Evangelical Leaders Are Speaking up about Race — But Will This New Focus Last?

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Evangelical Leaders Are Speaking up about Race — But Will This New Focus Last?


(RNS) — Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear said, “Of course, Black lives matter.”

Religious broadcasting veteran Pat Robertson stated, “It seems like now is the time to say, ‘I understand your pain. I want to comfort you.’”

Houston megachurch pastor Joel Osteen declared, “We need to stand up against injustice and stand with our Black brothers and sisters.”

Many prominent white evangelicals have made statements about Black lives in the weeks since the May 25 death of George Floyd, but is this new focus among white conservatives — and white Christians in general — momentary or lasting?

Researchers working at the crossroads of religion and race say it’s too soon to say. But highlights of a forthcoming study, which looks at racism, biblical interpretation and church cultures, may indicate a long struggle ahead.

Michael Emerson, co-author of the 2000 book “Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America,” said 2019 findings indicate “zero evidence” of a closing of the long-standing gap between how white evangelicals and Black Christians view racial inequality.

When asked if the country has historically been oppressive for racial minorities, 82 percent of white evangelicals do not agree, said Emerson, head of the sociology department at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In comparison, among practicing…

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