span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>18 When C. Herbert Oliver graduated in 1947, the Alumni Magazine noted that he was the college’s first “Negro graduate” since the 1920s.<span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>19 When admitted again, black students like Ruth Lewis Bentley, who later became a trustee, were excluded from aspects of campus life. Bentley shared in a 2017 chapel that when she was a student, the college did not support interracial dating or marriage. Archival records confirm that “rules governing dating and permissions for marriage” were not uniform for the whole student body.<span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>20

In 1960, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement and a century after Blanchard’s arrival at the institution, the college chose not to speak prophetically about race despite a clear opportunity. President V. Raymond Edman asked the Sociology/Anthropology department to draft a statement on race for the institution. The statement called the college to take up its “heavy responsibility toward the Christian community, toward our nation, and particularly to our College family of various races and nationalities to face the issues of race relations on our campus and in the world-wide Body of Christ.” Upon reviewing a draft, one member of the president’s executive council, which was instructed to keep the statement in “utmost confidence,” speaking not even to family members about it, cautioned “that we should not rush into print until we know precisely what we are going to do and whether we can pay the cost of our resolution.”<span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>21 The statement did not become public. Even today, despite good faith efforts and measurable progress in recruiting and retaining faculty and students of color, Wheaton’s campus culture can make many people of color feel like guests when they should feel at home.<span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>22 Institutional histories like Wheaton’s concerning race need to be uncovered and told, becoming, with great humility, a part of an institution’s culture.

Practices to Shape Evangelical Minds and Bodies

What do we do with this knowledge? The stories of the past are powerful on their own, but how we use them matters. They can remain in students’ heads, to be vaguely remembered as perhaps important, but still part of the past. Or we can bring these stories to the present using the Christian disciplines of love and lament.

First, love is a most essential beginning for all, but especially for individuals called to lead our churches. It would be easy to castigate those in the past for their sins, jumping to judgment. Instead, we must practice a hermeneutic of love that sees historical subjects with a pastoral imagination, acknowledging how their context shaped their actions. This approach will allow us to love our neighbors who are dead—and who remain a part of the communion of saints—as ourselves. The knowledge we gain about our particular pasts must not be a knowledge that leads to power but one that, in humility, leads to love.<span id="7mMc0Bg~VDQ0RufGmUWUj" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["763675203","2440075037"]" data-footnote="S. Wineburg, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past; “Quoted in Malone, ‘The Wheaton Context,’ 47.””><span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>23 The 1960 still-born statement on race came into a white evangelical world at best unsure about civil rights and troubled by what could be read as divisive calls from African Americans, and, at worst, actively opposing school and church integration.24

What does this mean for Wheaton College’s past? Here, broader trends can help situate the local events. For instance, Charles Blanchard, Wheaton College’s second president and son of Jonathan Blanchard, was not the post-millennialist his father was. We must contextualize its racial exclusion starting in the 1920s under Charles Blanchard and solidifying under James Oliver Buswell, who was appointed president in 1926, as part of a broader, complicated turn inward and away from social justice among evangelicals in the early twentieth-century fundamentalist movement.<span id="e7LpoMuGS92bW0Z5Q0Z1p" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["260073600","1466168619"]" data-footnote="M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth Century Evangelicalism, 1870-1925; Moberg, The Great Reversal: Reconciling Evangelism and Social Concern.”><span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>25 The black Civil Rights Movement did influence some evangelical leaders, including Christianity Today’s editor Carl F. H. Henry to emphasize the “evils of segregation.” But even among those white evangelical leaders sympathetic to the movement like Henry, few supported a “specific ‘program of integration’ as the Christian solution” for fear, in part, of fracturing the national evangelical alliance.<span class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["3665658054","1085044886","1712442873","2291558201","2111568732"]" data-footnote="Dochuk, “‘Praying for a Wicked City’: Congregation, Community, and the Suburbanization of Fundamentalism”; Dochuk, From Bible Belt to Sun Belt: Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism; Mulder, “Evangelical Church Polity and the Nuances of White Flight: A Case Study from the Roseland and Englewood Neighborhoods in Chicago.”; MULDER, Shades of White Flight: Evangelical Congregations and Urban Departure; Luke Sinitiere, Hawkins, and Mullen, “Neoevangelicalism and the Problem of Race in Postwar America.””><span class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>26

