White Privilege is “White Blessing” and the Horrifying Legacy of Black Oppression.
By Rev. Dennis Dillon, The Christian Times —
I write this letter to Louie Giglio, Rick Warren, Charles Stanley, James Dobson, Paula White, Tony Perkins, Luke Barnett, William Donohue, J. D. Greear, Doug Clay, John Hagee, Steve Pettit, Rod Parsley, Kenneth Copeland, and the thousands of White evangelical pastors and faith leaders across the United States of America.
My name is Dennis Dillon and I am a Black man from New York. First and foremost, I am driven by my faith in God as a preacher of the gospel and a teacher of truth. Freedom is in knowing the truth and those who lack such a vital endowment are engulfed in spiritual, social, and economic bondage. I am sure we can all agree with the scripture “… and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
Sadly, as we can see from the prevailing racial upheaval in America and around the world, Africans and Blacks in America are still being victimized after almost 600 years of European subjugation and more than 400 years of Anglo-American oppression with seemingly no end in sight. We must contend with the fact that the church has been the chief perpetrator of this vicious vice, and mainline “Christianity” in America continues to be the vanguard of a more insidious form of White supremacy that perpetuates Black suppression.
In this season of George Floyd, Elijah McClain, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Rayshard Brooks, we are flabbergasted by the deafening silence of White evangelical leaders across America. A divine shift is taking place, and this age of enlightenment is a good time for the prophetic voices of our nation to rise in a call for justice and to practice a righteousness by example. This time calls for preachers to choose ministry over monuments, Christ-centered spirituality over confederate statues, and the dignity of God’s love over the doctrines of human politics.
From White Privilege to White Blessing
While in the midst of this racial pandemic that even forced the president of the United States of America down into his bunker, an intelligent White preacher, bestselling author and megachurch pastor Louie Giglio, took to the stage with a panel of speakers to discuss racial healing and social justice. His boldest statement was “we need to change White privilege to White blessing.”
That was some damning truth that slipped from his lips. White privilege to the White evangelical preacher is White blessing. Somehow, they have deceived themselves into believing in divine “blessings” by any means necessary. With the Bible in hand and a prayer on their lips, White preachers have been the most dangerous perpetrators of human oppression and White supremacy, and it is not by coincidence that after the president called on the state governors and military to dominate, that he rushed over to a “White” church and awkwardly held up a black Bible.
God’s Holy Bible has been doctrinally twisted and theologically shifted to become an instrument of oppression in the hands of Europeans, used to bring the African and indigenous world under their dominion. Between 1452 and 1495, the Church in Europe issued more than 5 Papal Bulls which gave the European crowns and their explorers the authority to subjugate, annihilate, and otherwise control the indigenous people of Africa and the Americas. By 1532, the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (most of Europe) claimed that all of the land in the Americas was under their control and that the people were their subjects.
Let me quote some of the troubled content from one of those papal decrees issued by the head of the established church in Europe: “We grant you, by these present documents and with our apostolic authority, full and free permission to invade, search out, capture and subjugate the Saracens (Africans, Arabs, Indians) and pagans (everyone who was not a European Christian) and any other unbelievers and enemies of Christ wherever they may be, as well as their kingdoms, duchies, counties, principalities and other property … subdue and control all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and reduce their persons to perpetual slavery.”
This was an ecclesiastical issuance that gave “moral” authority to European operatives to release a dominion of terror on Africans and indigenous people in America and around the globe. The name of this Papal Bull is “Dum Diversas”, which essentially means “until we say differently, this is what must be!”
Now five hundred and seventy years later, and the “White” church in America still wants to defend their White privilege of hijacked supremacy, but now they want to call it “White blessing.” Yes, I am aware of Louie Giglio’s “apology” that only added fuel to the fire. He claimed that he used a “horrible choice of words,” which is indeed the problem. This White preacher would rather replace the bitter truth with a sugar-coated white lie.
“White privilege is real, and we sit in large places where we are today because of the centuries of injustice done to our Black brothers and sisters,” Giglio expressed. On this statement we can all agree, but his subsequent comment is cause for grave concern. In his very faint apology calling for a language change from “White privilege” to “White blessing”, the suburban Atlanta preacher falsely stated that “there aren’t any blessings in slavery.” White privilege is a result of slavery; a successful America is the result of slavery; America’s railway system is largely the result of slavery; many major corporations in Europe, America, and across the globe have resulted from slavery; and it must be duly noted that many of America’s mainline churches and mainstream denominations, including the Southern Baptist Convention, have benefited greatly from the enslavement and the repression of Blacks in America.
