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White Evangelicals Used Me — Brenda Salter McNeil on Racial Reconciliation and Speaking the Truth (NWN)

This is a News With Nicola story.

In this episode of News with Nicola, we highlight an excerpt of an eye-opening conversation with the Rev. Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil, a renowned speaker, teacher, and leader in the field of reconciliation.

Dr. Salter McNeil is not just an academic; she is a prophetic voice in the realm of reconciliation. As an associate professor at Seattle Pacific University, she directs the Reconciliation Studies program, equipping students to become agents of peace in their communities. Her work has garnered international recognition, and she also serves as an ordained pastor at Quest Church in Seattle.

In this excerpt from her recent interview with Nicola A. Menzie, they discuss Salter McNeil’s compelling book, Empowered to Repair: Becoming People Who Mend Broken Systems and Heal Our Communities. During the interview, Salter McNeil shares a pivotal moment in her journey when she realized she was being used to placate White Evangelicals. She recounts how she was encouraged to be “nice enough, biblical enough, and not political” to make the message of reconciliation more palatable to White audiences. However, the election of former president Donald Trump was a turning point for her. It became clear that the support for Trump among White Evangelicals was not about biblical principles but rather about maintaining a certain social and political status quo.

One of Salter McNeil’s most striking statements in this episode is a quote from author James Baldwin: “I can’t believe what you say because I see what you do.” This sentiment echoes the frustration many feel when they see a disconnect between Christian communities’ professed beliefs and their actions. Salter McNeil emphasizes that for White Evangelicals to regain their credibility, they must align their actions with their professed beliefs.

In a powerful call to action, Salter McNeil urges listeners to stop playing it safe and speak the truth boldly. She believes that only by confronting the uncomfortable truths about racial and gender inequality can we begin to heal our communities and live out the true message of the Kingdom of God.

If you’re passionate about social justice, reconciliation, and community healing, this excerpt and forthcoming Faithfully Podcast episode is a must-listen. Salter McNeil’s insights are not just thought-provoking; they are a clarion call for us to examine our roles in perpetuating or challenging the status quo.

Don’t miss this enlightening and challenging episode. Keep an eye on to see when the full interview goes live. In the meantime, listen to this inciteful clip via News With Nicola.

Editor’s note: This post was written with the assistance of Headliner AI.

This transcript of Salter McNeil’s remarks has been edited for clarity.

Nicola A. Menzie: Do you have any deep regrets about the racial reconciliation work you’ve been doing? Are there decisions you’ve made over the years, ways that you’ve invested your time and energy that you came to regret?

Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil: What I was told when I first started doing this all those decades ago was that if I would be nice enough, biblical enough, not political — I wanted to demonstrate to people that this call to reconciliation wasn’t some kind of a secret kind of way to bring liberalism, because that was the fear. the fear was that these people are trying to bring liberalism into the church, right? And this reconciliation, and racial reconciliation, and all this kind of gender stuff, you know, people were resistant.

And what I wanted to demonstrate was that this is not some political thing or social thing. This is spiritual. This is biblical. Right? So for a long, long, long time, I would preach, teach, go to conferences, and do seminars, and I did it solely based on [with]holding any of my own personal kind of desires or things that I wanted to see, and I just presented the biblical call to racial and gender equality, equity and reconciliation.

Because I was told that that’s what would persuade people, that’s what caused me to stay in that zone. When I realized — and that’s what made me bring up Donald Trump earlier, so now I’m going to say what I really meant to say. Most of the time when people invited me to speak, I was in White Evangelical spaces. So when I say people said that’s what they wanted, I’m talking about White Evangelicals. I would speak at national conferences, etc, etc, with thousands of people would be there. And most of that was, you know, a majority culture context. And I was well received because people could tell I wasn’t mean-spirited, I wasn’t trying to, you know, come in and like hurt people.

But what I realized when Donald Trump was elected by a large majority of White Evangelical Christians that said to me, ‘Oh, this is not about the Bible,’ because there’s nothing about what this person candidated around, nothing about this person’s character, nothing about this person’s…his family, the number of children, the number of wives, the affairs, all of it, none of it was Christian, not one thing.

And when I tell you, for me, that had nothing to do with a political party. It could have been Romney. Anybody else. But how did Christians justify that as a valid way for them to stand in alignment with somebody? Billy Graham son, Franklin Graham — I was just flabbergasted. And I still am. That was the day that my… It was almost like I had a new pair of glasses came on. You know when you feel like you couldn’t see, and then all of a sudden [puts on glasses], you felt like, ‘I see clearly now.’

Someone said I can’t believe what you say… It was James Baldwin. James Baldwin said — I saw a quote — ‘I can’t believe what you say because I see what you do.’ That was it for me. ‘I can’t believe what you say because I see what you do.’ And I believe that any White Evangelical Christian that wants to regain their credibility with people who sincerely want to help build the people of God, they will have to start to do what it is they say they really believe. Because what I’ve seen is nothing but divisiveness and justification for the unjustifiable. And I will not align myself with that. So when I became clear that it wasn’t about being kind or holding back, I just decided to tell the truth and to tell the truth as clearly and straightforwardly as I can, because I could tell now that I was being used to placate people by giving them a version of this call to reconciliation that was palatable to them.

Now I’m saying, I’m just gonna tell the truth. And if you hear this truth, it will make you free. But we can no longer go on playing as if we’re living for the Kingdom of God, and justify the kinds of evils that are happening around us and participate in that and think that that’s going to win the generation for the Kingdom of God. Young people are disenchanted with what they see of Christianity today. And I understand why they are. And so I’m really trying to help them to believe that who God says God is is true. And what they see of Christians is hypocrisy.

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Nicola A. Menzie
Nicola A. Menzie
Nicola A. Menzie a religion reporter whose bylines have appeared on the websites of the Religion News Service, The Christian Post, CBS News and Vibe magazine. Nicola is the Managing Editor at You can find her on Twitter @namenzie. Email: nicola.menzie (at)


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