If seminarians contextualize and listen attentively to the dead who used to walk the streets of their own institutions, it should drive them to a humility that causes them to admit that were they in that context, they likely would have done no differently. They must not be like the Pharisee Luke describes who went before God in prayer and thanked God for his own faithfulness. Instead, they must be like the tax collector, who, aware of his own sin, beat his breast and asked for mercy.<span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>27

The second discipline seminaries must teach their students to practice is lament. Lament is born out of love. Even as we love those who did not love their neighbors as themselves, we love those excluded by grieving with them and grieving our loss. At Wheaton College, this would mean that we would weep with Charles Satchell Morris, Jr. over his painful experience at Wheaton, his deep sense of not belonging on campus, and weep for the College’s loss. Morris was a black soldier who was removed from a college dining hall while in uniform, and whose anger over President Charles Blanchard’s lack of response caused him to say he would “never, never, never” support Wheaton when asked to donate years later.<span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>28 Wheaton College, it seems, had no place for black, militant men like Morris. Morris was part of a generation of New Negroes, African Americans during the Great War who refused to submit to white notions of African Americans’ place in society. Morris noted in 1921, while still a Wheaton student, that “ours is not a plea for sympathy, an appeal for pity; ours is a clarion call that demands opportunity, not alms.”<span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>29 Wheaton’s administration called Morris “something of a rascal.”30 The New Negro, Morris said after leaving the college, is “determined to demand every emolument guaranteed him in the sunlight of the American Constitution; a Negro who by his baptism in fire and blood is conscious of the nobility of manhood.”<span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>31

This lament should be personal and corporate, private and public and it will require seminarians to identify with both those who have sinned, and those who are sinned against. This identification requires a full understanding of sin as corporate and systemic as well as personal. Like the prophet Jeremiah who had not sinned himself but identified with his people’s sin, we must admit our corporate guilt. Lament is a liturgy, a practice that can shape our affections and counter white American evangelicalism’s cultural captivity that so easily blinds us to racism, materialism, and individualism.<span id="GHChlMpQZHcw2GOp93bSv" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["1307606681","2984588212","871321805","408686037","1162310473"]" data-footnote="Rah, The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity; Rah, Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times; Katongole and Rice, Reconciling All Things: A Christian Vision for Justice, Peace and Healing; Huff, “Practicing Lament to Teach for Justice: Reflections from a Survey Course”; K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit.”><span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>32 Seminaries will need to think deeply about how to practice lament. They must go beyond someone mentioning briefly that the institution is grieved by its racial past or praying while others sit quietly, awkwardly. Learning to lament will require white evangelical leaders to adopt of posture of humility and brokenness, within which God can work.

Conclusion

Students who come to evangelical seminaries training for ministry need to know America’s racial past and be shaped by the disciplines of love and lament if they are ever to promote healing in the present. This learning will first require historians, archivists, and others to research what has happened at their institutions and to situate those stories in broader narratives. Seminaries must then form their students through specific knowledge and practice, so pastors can lead their congregations in these disciplines. This hard intellectual work, coupled with the actions of love and lament, can slow evangelicals down. We must sit with the histories, see their complexities, talk to God about how Christians—in good conscience and seeking to be faithful to Scripture—did not love their neighbors, and grieve with those who suffered before jumping to activism.

If seminaries teach pastors to know their racial pasts and to respond with love and lament, future evangelical students might come to my classes carrying the histories of the church’s racial failings and God’s faithfulness in their heads, their bodies and therefore their affections shaped by the discipline of crying out to God for forgiveness of our sins and for him to work for reconciliation. Christians, because of the disciplines of love and lament so fundamental to our faith, are poised to lead the long, hard work of reconciliation and justice. But we cannot bring reconciliation in the present without reckoning with the past, learning a new narrative about our racial history. We cannot turn away from buried sins.<span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>33

Admittedly, engaging with specific racial histories as I have called for would be costly. Who, after all, wants to be with sinners? But, as Hebrews 11 reminds us, the cost was high for Moses, too, who refused to be identified as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and instead cast his lot with the despised Hebrew slaves.<span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>34 God used Moses, with all his failings, for great things. May the same be said of evangelical seminaries.<span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>35

Cite this article
Karen J. Johnson, “Remembering Our Racial Past: Using Institutional Lament to Shape Affections”, Christian Scholar’s Review, 47:4 , 445-454