We must no longer placate the White lie and it is time for White preachers in America to confront this problem which clearly has an ecclesiastical foundation and will undoubtedly require a spiritual solution. White preachers have allowed the European crowns and White politicians and business leaders around the globe to replace God supremacy with White supremacy. Now it is in the DNA of their spiritual legacy, resulting in a political ideology of domination and control. It is for this reason that a Godless president – whose lips spew droplets of hate that have resulted in a new viral outbreak of injustice – runs to the “White” church with a Bible that he has never read for a photo op for his evangelical base to see.
White evangelicals in America need a new God story. You have taken one of America’s vilest public men – a womanizer obsessed with porn stars; a crooked businessman that crosses everyone that crosses his path; an egomaniac obsessed with his own sense of entitlement, who fires everyone that doesn’t agree with him; and a racist and fascist – and have Christianized him without converting him.
One of your colleagues rightly noted that Donald Trump is all of a sudden a Christian without Jesus. He stated that the really bad God story is that for most of you, God is a White, super-standard, heterosexual man that was born in America, raised Christian, and votes Republican. Rev. John Pavlovitz went on to say that this brand of Christianity is steeped in whiteness, supremacy, nationalism, and the fear of the outsider.
The 400 years of enslavement and hostile domination is over, and as a prophetic voice, I am calling for all White faith leaders and the global European Church to enter a new season of repentance, restitution, reparation, and restoration.
The toll is high but can no longer be ignored. Europe has looted trillions of dollars in resources and artifacts from Africa and the peoples of the world, stolen millions of acres of prime real estate, killed more than 427 million indigenous people and Africans between 1492 and 2020, and exploited billions of hours of slave labor. The physical and psychological pain and suffering is beyond human calculation and the very thought that most of this was Church-sanctioned and government-sponsored cuts to the core.
The White blessings are there, Pastor Louie Giglio, but so are the White curses and the need for a White cure. The blessings (benefits, satisfaction) are ill-gotten and White clergy will only begin to fix this when there is an ideological reversal and a political shift.
This is a good time to begin to re-read your Bible’s pages so that you can rewrite a history that won’t have chapels built in the midst of slave dungeons. These brutal and bullish acts evolved from a faulty spiritual foundation, and the White evangelical church in America proves every day that “she” is still unwilling to take her knees off the necks of Africans. The Church is the proven bedrock of this culture of White supremacy, and over these 500 years, you and your ancestors have Christianized slavery, consecrated oppression, spiritualized colonization, glorified Black subordination, and deified evil. Your ancestors have created a system for the global repression of Black people where cruelty is the rule and kindness the exception.
Now you proudly support and align with a president who – in the midst of this billow of racial injustices against Blacks – tweets out “White Power.” Mr. Trump posing with the Bible gives positive proof to the source of his motivation, and it is deeply troubling that the preachers of decency – the presumed voices of morality and vanguards of truth and righteousness – are the co-creators of a haven of hate and a nesting place for White power and perpetual White supremacy in the White House.
You are trading the Bible for political expedience and playing musical chairs with the gospel of Jesus Christ. You are elevating the doctrine of homosexuality and abortion over God’s mission of love, and you trample the common dignity of humanity to stand in political alliance with a man who calls Mexicans rapists, refers to Black people as lazy, thinks Black athletes are SOB’s, says Muslims are terrorists, believes that Native Americans are fakes, describes African nations as “shithole countries,” and contends that the American Nazi sympathizers are “very fine people.”
For Rev. Jerry Falwell, Jr. this may all be just background noise as he experiences the resignation of some of the very few Black sub-leaders in his organization, but some strong moral voices are needed. White privilege is not a right. It is the hijacking of the human rights of others that has created the privileges that you enjoy. These privileges resulted from a system of brutal suppression and the hostile treatment of generation after generation of Africans. Your White blessing is the one-sided benefit resulting from more than 12 to 18 million African children mauled, lamed, and killed in the Congo free states for economic gain. White blessing because of the economic benefits bequeathed from your ancestors, who enslaved and thrust some 80 to 100 million Africans in chattel slavery for more than 400 years. White blessing because of the trillions of dollars amassed through the exploitation of lands in Africa, the Americas, and Asia, and the incomputable trillions of dollars resulting from the natural resources extracted from the continent of Africa.
White privilege because of the ecclesiastical immunity extended since the time of your ancestors’ hostile murder of hundreds of millions of people, and the rape of tens of thousands of African women going as far back as the fall of Constantinople in 1453.
A verbal expression of “sorry” is wholly inadequate to begin the healing journey, and it is of grave concern that this generation of White Americans – as Senator Mitch McConnell recently expressed – seeks to recuse yourselves from any responsibility while you enjoy the benefits of your White privilege. This distorted generational disposition to psychologically detach yourselves from any responsibility is a dangerous posture.
