NOTE: The following is protected by federal copyright law and is an excerpt from the book Marxianity written by Brannon Howse and is not to be published online. The footnotes that document the content in this article are found in the book Marxianity or the eBook.
Is the church in America deepening our country’s racial divide?
To one of America’s most popular neo-evangelicals, the answer is an unambiguous “Yes.” Apparently, whether we realize it or not, we are immersed in racism as evidenced by crime in black communities and income disparities between black and white.
David Platt, who in 2018 became the primary teacher on the long-running and highly respected Back to the Bible radio broadcast, lays the blame for racial problems at the feet of the Christian church. Yet, wide-ranging evidence to the contrary suggests that the problems he outlines are the result of failed socialistic policies of government at all levels. In fact, the reality is so stark that we have to ask what other agenda might be behind Platt’s allegations.
Racing to Indict the Church
Platt has been extremely popular among the constituents of America’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, but his influence merely starts there. In April 2018, Platt spoke to a group of 12,000 pastors and ministry leaders about race and racism. Platt, who pastors the mega McLean Bible Church in Richmond, Virginia, is also author of the New York Times best-selling book, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. Previously, he was the president of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, where he worked with Russell Moore in filing an amicus brief to the courts defending the construction of a mosque in New Jersey. His astounding level of ministry success and popularity means that Platt’s influence is so widespread that understanding what he really stands for is critical. His book, Radical, for example is a treatise on social justice.
Am I saying that David Platt never teaches biblical truth or preaches a solid sermon? No. To the contrary, I believe that the ability to expound biblical truth some of the time is what makes men like David Platt so dangerous. They teach biblically sound material enough to gain credibility with their audiences. Then, they turn and promote the kind of rubbish I’ll detail in this chapter.
It’s yet another form of the dialectical deception—pitting truth and error against each other and then bringing it together in a synthesis. David Platt teaches biblical truth at times and proclaims the ideals of cultural Marxism at others. Most people can’t see through it, though. They lack the biblical and historical knowledge or the discernment to grasp the difference between the truth and error foisted upon them.
Platt’s reach beyond his church extends through hundreds of radio stations as the lead Bible teacher and host of Back to the Bible, the radio ministry started in 1939 by Theodore Epp. The founder was a godly man and, for many years, was a leader in teaching biblical truth. I have long been a supporter of Back to Bible and have even hosted Woodrow Kroll, the previous lead teacher, as a speaker for Worldview Weekends. So, one has to wonder what happened to the discernment of Back to the Bible in bringing David Platt on board. His teaching on Back to the Bible is a particular threat to older Christians, the primary demographic for the broadcast, who stand to be taken in by his wrapping of cultural Marxist thought in Bible talk.
The speaker’s platform at the April 2018 Together for the Gospel conference offered Platt an excellent soapbox for his cultural Marxist blather. Here’s an excerpt of what he said to the 12,000 pastors gathered in Kentucky:
[quote] I’m applying this text to the historic and current injustice associated with the white/black divide in the United States, which is not the only kind of racial injustice. The church I have the honor of serving has over 106 different nations represented in it. One hundred and six different ethnicities. You face hundreds of unique challenges. And pastorally, we can’t ignore those challenges. Yet, tonight, I’m considering particular injustice among white/black relationships in our culture. So, with those caveats, I’ll ask the question again.
As pastors of churches, of worshiping communities who gather together with our congregations every week to sing our songs and give our offerings to God above us, have we been or are we now slow to speak and work against racial injustice around us? And I am convinced the answer to that question is a resounding “yes.” In fact, I’m about to make a broad statement, which I know is dangerous because 12,000 of you have lived 12,000 different lives with 12,000 different experiences. But on a whole, pastors in America and the churches we lead, instead of bridging the racial divide in our country, have historically widened and are currently widening the racial divide in our country. Pastors in America and the churches we lead instead of bridging the racial divide in our country have historically widened and are currently widening the racial divide in our country. [end quote]
The most obvious point to make about Platt’s assertion is that he provides no concrete examples to back up his claim that the church has been slow to react to racial injustice. That’s because his skewed perspective believes that, simply because there is crime, there must be racial injustice. Because income disparities exist, racial prejudice must be at fault. He starts with a false premise that assumes racial injustice is at the heart of every problem.