Footnotes

  1. Carl L. Becker, “What Are Historical Facts?” The Western Political Quarterly 8.3 (September 1955): 339–340.
  2. Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995).
  3. Michael Emerson and Christian Smith, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).
  4. Phillip Luke Sinitiere, “Will the Evangelical Church Remove the Color Line? Historical Reflection in Divided by Faith,” Christian Scholar’s Review (Fall 2013): 41–62; J. Russell Hawkins and Phillip Luke Sinitiere, eds., Christians and the Color Line: Race and Religion after Divided by Faith (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).
  5. Ryan Cobb, “Still Divided By Faith? Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America,” in Christians and the Color Line: Race and Religion After Divided by Faith, eds. J. Russell Hawkins and Phillip Luke Sinitiere (New York: Oxford, 2013), 128–140.
  6. “See, for Example,”; J. Blum and Harvey, The Color of Christ; Renée Dupont, Mississippi Praying; Marsh, God’s Long Summer; T. McGreevy, Parish Boundaries; Emerson and Smith, Divided by Faith; Luke Sinitiere, Christians and the Color Line.
  7. “Constructing a List of Scholars Who Are Evangelicals Working on the Subject Would Be a Complicated Task in Part Because of Evangelicals’ Embeddedness in Non-Christian Institutions and the Complicated Contemporary Politics of Evangelical Identity”; Green, ““Whither the Conference on Faith and History?: The Politics of Evangelical Identity and the Spiritual Vision of History”; “My Statement Relies on My Personal Networks.”
  8. “As W. E. B. DuBois Put It in 1935, ‘One Is Astonished in the Study of History at the Recurrence of the Idea That Evil Must Be Forgotten, Distorted, Skimmed over.’ Quoted In”; Alridge, “The Limits of Master Narratives in History Textbooks: An Analysis of Representations of Martin Luther King, Jr.”
  9. Brown and Brown, “Strange Fruit Indeed: Interrogating Contemporary Textbook Representations of Racial Violence Toward African Americans”; Alridge, “The Limits of Master Narratives in History Textbooks: An Analysis of Representations of Martin Luther King, Jr.”
  10. <span id="yOgzJWgespVpjsHgaXYJo" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["2095090772"]" data-footnote="R. Baker and Bilbro, Wendell Berry and Higher Education.”><span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>“Jennings Shows How Christianity in the Late Medieval Period Helped Legitimize Racial and Social Segregation by Making Separation a Fundamental Component of Christians’ ‘Social Imaginations’ – What They Saw as Possible, as Constituting Christianity – When a World ‘Where People Were Bound to Land’ Was Lost.”; James Jennings, The Christian Imagination.
  11. <span id="a40WgqX5clEjYRgLjRNNo" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["3405778163","492389235","4122803239","1073831953","2168498331","678563592","1043459707","2511454275","2592997110"]" data-footnote="“The Racial Institutional History I Lay out Relies on David Malone’s Archival Work. Before Becoming Dean of the College & Seminary Library at Calvin College, Malone Was an Archivist at Wheaton and Presented His Work at All Levels of the College.”; Malone, “The Wheaton Context”; “Exhibition Catalog; ”; Miller and Malone, “Race, Town, and Gown: A White Christian College and a White Suburb Address Race”; “For Wheaton College’s History More Generally, See”; M. Bechtel, Wheaton College; Wyeth, Fire on the Prairie: The Story of Wheaton College; Maas, Marching to the Drumbeat of Abolitionism: Wheaton College in the Civil War; “Wheaton College as an Example Complicates Understandings of Race—Particularly the Black/White Divide—as a Southern Problem.””>R. Baker and Bilbro, Wendell Berry and Higher Education.
  12. <span id="uTQKPfdTSOoTDSElkGK1X" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["1499893569","678563592"]" data-footnote="“The College Dates Its Founding to 1860, Although the Illinois Institute Began Classes in Late 1853.”; M. Bechtel, Wheaton College.”>“<span id="uTQKPfdTSOoTDSElkGK1X" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["1499893569","678563592"]" data-footnote="“The College Dates Its Founding to 1860, Although the Illinois Institute Began Classes in Late 1853.”; M. Bechtel, Wheaton College.”>The Racial Institutional History I Lay out Relies on David Malone’s Archival Work. Before Becoming Dean of the College & Seminary Library at Calvin College, Malone Was an Archivist at Wheaton and Presented His Work at All Levels of the College.”; Malone, “The Wheaton Context”; “Exhibition Catalog; ”; Miller and Malone, “Race, Town, and Gown: A White Christian College and a White Suburb Address Race”; “For Wheaton College’s History More Generally, See”; M. Bechtel, Wheaton College; Wyeth, Fire on the Prairie: The Story of Wheaton College; Maas, Marching to the Drumbeat of Abolitionism: Wheaton College in the Civil War; “Wheaton College as an Example Complicates Understandings of Race—Particularly the Black/White Divide—as a Southern Problem.”