The Lord is longsuffering (He can wait) and great in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the father unto the third and fourth generation (Numbers 14:18).
God is the Lord of righteousness and He is looking to you to pursue justice with the same vigor with which you defend gun rights, seek to protect unborn babies, and protect America’s borders from other immigrants. Above our worship services, prayers, and Bible props, God wants the African people free. The Lord God said through Amos (chapter 5, verses 23-24): “Away with your lofty hymns and noisome praise. I will not listen to you … Instead I want to see a mighty flow of justice, an endless river of righteousness.”
This is indeed the time for you to begin to unlove the racial legacy your ancestors gave you, unlove the confederate symbols of hate, unlove the slavery affirming monuments, unlove your national images of supremacy, unlove the faulty theology and its distorted interpretations, and unlove your politics of convenience with an ideology of “White blessing” cloaked in false robes of morality and vestments of righteousness.
It is no longer enough to say you are not a racist or a White supremacist, and yet as an evangelical leader you sit back and enjoy the harvested fruits that resulted from Black oppression, proudly boasting “White privilege.”
My first important bit of advice to White evangelical preachers is to stop talking. Like Pastor Giglio, Rod Parsley made cruel and troubling comments dismissing the horrors of slavery and its brutal impact upon Black lives. He called slavery “America’s birth defect.” Speaking to his “Black, Asian, Arab, Hispanic, and ‘even White’ brothers and sisters”, he calls for them to be “done with bitterness … Please put away hate. We live in a great land … it was founded by people just like you. The founders framed the liberties that every one of us enjoys today. Don’t hate our founders, don’t discard their legacy …”. He went on to assert that the slave masters were good people. Then came the apology and, without a doubt, the apology was more painful than the initial comments. It is truly gut-wrenching to listen to these White evangelical preachers as they defend the racist past and validate White privilege and White power. Pastor Parsley, whose legacy do you speak of, and did you mention the liberty (freedom) we all enjoy? Who are the “we”, and does that include George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery?
Professor Yolanda Pierce, a dean at Howard University Divinity School, tweeted, “Parsley’s message was historically inaccurate, insensitive, and patronizing” – and it is un-Christian. I am personally shocked by his blatant evasion of the truth, his bullish obsession with falsehood, and his blind delusion of reality. He, Giglio, and most of America’s White preachers are so spiritually disconnected that their apologies and solutions to the problems create bigger problems than the problems themselves.
There is a huge misalignment between God’s righteousness and America’s mainstream Christianity. As Rod Parsley stood before the camera with his arms folded to make his plea for us to join hands together, he started with “Hear the heart of God …”. He implicated God in his “White blessing” rant, but the bigger challenge is that this is a perfect example of how preachers – who are among the greatest influencers – use church and the Bible for manipulation and control. Had this issue of racism and White supremacy not been under the microscope, Giglio and Parsley’s statements would have received “amens” and would have gone unchallenged. The problem is that these reckless statements cloaked in an ecclesiastical framework are of no divine prophetic value, but are designed to influence the spiritually vulnerable.
During the 2016 election, Kenneth Copeland said, “Donald Trump is being led by the Holy Spirit” and that Christians that did not vote for Trump would be guilty of murder! Dr. Copeland should now jump in front of the cameras to tell America that Christians who vote for Donald Trump will be guilty of hate, White supremacy, and the sin of racism – unless, of course, Copeland doesn’t think racism is a sin, and he and his cohorts are masquerading White evangelicalism to align with a political ideology to perpetuate White power.
In conclusion, I want to talk about “Amazing Grace.” This is one of the world’s most cherished hymns and is sung more than 14 million times every year. The lyrics of this beloved song, a favorite of many Black Christians, were written by a brutal slave trader and, most likely, the tune emanated from the humming sounds of captured Africans shackled and stacked upon each other as cargo in those horrific slave ships. Their mumbling sounds of praise penetrated their mountain of pain and, in the Africans’ spirit, they hummed.
John Newton must have heard the humming during his many voyages to capture Africans on the continent. On at least one of those journeys, Newton and his crew threw an unspecified number of Africans overboard to conserve critical resources and to withstand stormy conditions. According to the British law at the time, ship owners could throw “cargo” overboard into the sea to secure their vessels and insurance companies would pay up to £30 per head for lost African cargo. As crooked as Newton was, he may have thrown hundreds into the Atlantic Ocean to collect insurance claims. After his conversion, he penned the words, “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” He most likely linked the lyrics to the humming tune of his African captives.
Gentlemen/ladies, the only correct response is to pursue justice and start doing as Jesus would. This long road to restoration will only begin when you start moving with a genuine heart propense towards healing.
This is Rev. Dennis Dillon … thanks for reading.
This article was originally published by The New York Christian Times.