Not only does Platt make empty claims, he contradicts himself as he spins his version of logic. The man may have a lot of degrees, but he seems to lack common sense. To wit, here is an example of his confused thinking about how to define racism:
[quote] In this sinful world, we differentiate according to supposed race. And for this reason, we must look at the reality of racism. And when I use that term I’m not just referring to the extremes that we often think of—extremes that help us, particularly those of us who are white, distance ourselves from racism. So, when I use that term, I’m referring to . . . A system—could be individual, could be institutional, could be societal—a system in which race and, specifically, as we’re talking tonight, black or white skin color, profoundly affects people’s economic, political, and social experiences. A system in which race is significant enough to be regularly acknowledged and mentioned. A system of thought, practice that is ever subtly present among us and me. [end quote]
This smacks of the class warfare Karl Marx encouraged. To fulfill his goal of “dethroning God,” he set differing classes of people against each other. The very idea of segmenting people into economic classes, though, is wrong-headed. Despite Marx’s glib use of classes as a way to stir up revolution, it is difficult to make the classifications work. Who, for instance, is middle class, and who is not? Someone making $50,000 living in Huron, South Dakota can live comfortably in the “middle class,” while a person making $100,000 a year in Washington, DC or Manhattan might barely scrape by. The South Dakotan could probably live more affluently on $50,000 than the New Yorker making $100,000. Yet, class division is what Marx and the Frankfurt School after him wanted.
These days, political correctness veils the “class-baiting” by race-baiting instead. It’s an immensely useful ploy, because if you camouflage Marxism with racism, no one can criticize the underlying belief system without being labeled a racist or bigot. By extension, anyone opposing socialist progressive big government ideals can also be cast as a racist.
With the mindset of a thought leader like David Platt, the masking is even more effective. He calls history to witness against people who disagree with his thinking, even if it is merely his interpretation of the past. He shared this with the Together for the Gospel participants:
[end quote] So, we’re not talking here about blunt prejudice or individual animosity alone. And we’re not just talking about the past, either. We’re looking at the reality of racism now, today. And this is so important. Because when we look back in American history, and some, maybe many people, especially white people wonder, aren’t we past this? Yes, slavery was wrong, but slavery is gone and has been for decades. But the reality is, we could have said that in 1955. But we all know that racism was alive and well, right?
So likewise, we could say today, okay, but everybody uses the same water fountains now and we can all sit on the bus wherever we want, which is true. And we need to pause and praise God that those things have changed. I praise God for pastors in this room and people in our churches, white, black and otherwise, who have worked in different ways to change these realities in our country over the last 50 years. Praise God these are not realities anymore.
But just because these realities are no longer true does not mean racism is gone. So, let me paint a picture of our country with admittedly broad strokes. I’m not talking about any specific city or community here. But the reality is, the facts are, some of these facts come from a helpful book called Divided by Faith, which is in the [conference] bookstore. But the facts are black Americans are much more likely to be unemployed than white Americans. The current ratio of two unemployed black people for every one unemployed white person has held pretty constant since 1950. Income inequality between white and black people is close to 50 percent worse, wider today than it was 40 years ago.
African American babies die at a rate over twice the frequency of white babies. African American mothers are four times more likely to die in childbirth than white American mothers. Young African American males are six times more likely to be murdered than our young white American males. We’ve all heard the black/white disparities in the criminal justice system that have been highlighted over recent years. You put it all together, you look at every study there is, and you will see that white Americans are far more likely than black Americans to get a quality education, to have a high paying job, and to live in a more affluent neighborhood with less crime. [end quote]
The problem is, Platt claims racial injustice derives from things that have nothing to do with racism but are the results of failed socialistic government programs.
Platt’s mention of the book Divided by Faith is significant. The full title is Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, and it’s co-authored by Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith. In 1991, Christian Smith published The Emergence of Liberation Theology: Radical Religion and Social Movement Theory, in which Smith praises liberation theology. The book’s Amazon description says that “in this book, Christian Smith explains how and why the Liberation Theology movement emerged and succeeded when and where it did.”
So, Platt is promoting a book—one that’s being sold at a Christian conference no less—written in part by an author who openly endorses liberation theology, the theological mixture of Marxism with Christianity. Knowing the content of Divided by Faith also helps to understand where Platt gets some of his worldview. On page 47, for example, Emerson and Smith reveal their view of the root problem of racial issues in the church:
[quote] We must account for the premillennial view that had come to dominate the American evangelical worldview and played a role in limiting evangelical action on race issues. [end quote]
It’s a remarkable statement. The authors argue that if you have a premillennial worldview—one they say dominates in evangelicalism—that you have a limited response to racial issues. In other words, if you believe in the pre-tribulation rapture of the church, you don’t really care about racial issues. It’s another way to say that most evangelicals are racists.
