He Has a Point

Anthony Bradley, our favorite provocateur, mixes it up with the urban hipster transformationalists in the pages of World magazine, no less:

While urban, justice-loving evangelicals easily shame white, suburban, conservative evangelicals for their racially homogenized lives, both communities seem to share a disdain for lower-class white people. “Rednecks,” “crackers,” “hoosiers,” and “white trash” are all derogatory terms used to describe a population of lower-class whites who have suffered centuries of injustice and social marginalization in America, especially from educated Christians. . . .

Perhaps the root of the problem is that middle-class evangelicals are content maintaining the narrative that they have come to save the world’s people of color from themselves. “American society is completely dependent upon a worldview that places white Christian-Americans at the top of the hierarchy, with African-Americans falling into the lowest place” observes Kirsten Hemmy, associate professor of languages and literature at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C. This view of whites at the social peak, she says, is a part of “our collective imagination—informed by art, culture, media, and history” that is “just as important as reality.” Hemmy also believes that evangelicalism’s paternalistic history and condescension with people of color fuels disinterest in helping poor whites. “Poor white people should be able to fend for themselves, so mission work and ministry is focused on the black community, as though poor black people, because they are black, cannot fend for themselves.”

“You can feel good about helping a black family in the projects, because you can easily identify a few basic problems and leave,” says Robert Fossett, pastor of First Presbyterian Church (Presbyterian Church in America) in Greenville, Ala. “No one expects you to live there unless you are intending to gentrify the neighborhood and turn it into your own image. But when it comes to poor whites, i.e., ‘white trash,’ while there is also a deep cultural disconnect with white evangelicals—poor whites tend to be on the boundaries of towns and cities in rural populations. … The assumption is that poor whites are where they are because they are inbred, lazy, and uneducated, and they choose to live like this. And as everyone knows, you can’t fix lazy, degenerate, immoral white trash. Besides, it’s far easier to mock a trailer park than it is to plant a church there.”

But how does Anthony think he will continue to receive invitations from Bethany for Redeemer’s next soiree lecture for its Center on Faith and Work.


41 thoughts on “He Has a Point

  1. Bradley is on track here, but I think he overstates his case a little bit. “Urban, justice-loving evangelicals” (like the non-Christian hipsters they mimic) talk a good game about diversity, but they want painless diversity. Mark Steyn encapsulates the phenomenon:

    “Diversity” is one of those words designed to absolve you of the need to think. Likewise, a belief in “multiculturalism” doesn’t require you to know anything at all about other cultures, just to feel generally warm and fluffy about them.

    Folks who buy into this multiculturalism-without-cost rubric are uncomfortable both with lower class blacks and lower class whites (and lower class Asians, Eskimos, Maori, etc.). The fact that their hip-urban church plant has college educated minorities is important to them, but they don’t really like actual cross-cultural experiences if that means that they need to connect with the uneducated poor.

    I think Bradley goes to far when he says that upper-class Whites ignore the existence of lower-class Whites as a means of preserving their understanding of White Supremacy. I think the matter is more simply explained by a desire to avoid discomfort caused by class difference.


  2. Maybe the next TGC confab will have seminars on “NASCAR for (bigger) Dummies” and break-outs on “Mountain Banjo for Worship Leaders” and “The Sociology of the Southeastern Trailer Park.”


  3. The weakpoint in Bradley’s article isn’t the article, but that he teaches at King’s College in TKNY and I assume he also attends TKRNY.

    Somewhere deep in his heart he knows 2K to be true. But he’ll bury any indication of it.

    I remember a remark of Dr. B’s on Twitter where he rhetorically asked if it was possible to just “go to a movie” without having to get philosophical/theological. I rhetorically answered: “Not in Tim Keller’s Christianity.” But I digress…

    Regarding po’ whites…

    I’d have to go back and search for it, but I thought Matt Chandler was unbelievably unaware (or ambivalent) of the fact that poor whites exist in this country when he spoke at TGC’s “#ATimeToSpeak” regarding Ferguson/race a few months ago. “He needs to get out of the Dallas beltway and let me give him a tour of my county in Appalachia,” was my immediate thought.


  4. Will Campbell —“I have seen and known the resentment of the racist, his hostility, his frustration, his need for someone upon whom to lay blame and to punish. With the same love that we are commanded to shower upon the innocent victim, the church must love the racist.”

    Timothy George, ECT partisan, and “catholic and sacramental baptist” wrote some condescending remarks about Campbell after he died— “Among Baptist progressives, he became something of a folk hero. However, he did not hesitate to warn moderates against constructing another ‘steeple’ to replace the one they had left. All institutions, including religious ones, are inherently evil, he said. “If Jesus Christ had been a moderate, he would never have been crucified.”