  13. <span id="ylC3UDnPTQmQANDQ1gSBV" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["1093735421","2751085311","2406787610","1207727968"]" data-footnote="“Wheaton, IL”; “Black Hawk War”; A. Trask, Black Hawk; Durkin Keating, Rising Up from Indian Country.”>“The College Dates Its Founding to 1860, Although the Illinois Institute Began Classes in Late 1853.”; M. Bechtel, Wheaton College.
  14. <span id="lLg6G32_ZMuZY76qgX2mF" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4106940125","1813590914","356031214"]" data-footnote="L. Miller, City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America; “Not All the Potowatomi Left. See”; Low, Imprints: The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians and the City of Chicago.”>“Wheaton, IL”; “Black Hawk War”; A. Trask, Black Hawk; Durkin Keating, Rising Up from Indian Country.
  15. L. Miller, City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America; “Not All the Potowatomi Left. See”; Low, Imprints: The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians and the City of Chicago.
  16. Greene, “On Native Ground.”
  17. “Department of Sociology and Anthropology, ‘Wheaton College Statement on Race Relations’ June 1960, Folder Race Relations, 1961-1964, College Archives and Special Collections, Buswell Library, Wheaton College.”
  18. Hamilton, “The Fundamentalist Harvard: Wheaton College and the Continuing Vitality of American Evangelicalism, 1919-1965”; “Quoted in Malone, ‘The Wheaton Context,’ 47.”
  19. “Wheaton Alumni Magazine, 14 (September 1947), 7, Quoted in Malone, 47.”
  20. “Department of Sociology and Anthropology, ‘Wheaton College Statement on Race Relations’ June 1960, Folder Race Relations, 1961-1964, College Archives and Special Collections, Buswell Library, Wheaton College.”
  21. “Merrill Tenney to Dr. V.R. Edman, July 29, 1960, Folder Race Relations, 1961-1964, College Archives and Special Collections, Buswell Library, Wheaton College; V.R. Edman to My Dear Brethren, July 22, 1960, Folder Race Relations, 1961-1964, College Archives and Special Collections, Buswell Library, Wheaton College.”
  22. <span id="7mMc0Bg~VDQ0RufGmUWUj" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["763675203","2440075037"]" data-footnote="S. Wineburg, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past; “Quoted in Malone, ‘The Wheaton Context,’ 47.””>Malone, “The Wheaton Context”; Miller and Malone, “Race, Town, and Gown: A White Christian College and a White Suburb Address Race.”
  23. <span id="e7LpoMuGS92bW0Z5Q0Z1p" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["260073600","1466168619"]" data-footnote="M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth Century Evangelicalism, 1870-1925; Moberg, The Great Reversal: Reconciling Evangelism and Social Concern.”>S. Wineburg, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past; “Quoted in Malone, ‘The Wheaton Context,’ 47.”
  24. “J. Russell Hawkins Suggests That Most Evangelicals Want to Imagine the Evangelical Response to the Civil Rights Movement as Misguided ‘Apathetic Non-Involvement’ When the Major Thrust of White Evangelicalism Was to Oppose the Movement.”; Hawkins, Religion, Race, and Resistance: White Evangelicals and the Dilemma of Integration in South Carolina, 1950-1975; Hawkins, “Jim Crow, Civil Rights, and Southern White Evangelicals: A Historians Forum”; Hawkins, “The Causes and Consequences of Indifference: White Evangelicals, Historical Memory, and the Pursuit of Racial Justice”; “ For Southern Evangelicals’ Opposition to the Movement, See Dupont, Mississippi Praying: Southern White Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement.”
  25. <span id="k7I4m6WVtj14O2ujbLA8h" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["1283713163","565432259","406535403","2540992371","4137720793"]" data-footnote="“J. Russell Hawkins Suggests That Most Evangelicals Want to Imagine the Evangelical Response to the Civil Rights Movement as Misguided ‘Apathetic Non-Involvement’ When the Major Thrust of White Evangelicalism Was to Oppose the Movement.”; Hawkins, Religion, Race, and Resistance: White Evangelicals and the Dilemma of Integration in South Carolina, 1950-1975; Hawkins, “Jim Crow, Civil Rights, and Southern White Evangelicals: A Historians Forum”; Hawkins, “The Causes and Consequences of Indifference: White Evangelicals, Historical Memory, and the Pursuit of Racial Justice”; “ For Southern Evangelicals’ Opposition to the Movement, See Dupont, Mississippi Praying: Southern White Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement.””