This book emerges out of much pain, many wounds, sobered expectations, and yet hope for the future. After my spiritual awakening in college, I had great hopes of serving the church in Christ in the spreading of the gospel. As someone who was young and naive, and who continues to be in many ways (though not so young), I thought—with my own inflated view of my importance to the kingdom—I was going to be able to “make a difference” in helping to diversify Reformed and classical Presbyterian networks.
But I had a sobering wake-up call in 2004, when I received word that John Calvin–loving racists were beginning to post things about me on the Internet. It continues to this day, but the worst of it emerged in 2006. I learned that some of those for whom the Puritans are precious did not welcome my presence among them. On November 27, 2006, the following was posted on a blog about me: “Afro-Knee Bradley, the PCA darling, is an illiterate nigger.”
For several years, while teaching at a Presbyterian seminary in the Midwest, I repeatedly received racial slurs on the Internet and on radio programs from many who aligned themselves with historic Southern Presbyterianism and Calvinism. While I was aware that racism had been a part of Southern Presbyterian history and Calvinism in general, I had no idea that it remained alive and well and unchecked in some Reformed and Presbyterian churches. I was even more surprised to discover that few people were even talking about it. I began to ask new questions about the presence of racism in evangelicalism at large, especially among those who openly boast about the soundness of their theology. This book represents my ongoing struggle to make sense of why evangelicalism struggles with diversity in church leadership and in the Christian academy. To lead this discussion, I have gathered Hispanic, black, and Asian scholars to describe their own experience as minorities and leaders in evangelical circles and to suggest ways to make real progress toward racial diversity. …
I believe this conversation to be important because, to my surprise, I have encountered resistance even to the idea that the Reformed tradition has ever had any racism in any of its church leaders. It is important to know Christian history, so that we can learn from the past, and so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes. We need to know our blind spots and weaknesses. We need to know how those who went before us needed the gospel, so that we might lean on the grace of God and be faithful to what he intends his people to do in our time as well. The Puritans are not precious to all of us. Honesty, confession, and repentance are the way forward. We need to be proactive.
Back when I had an active personal blog, I questioned the silence about racism in broadly Reformed and conservative Presbyterian circles, then in response to my being called a “token negro” (again) on a popular racist website. I received this in an email from a well-known pastor in Reformed circles:
In the few sentences you wrote you are making Reformed Christians complicit in your charge of racism, and that’s a serious thing. If you want to say that Reformed people are racist, you’ll need to do better than pointing to one site whose whole modus operandi is racism. . . .
I’ve been Reformed just about all my life [and] I’ve never seen any hint of racism. Quite the opposite, in fact. I’ve found this movement systematically combating racism and seeking to be as integrated, as cross-racial and cross-cultural as possible. I could provide a heap of evidence to prove that. I can look to my own church and see a lot of races present and enjoying sweet fellowship together.
What was so surprising to me in the email was the simultaneous confidence in, and ignorance of, his own tradition, given that he has been Reformed nearly his entire life. How can someone be so steeped in the Reformed tradition and never be introduced to how the Reformed tradition’s racism gave birth to apartheid in South Africa, how it litters the anthropology of Abraham Kuyper, and how it is explicitly described in the work of R. L. Dabney? It is the cultural and historical ignorance represented by statements like the one above that demonstrates the need for an honest, historically informed conversation.
Many white evangelicals are resistant to the fact that racism remains in contexts driven by “the gospel.” However, because sin still exists, there is no reason to believe that racism will simply magically disappear or that we simply need to “get over it” and “move on.” In evangelicalism, there is a strange tendency to confess that we struggle with other sins, like materialism, anger, gossip, adultery, individualism, and the like, and to rebuke American society because of abortion, homosexuality, alcohol abuse, and so on, yet to ignore the racial issues in our own midst. This book is an attempt to humbly bring an issue that is important to minorities who are within and adjacent to evangelicalism to the attention of those committed to pressing the claims of Christ everywhere in life. This volume is a collection of stories and recommendations from Asian, black, and Hispanic leaders from multiple denominations, who write to help evangelicalism be a more faithful witness to the world in showing that the gospel brings people together in Christ from all tribes, languages, and cultures for a common purpose: to glorify God and enjoy him forever. …
The Event That Launched This Book
On Tuesday, November 3, 2009, Regent University announced Dr. Carlos Campo as its eighth president, filling the seat vacated by its founder, Dr. Pat Robertson, following news that Robertson would be stepping down from his duties at the school to become chancellor. Universities acquiring new presidents are no big deal. It happens every year all over the country. What made the Regent announcement particularly significant was that a Latino leader was becoming the president of a major evangelical institution— perhaps the first Latino to assume such a role in US history. I was in shock, and I went on a search to find others.
After searching for quite some time, I discovered that, while some evangelical colleges and seminaries may have blacks, Latinos, and Asian-Americans on the faculty or even in a few senior administrative positions, you will not find many black or Latino presidents among the evangelical schools accredited by the Association of Theological Schools and the evangelical member schools of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. In fact, the only other minority president of an accredited evangelical school in North America is the newly appointed Dr. Pete Menjares of Fresno Pacific University. I wonder why it is that evangelical colleges and seminaries tend to be led by white males. What does this mean for a global Christianity where the center of growth is found neither in Europe nor in the United States, but in Africa, Asia, and Latin America? I wonder what impact this has on how Christian colleges and seminaries will raise up leaders for the church in the future. In fact, if evangelical institutions are going to have ethnic leaders, all levels of Christian life will need more diversity, from the local church to the seminary classroom. …
We do hope to show a way forward, to give those who care about diversity a framework for making needed changes. I was encouraged to say this in a discussion on race that was moderated by John Piper and Tim Keller in connection with Piper’s book Bloodlines. This book discusses the future of gospel-centered evangelicalism and its ability to reach diverse communities and raise up ethnic leaders who reflect the realities of global Christianity. ...
Bradley's book opens with rapper Propaganda's lyrics for "Precious Puritans." Here is a short autobiography of Propaganda and a rap video for "Precious Puritans":
Click to order Aliens in the Promised Land: Why Minority Leadership Is Overlooked in White Christian Churches and Institutions (Publication date: May 24, 2013 by P & R Publishing). Harold Dean Trulear, formerly at NY Theological Seminary, and NY-born Orlando Rivera, now at Nyack College, are also contributors to the book.
Anthony B. Bradley is the author of three previous books: Keep Your Head Up: America's New Black Christian Leaders, Social Consciousness, and the Cosby Conversation (2012); Black and Tired: Essays on Race, Politics, Culture, and International Development (2011); and Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in America (2010). He is associate professor of theology at The King's College, Manhattan, NY.