    “Will Campbell addressed his host and former Yale classmate William Sloan Coffin and encouraged him to auction off all of Riverside Church’s property and give the proceeds to the Harlem poor. He did not expect to be invited back and I don’t think he ever was. Will Campbell was sometimes called an anarchist and a pacifist… He was an intellectual disciple of Jacques Ellul and Vernard Eller and always thought it was dangerous to mingle Mr. Jesus and Mr. Caesar. Will loved the Anabaptists and thought of them as his spiritual forbears….”


    mark—-better to assume that not one baptist knows the gospel than that we not be confessionally reformed and thus catholic

    John 11:50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.”

    Caiaphas explains

    the redneck as scapegoat.
    Every inclusion also an exclusion.

    Better to laugh at one baptist for the sake of accepting those
    baptized by Rome

    why not come in with us
    instead of all that sectarian resentment?


  5. I grew up in a predominantly lower middle class Midwest city with more than its fair share of poor whites (and blacks). I’m not holding my breath that the PCA will be planting a church in my hometown anytime soon, which is too bad because there isn’t much of a Reformed presence. Too much ick factor for the hipsters, probably.


  6. It seems that if the main problems Blacks were experiencing existed prior to the “gracious” offer made by White Evangelicals, then the above cited paternalistic attitudes is definitely not the root of the problem for Blacks.

    BTW, libertarian Socialist or anarchist views would not have a hierarchy of groups. We should also note that Martin Luther King Jr.’s poor people’s campaign incorporated the poor of all races.


  7. “Hemmy also believes that evangelicalism’s paternalistic history and condescension with people of color fuels disinterest in helping poor whites.”

    I confess I had trouble following this article (I read it 3 times). But I will say this: I live in West Virginia. I always crack up with laughter when church youth groups from other states come and do a “mission” here in the mountain state. The attitude is, “We’re bored and we need to spice up our spiritual life. Therefore, let’s forget ourselves and go help the poor. Let’s go to West Virginia- they’re poor.” It shows that contra the article, people really do focus on helping “the poor white people.” Also, contra the article, there is a remarkable amount of condescension that can (and does) happen to white people- not just “people of color.” Though I laugh about it, I do groan that such missions come here: it’s a huge misunderstanding of who we are (By the way, I have lived in other states where I have seen much worse social conditions than that which can be found here in the mountains. Why not go there? Is it because we are stereotyped as hillbillies who give Jethro Bodine a run for his money?)

    Here’s the point: I think we get really skewed as a result of pursuing social justice and social sciences in general. As Dr. Hart, Michael Horton, and others have noted, we are to preach the gospel. This is the true mission of the church. This keeps us from patronizing others or being prejudiced in ministry.

    Another point: I’m really not bothered that people have stereotyped us in WV and therefore send their “missions” to us. It’s not a big deal. I can smile about it. I am not Home yet and I know this side of Heaven, I am going to be misunderstood. I also know the “missionaries” are not in Heaven yet and fail in their sanctification. Yet I also see that they do want to really care, though their care may be misguided.

    By the way: Please come to West Virginia! Bring the message of what happened long ago on a Friday afternoon and what happened the following Sunday morning. Bring the Law and the gospel and the message of the atonement (Romans 3:25).

    Also- bring your fishing rod. The small mouth fishing on the Greenbrier and the South Branch of the Potomac is truly exquisite!


  8. Evangelicals are utterly obsessed with the “brown people*” of the world. Looking at Facebook or Twitter and one would think “brown people*” are the latest fashion accessory for evangelicals.

    * Note: Skin tone must be darker than a Greek or Turk to qualify.

    See here:


  9. A comment above mentioned 2K. So I’ll put this here: “. . .While 2KNL proponents do not deny that believers serve God, or Christ as mediator of creation, in the arena of the common kingdom, they do deny that such service has any other warrant than that provided by the doctrines of creation and providence. Consequently, there is nothing in the Christian gospel and the work of Christ as redeemer that gives direction to, or warrants, the believer’s life within the common kingdom or world. . .” From Cornelis P. Venema’s conclusion in his themed article on Christ’s Kingship in the “Mid-America Journal of Theology” vol.25/2014, just received.


  10. AB is too busy “liking” Orthodox icons on Instagram in violation of the 4th to really care what any of us have to say. And since everything from AB is either Orthodox Churches or Icons or Race – yes, I am white.


