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June 22, 2015

Racism, Hypocrisy, Or Simple Double Standard?

Something has not set well with me regarding one aspect of the media coverage the Charleston Horror. What is it? The way in which the media has dealt with the religious expression and tradition of the black community in the wake of the evil committed against the pastors and parishioners of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church by a racist little piece of shit.

Now it would be quite reasonable for a reader to respond to the last paragraph by saying "But Greg, the media has been incredibly respectful of those beliefs and practices -- fulsome in their praise for them, in fact. How could you possibly object to such an approach?" And I'll concede that such a response would be a reasonable one. After all, the media has gone out of its way to present the faith that has sustained this community in the most positive of lights, and anchors, reporters, and commentators have expressed how deeply moved they are by the expressions of forgiveness and prayer for the murderer. It is how coverage of religion expression ought to be.

But that's the problem -- it is how it ought to be. Unfortunately, that is not how the American media generally receives expression of faith from spirit-filled evangelical communities.

Consider one of the many memorial services over this weekend. I do not have a transcript and I did not get the lady's name, but one of the African-American pastors at the service lifted up a prayer for the killer. And what a prayer it was -- it included (if I may paraphrase due to the lack of a transcript) a petition to God to take control of the heart of the Dylann Roof and cast from it the demons that had caused him to be filled with hate and racism and to act so violently. As a believer, I could not help but respond to it with a hearty "Amen".

But think about how such a prayer would have been received had it come from a white evangelical pastor (or layperson, for that matter). The response of the media would be one of mockery and/or contempt. Don't believe me? Here's an article from the 2008 presidential campaign.

The video clip is from 2005, and Sarah Palin, who is running for governor, stands on the dais of a small church; three pastors surround her in a huddle. They are touching her shoulders, her forehead, her back. The would-be governor is stone still, eyes cast down, palms up toward heaven. The man on her left, the one touching her forehead, bends occasionally to whisper in her ear.

This is Ed Kalnins, senior pastor of Wasilla Assembly of God, the church Palin attended from the time she was 4-years-old until 2002. The man behind her is praying loudly, relentlessly and with an intensity rarely seen in America's mainstream churches. This is the Kenyan pastor Thomas Muthee, a Pentecostal powerhouse who has a reputation for being able to cast out demons and witches through prayer.

First, Muthee urges the congregation to pray for Palin's success "even in the political arena ... [to] bring finances her way ... and give her the personnel." And then he offers this cryptic blessing: "In the name of Jesus. Every form of witchcraft is what you rebuke." The laying of hands on the Alaska politician, the invoking of Jesus and witches in the same sentence—what the heck is going on?

What's going on is a prayer by those who hold to a very literal belief in the words of Scripture. To some, especially those reared in mainline denominations or in no faith at all, it may seem weird. But is it any more outrageous than what was said at the first service held at Emanuel AME Church since the murders?

"The doors of the church are open," declared the Rev. Norvel Goff during prayers. "No evildoer, no demon in hell or on Earth can close the doors of God's church," he proclaimed.

The words there were quoted as something to be honored, not mocked or questioned. Indeed, they were included as words of inspiration that set the tone for the entire rest of the article. Apparently words proclaiming an evangelical faith in spiritual warfare are so much easier to take when they come from the mouths of African-Americans in a black church than when they are part of the spoken and lived faith of white evangelicals.

And that was not the only thing that struck me. A few weeks ago, a prominent white family from an evangelical background had an ugly family secret exposed. The eldest son of the Duggar family apparently engaged in inappropriate sexual touching with several girls a decade ago when he was in his early-to-mid teens. When his sisters, two of the victims, were interviewed, they responded that they had forgiven their brother as their faith taught them to do. Bill Maher, for example, mocked the very notion of forgiveness as a religious value. The Washington Post ran a column rejecting the notion that such forgiveness as a religious value was even appropriate.

Contrast that with the reaction to the families of the victims and the wider church community expressing their faith-based forgiveness of the punk who walked into a church, sat and spoke and prayed with members of the congregation, and then murdered them. Liberal internet news site The Daily Beast proclaimed in a headline that "Charleston Shooting Families Proved Grace Wins Out Over Hate". The relatives of the victims were described as "gracious". And rather than insist that forgiveness is an inappropriate response, we were treated to articles about the importance of forgiveness to spiritual and mental health. Quite a contrast.

Which leads back to the question in the title of this post. Is the response of the media in Charleston the result of racism, hypocrisy, or a simple double standard?

Do those in the media see blacks through a racist prism -- as somehow simpler and more primitive, needing to "cling to their. . . religion"? Or on the contrary, is there a hypocrisy in being unwilling to show the same contempt for black evangelical faith as is shown for white evangelical faith because, you know, we wouldn't want to be seen as racist by criticizing something so central to the culture of the African-American community despite their willingness to trash something that is so central to the lives of tens of millions of white Americans? Or perhaps there is simply a double standard -- the black church is left untouched because it is a part of the Coalition of the Left, while the fact that white evangelicalism is more closely tied to conservative political causes makes it fair game for ridicule. I don't know -- and I won't assign a motive since I cannot read the hearts of members of the media. But I will add these data points to my mental graph of the culture war that undeniably exists in our society.





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Comments on Racism, Hypocrisy, Or Simple Double Standard?

Simple answer: yes, yes, yes.

|| Posted by Fox2!, June 22, 2015 09:13 PM ||

This is just my opinion on the 2015 tragedy at the EAME Church. I don't claim that my opinion about the tragedy is accurate or accurately made:

I think that one unfortunate thing that is happening from the tragedy at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is-

That Pres. Obama, after looking at the tragedy, will want to pass laws that will keep guns from being owned by criminals, + some mentally ill people- but that after his scapegoating + snubbing the Republicans in Congress for all of his term, he won't get these laws- or if he gets these laws, they will only last shortly, until his term is over.

I'm not really a fan of new gun laws, in June of 2015, [I also like civilians owning guns under the 2nd amendment], but I can understand how some laws or rules that would stop some criminals + some violent people, + some mentally ill people, from doing deadly crimes with guns.

I think-if Mr. Obama does get [some new gun laws over some criminals + some mentally ill people], these laws will likely be done with the Congress + Courts getting to watch these laws like a hawk, to make sure that these laws aren't abused.
[Some abuse might be: I can imagine some office/person trying to ban a man from owning guns, if the man has had depression for losing his job a month ago]. A slight depression is not a dangerous mental illness, I believe.

Also, I think a serious study to see who is too mentally ill or to criminal to own a gun, + who is not, would need to be an unbiased govt. study done over 5 yrs., or maybe 10+ yrs., to make sure that the study fair + scientifically accurate.

But because Mr. Obama has scapegoated + demonized the Republicans in Congress for all of his years as President, I don't think that Mr. Obama will get much help from Congress in seriously making laws to stop criminals, + some mentally ill people, from getting guns + other weapons.

He didn't create a cooperative relationship with these Congress members. Such a relationship could have helped him with his quest.

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