>M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth Century Evangelicalism, 1870-1925; Moberg, The Great Reversal: Reconciling Evangelism and Social Concern.<span id="k7I4m6WVtj14O2ujbLA8h" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["1283713163","565432259","406535403","2540992371","4137720793"]" data-footnote="“J. Russell Hawkins Suggests That Most Evangelicals Want to Imagine the Evangelical Response to the Civil Rights Movement as Misguided ‘Apathetic Non-Involvement’ When the Major Thrust of White Evangelicalism Was to Oppose the Movement.”; Hawkins, Religion, Race, and Resistance: White Evangelicals and the Dilemma of Integration in South Carolina, 1950-1975; Hawkins, “Jim Crow, Civil Rights, and Southern White Evangelicals: A Historians Forum”; Hawkins, “The Causes and Consequences of Indifference: White Evangelicals, Historical Memory, and the Pursuit of Racial Justice”; “ For Southern Evangelicals’ Opposition to the Movement, See Dupont, Mississippi Praying: Southern White Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement.””><span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>
  26. Dochuk, “‘Praying for a Wicked City’: Congregation, Community, and the Suburbanization of Fundamentalism”; Dochuk, From Bible Belt to Sun Belt: Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism; Mulder, “Evangelical Church Polity and the Nuances of White Flight: A Case Study from the Roseland and Englewood Neighborhoods in Chicago.”; MULDER, Shades of White Flight: Evangelical Congregations and Urban Departure; Luke Sinitiere, Hawkins, and Mullen, “Neoevangelicalism and the Problem of Race in Postwar America.”<span id="FfzsZcCqBFT0AYVtZZe~A" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["3665658054","1085044886","1712442873","2291558201","2111568732"]" data-footnote="Dochuk, “‘Praying for a Wicked City’: Congregation, Community, and the Suburbanization of Fundamentalism”; Dochuk, From Bible Belt to Sun Belt: Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism; Mulder, “Evangelical Church Polity and the Nuances of White Flight: A Case Study from the Roseland and Englewood Neighborhoods in Chicago.”; MULDER, Shades of White Flight: Evangelical Congregations and Urban Departure; Luke Sinitiere, Hawkins, and Mullen, “Neoevangelicalism and the Problem of Race in Postwar America.””><span id="91JCLdccPErKxFqDJAM7f" class="abt-citation noselect mceNonEditable" data-reflist="["4120933592"]" data-footnote="Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”>
  27. See Luke 19.
  28. Quoted in Malone, “The Wheaton Context,” 47.
  29. “Returns to College,” The Chicago Defender, February 5, 1921.
  30. “Plans Speaking Tour,” The Chicago Defender, April 9, 1921.
  31. Quoted in Malone, “The Wheaton Context,” 47.
  32. Rah, The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity; Rah, Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times; Katongole and Rice, Reconciling All Things: A Christian Vision for Justice, Peace and Healing; Huff, “Practicing Lament to Teach for Justice: Reflections from a Survey Course”; K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit.
  33. See D. L. Mayfield, “Facing Our Legacy of Lynching,” ChristianityToday.com (August 18, 2017), http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/september/legacy-lynching-americachristians-repentance.html.
  34. Willie Jennings made this connection for me.
  35. Thank you to Melissa Harkrider, J. Russell Hawkins, Eric Johnson, Matthew Lundin and David Malone for offering feedback on this work. Vincent Bacote, Wheaton College’s Center for Applied Christian Ethics, my Wheaton College colleagues in the 2017 CACE seminar, and Willie Jennings influenced my thinking on placed education. I am also grateful to the faculty at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, especially Peter Cha, Bruce Fields, and Doug Sweeney, who shaped my understanding of and responses to race in America.

Karen J. Johnson

Wheaton College
Karen J. Johnson is an assistant professor of history at Wheaton College (IL). Trained in urban history, she works on the intersection of religion and race in the history of the United States. Her book One in Christ: Catholics and the Quest for Interracial Justice in Chicago is forthcoming from Oxford University Press in 2018. She teaches classes on the Civil Rights Movement, race and ethnicity in U.S. history, urban and suburban history, and methods of social studies instruction. She has a Ph.D. in history from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a M.A. in Christian Thought from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.