  11. And the Greek Orthodox have a GREAT track record evangelizing po’ whites and blacks in the South, right? And — missional public service: this song teaches would-be po’ people church planters about their favorite place to hang out and shop.


  12. DJ makes a good point about A-Brad (lest he be confused with Mr. Buckingham).

    He’s got a thing for Orthodox and icons not unlike a babdiss yearning for those Catholics of the “true church.”

    How will Geneva ever compete?


  13. Not politically correct (and maybe, in fact, a microaggression), but maybe Bradley prefers EO imagery to RC imagery because the former is often a bit…browner.

    (excess comments courtesy of Zrim’s treasury of merit)


  14. There was great disappointment in my household this year, as I did not get to go squirrel hunting but once.

    That’s about as “animal rightsy” as I get.


  15. DG,

    For the most part I agree with Bradley’s piece. Too much church planting in the PCA focuses on that which is perceived to be strategic. Funny that it almost always involves upscale suburbs or large university towns. And then we go on and on about our lack of diversity http://byfaithonline.com/cmc-subcommittees-report-on-key-issues/

    I clicked on the links at the bottom of your article and am filled with a mixture of sadness, incredulity, and mockery at what has become the mainstream of the PCA. Everything is so insular and predictable: its all about the city, redeeming culture, food, the rhythms of the city (whatever that is), ad nauseam. What’s lacking is an awareness of our creeds and confessions as anchors for faith and practice. And we continue to plant churches with the same ethos represented in your links pouring millions of dollars to replicate TKNY.

    The PCA is becoming a denomination with a Presbyterian form of government and a piety borrowed from other traditions and the culture at large. The end of this movie isn’t going to be pretty.


  16. – 2 squirrels deboned and fried in flour, salt and pepper
    – 3 potatos
    – 2 ears of corn
    – 1 can of lima beans
    – 1/4 tsp of red pepper
    – 3 diced tomatos
    – 8 cups of water
    All slow cooked for ~ 6 hours
    Best Bruswick stew ever.


  17. Chris – hold on there. First of all, how do you debone a squirrel? There are so many thin and tiny bones in their legs that just sounds impossible. Next, when you say “fried” and then later on “slow cooked” I assume you mean “browned” before roasting? I’ve always roasted mine in a dutch oven or, if the squirrel was old enough to carry a voter registration card, pressure cooked ’em.


  18. George, by debone I meant pick off as much meat as you can – there isn’t much as you know. I actually boil them for ~ 20 minutes, let them cool and then pick off as much meat as I can. Then put those bits in a bag with the flour, salt and pepper and shake, then brown them in butter before placing the squirrel meat into the stew pot. You are right brown would be the more appropriate culinary term. I got the recipe from an old L. L. Bean wild game cookbook. I can’t bring myself to try possum though – there is a recipe for that too.

    I brought some to work and the guys were initially hesitant. One taste and the pot of stew was devoured.


  19. Chris – got it. Sounds like a good recipe. I’d like to try it, but my squirrel hunting days are pretty much over having moved to the SRI. I’m originally a Hoosier and for those who don’t know the definition of that word, it’s a someone from TN or KY whose car broke down in Indiana while on his way to take a job at the Ford plant in Ypsilanti.

    JAS – yes, and it must not have been prepared correctly because it was tougher than shoe leather.

    PS: Speaking of Hoosiers, it’ll be interesting to see what happens to them tomorrow. I’ll give them a fair chance of getting past Wichita State in the first round, but then if they’re up against Kansas (who I expect to roll over NM), not so much.


  20. At our rural PCA presbytery it was proposed that we make a goal of planting a church wherever there is a Wal-Mart. I liked that. Let Wal-Mart do the fancy demographic studies. Trouble is no one wants to pay for rural church planting, we will need bi-vocational pastors.


  21. JAS – no, not yet. Where are you at in NC? I’m in Apex/Raleigh.

    Zrim – “You should have bought a squirrel!” That was great.

    Dr. Hart, I thought that was you with the squirrel sushi – eww gross.


  22. C-Towns: Wilkes County. Where NASCAR was born and now I drive by a decrepit speedway each morning to work.

    Our squirrels taste great, too.


  23. A tempest in a teapot. There are lots of people who are unseemly and not very well off: white trash, black trash, you name it. Fashions come and go, and Christians preening about helping people, they come and go to. Do we have to be attenuated to everyone? Help who you want to help, help who God puts in your path, your neighbor. The whole shtick about bending over backwards to help the entire world and stamp out “injustice”… it seems forced and exhausting. If it is not one thing, it will be another. As for a “Center on Faith and Work,” Christian talk too much and have too much money.


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