This is the same kind of cultural Marxism espoused by Tony Campolo in his 2006 book Letters to a Young Evangelical. A Neo-Marxist, who promulgated Marxism starting in the early 1970s along with Ron Sider, Campolo has been in favor of most every communist revolution in South America. Campolo’s buddy, Jim Wallis, has even referred to anti-communists as “individuals who are working on the side of the dark forces.”
Although it’s not new to see men like Tony Campolo declaring that if you believe in the rapture of the church, you don’t care about this world and are likely a selfish racist, it is new coming from the likes of David Platt. The book he recommends, Divided by Faith, spreads the accusations wide:
[quote] According to this [premillennial] view, the present world is evil and will inevitably suffer moral decline until Christ comes again. Thus, to devote one’s self to social reform is futile. The implications of this view were clearly expressed by Billy Graham. [end quote]
So, the book also attacks Billy Graham because he believed in a pre-tribulation rapture, as did most of America’s best-known Bible teachers: Adrian Rogers, Charles Stanley, John Whitcomb, Dwight L. Moody.
The dispensationalist view is not extremist. It has been the worldview of the most well-respected evangelical Bible teachers of the last century. Yet, Divided by Faith maintains that you don’t care about race issues if you believe in the pre-tribulation rapture—even though many white, pre-tribulation dispensationalists have fought on behalf of the civil rights movement. Many have started pro-life clinics to save unborn babies. The baby killers, though, come from a line of racists such as Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. Along the way, she worked with a Nazi doctor, gave speeches to the women’s branch of the Ku Klux Klan, and called minorities “weeds that need to be eradicated.” The “weeds” she most hoped to eradicate were American blacks.
On the other hand, the people who have started some of the strongest pro-family organizations to deal with social issues like abortion, active euthanasia, and the lack of quality education in our inner cities have been white Christians such as Beverly LaHaye who founded the pro-life Concerned Women for America. So, the idea that people who hold the dispensational belief of a pre-tribulation rapture of the church are racist and don’t care about society is simply a lie.
Progressives’ “Good” View of Man
On page 76 of Divided by Faith, the authors make this observation: “Progressives view humans as essentially good.” Because David Platt recommends the book, the statement stands as yet another reason to question Platt’s theology.
Contrary to what Emerson and Smith affirm, the Bible says of mankind: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, NKJV). Man is not ultimately good. We are all sinful and fallen, subject to original sin. Because of one man, Adam, sin entered the world. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NKJV).
All men and women are infected with original sin, and the solution is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He alone lived a sinless life that was then credited or imputed to those who are saved as though we lived His sinless life. But Divided by Faith digs the errant theological hole even deeper. Here’s how the quote continues:
[quote] Progressives view humans as essentially good, provided they are released from social arrangements that prevent people from living happily, productively, and equally—for example, racism, inequality, and lack of educational opportunity. In this view, although individuals are pivotal, they are shaped in profound ways by social structures and institutions. [end quote]
Emerson and Smith are saying that man is not inherently evil. People do bad things because they are products of their environment. Yet, this is what secular humanists, many cosmic humanists, and New Agers believe. Man is ultimately good. Therefore, if you set up the right environment—e.g., big government, redistribution of wealth, progressive socialist ideals—then men will spiritually evolve, and along with them, society. Morals, too, will evolve. Eventually, people will just, simply be good. If we do away with racism, income inequality, and other interferences, we will progress to a socialist utopian society. Evil will disappear, and we’ll create heaven on earth.
The authors of Divided by Faith disdain, however, the biblical doctrine of original sin this way:
[quote] White conservative Protestants are accountable freewill individualists. Unlike progressives, for them individuals exist independent of structures and institutions, have free will, and are individually accountable for their own actions . . .
Quite unlike progressives, evangelicals believe there are right and wrong choices as determined by a divine lawgiver. Because evangelicals distrust basic human propensities (as a result of the doctrine of original sin), they view humans, if they are not rooted in proper interpersonal contexts, as tending to make wrong choices. For this reason, for evangelicals, relationalism moves to the forefront. [end quote]
They’re quite right. We believe that moral rightness is defined by the character and nature of God and reflected in His moral law. That which goes against the character and nature of God is sin. This is the “relationalism” which Emerson and Smith deride—relationship to ourselves and others based in relationship with God.
Divided by Faith further implies that people who believe in the biblical doctrine of original sin are likely racist: “According to one congregational man, race problems exist because “it is an issue of original sin.” From their convoluted thinking about biblical doctrine, they concoct the notion that if you do not believe that mankind is ultimately good, you’re a racist. This is the cultural Marxism they’re selling.