Editor’s note: This article has been updated.
Birmingham, Alabama, pastor Van Moody says he’s hoping a new 11-week series will help Christians, especially White leaders, understand the complex “history, dynamics, and manifestations of racism” in the U.S. and set them on a path toward reconciliation.
He said he is taking on the “Race, Truth and Reconciliation” series “because I fundamentally believe that racial injustice and racism is as bad as it is in America today because the church has been silent for 400 years.”
But race will not be the only focus of his new series. Moody says he will also address misconceptions about Christianity and politics.
“To see how White evangelicals in particular have, in many ways, abandoned the full truth of Scripture for political gain, and how I really looked desperately for a lot of my White evangelical brothers to speak up. Now, a few of them have, but by and large, it’s been silence and the silence is deafening. And it’s really really been disappointing for me,” The Worship Center Christian Church pastor told Faithfully Magazine.
“I had high expectations for the church to be the church, typically on this issue of race,” said Moody.
Recent survey findings suggest that Black Christians looking for their White counterparts to speak up on race perhaps should not get their hopes up.
The Pew Research Center reports a decrease in support for the Black Lives Matter movement among White Americans, while a survey by the Barna Group reveals that motivation has dwindled overall among White Christians “to address racial injustice in our society.” The Barna findings also show a decrease in the number of White Christians who say the U.S. “definitely” has a race problem, compared to a 2019 survey.
One of his greatest concerns, Moody noted, was the impact the church’s “hypocrisy” and failure to accurately reflect Scripture will have on the next generation.
“The church raises moral questions of previous leaders. But then, of this current leader, morality goes out of the door because he supports some of the narrow Christian agenda?” he questioned.
If Jesus is for all people, he added, “then why is the church silent when it comes to racial injustice? How can the church be vocal about the right to life but then be silent after George Floyd was murdered and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and the list goes on and on and on?”
At the end of the day, “it’s a gospel issue and it’s a credibility issue, and I really believe that the credibility of the church is at stake,” Moody said. “I think if we don’t get this right, we’re gonna look up one day down the road and realize that we lost a whole generation of people.”
Moody, who was criticized for meeting with Trump two years ago, said he also plans to eventually offer workshops under the Center for Race, Truth, and Reconciliation using curriculum related to the ‘Race, Truth and Reconciliation’ series.
In the following excerpts from his interview with Faithfully Magazine, Moody explains aspects of the series and tells why he is disappointed by the current political landscape. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
On Why He’s Doing This Series, and Doing It Now
This series is really a call for the church to be the church. It is really to deal with difficult topics, because a part of it is that many of these pastors are not saying anything because it’s uncomfortable. It takes courage, takes courage to preach stuff that’s not popular. But Jesus didn’t call us to always preach the popular message. Jesus called us to preach the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And the church is not really doing that. And when I say ‘the church’ I’m not just trying to paint a big broad stroke but by and large, the church has been absent from leading this issue of racial reconciliation and in integrity biblically on this issue of race.
The church doesn’t talk about its complicity in slavery. A lot of people don’t know about the denominations that actually owned slaves and [about] the Catholic Church that sanctioned slavery. A lot of people don’t talk about that because it’s embarrassing, but we need to address it because that was where the church went wrong.
Then also, what is the church going to say today? Like is there word from the Lord on this issue? Of course there is. We know that God’s heart, particularly, is towards five groups of people: the widows, the orphans, the needy, the poor, and the oppressed. Scripture talks a lot about that. But you don’t hear that kind of teaching very much anymore. So in this series, I really want to challenge believers biblically to be the church.
On Some Topics the Series Will Address
In the series we’re going to, for example, talk about race and color and look at the biblical motifs of that and the biblical answer. But we know that power is a big dynamic in this whole notion of racism. It’s not just about believing that one race is better than the other, but it’s also about giving that one race that believes it’s superior to have the power to stay in positions of authority, to set up legislation and things to benefit [themselves], versus the injustice towards others. So we’re gonna talk about race and power and how that violates that we were created in the image of God. So for individuals that live out that reality, they do it to the detriment of the imago Dei. …
We’re going to deal with mercy and justice, which is also an issue in the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ, and the church in particular, is great when it comes to mercy issues, but has historically ignored justice issues. Even some of the dialogue that’s happened over the last several years, whether it is John MacArthur or some of the other White pastors that argue that social justice is not even in the Bible. There’s been an attempt to divide and separate mercy or righteousness from justice. Yet, when you look at the history of Jesus Christ, you don’t see one or the other, you see them both balanced.
I’m also going to deal with what is real reconciliation. Because everybody talks about it, but what we mostly have is cheap reconciliation. And I’m going to deal with reconciliation as pictured in the Bible, because that is the clearest example of what it means. It’s actually pictured clearest—the Apostle Paul uses the language all the time… ‘He’s given us the ministry of reconciliation.’ What Paul is talking about is the image of Jesus Christ.
Real reconciliation, even the etymology of the word, means that you give up power and exchange place with the other in order understand and to bridge the gap. That is the image of what Christ did. In Philippians, it talks about he who considered equality with God something to be grasped made himself lower. … He gives up his power, he becomes fully human. And then he comes to his own and no one receives him. He’s rejected, scorned, he’s lied on. He takes on the feeling of being marginalized and oppressed. He goes to the cross for sins he didn’t commit and takes your sins and my sins on himself, so that then we can be reconciled. That’s the picture. Until people are really willing to follow that paradigm, there can’t be real deep and meaningful reconciliation and that’s what’s missing.
We have a lot of cheap reconciliation where people talk about it or, you know, White pastors [who say], ‘I want my church to look more like heaven’ and then they have a few Black people that go to their White churches. That’s just not the biblical motif. People have to give up power. And people have to switch places with those that have been oppressed and marginalized if we’re going to really have real reconciliation. It’s the best picture. It’s not critical race theory and all of that, and I’m not against that. But the best picture has been in the Bible the whole time. That’s what real reconciliation looks like.
On White Evangelicals ‘Casting Their Lots’ With Trump
One of the problems, and I’m actually talking about this in the series, is that people think that God is either Democrat or Republican, and He’s neither. The church needs a new understanding—and I wouldn’t even say new, it just needs an adequate understanding of what the Kingdom of God is about. …
The Kingdom of God is not about whether you are Republican or Democrat and this is what is so painful about the times that we live in. Because what White evangelicals have done is, because they feel like Trump is sympathetic to the narrow view of Christianity—they have whittled Christianity down to really only a couple of topics, conservatism particularly its judges, right to life, and all that kind of stuff. But the Bible has so much more to say about the essence of our faith.
So they have cast their lots with him because he is favorable on those issues. But they have basically discarded so many other things in the process because they think ‘well, you know, America is gonna be a Christian country’ or, you know, ‘he’s for God.’ No, as Christians we were never supposed to be in bed with politicians in the first place. The kingdom of God transcends earthly kingdoms.
We don’t fit. We don’t fit squarely in the Democratic Party, and we don’t fit squarely in the Republican Party. We are the officiating team, we are supposed to have salt and light, we’re supposed to be salt and light to the world. We’re supposed to be the one leading the world towards the best way, which is the way of Christ, not getting into bed with them and going down the sinful path that they’re on just because they endorse a couple of key issues that we’re passionate about. …
Because of this lust for power, because of this notion of internalized racial superiority, because of a lot of other stuff, a lot of church people, leaders have cast their lot with him. And it has eroded in the minds of new people to the faith, and in the minds of people who are kind of wavering and [are] like, ‘Man, I don’t know how I feel about this.’ It’s eroded the credibility of the church because people are looking at that and saying, ‘If that’s what Christianity is all about, then I don’t want to be a part of it.’
Learn more about the ‘Race, Truth and Reconciliation’ series at https://theworshipcentercc.org.
Read the new issue of Faithfully Magazine... Featuring Brenda Salter McNeil, Stuart Greaves, Irwyn Ince, Michael McBride, Traci Blackmon, Dwight McKissic, Van Moody, JeVon Bolden, Heather T. Day.