Here's the absurd explanation Chris Ladd received from Forbes regarding the post they removed:
We took down your evangelical piece. It was way out of bounds — painting the entire evangelical movement with a broad brush.
We also have a policy of not talking about social issues like abortion at Forbes Opinion — only economic policy and politics. We try to keep things data driven.
Also, given your criticisms of Robert Jeffress, you should have reached out to him for comment. As I noted in a recent email, it is extremely important to reach out for comment from anyone you personally criticize in your work.
Let me know if you have any questions about these points.
Why White Evangelicalism Is So Cruel
Chris Ladd, Contributor</p>
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 20: Diana Martinez,
18, an undocumented student was arrested with a dozen other
undocumented students refusing to leave their sit-in in the Hart Senate
Office building. Photographed on July 20 in Washington, DC. (Mark Abramson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Robert Jeffress, Pastor of First Baptist
Church in Dallas and an avid supporter of Donald Trump, earned headlines
this week for his defense of the president’s adultery with a porn star.
Regarding the affair and subsequent financial payments, Jeffress
explained, “Even if it’s true, it doesn’t matter.”
Such a casual attitude toward adultery and prostitution might seem odd from a guy who blamed 9/11 on America’s sinfulness.
However, seen through the lens of white evangelicals’ real priorities,
Jeffress’ disinterest in Trump’s sordid lifestyle makes sense. Religion
is inseparable from culture, and culture is inseparable from history.
Modern, white evangelicalism emerged from the interplay between race and
religion in the slave states. What today we call “evangelical
Christianity,” is the product of centuries of conditioning, in which
religious practices were adapted to nurture a slave economy. The
calloused insensitivity of modern white evangelicals was shaped by the
economic and cultural priorities that forged their theology over
Many Christian movements take the title “evangelical,” including many
African-American denominations. However, evangelicalism today has been
coopted as a preferred description for Christians who were looking to
shed an older, largely discredited title: Fundamentalist. A quick glance
at a map showing concentrations of adherents and weekly church attendance
reveals the evangelical movement’s center of gravity in the Old South.
And among those evangelical churches, one denomination remains by far
the leader in membership, theological pull, and political influence.
There is still today a Southern Baptist Church. More than a
century and a half after the Civil War, and decades after the Methodists
and Presbyterians reunited with their Yankee neighbors, America’s most
powerful evangelical denomination remains defined, right down to the
name over the door, by an 1845 split over slavery.
Southern denominations faced enormous social and political pressure
from plantation owners. Public expressions of dissent on the subject of
slavery in the South were not merely outlawed, they were a death
sentence. Baptist ministers who rejected slavery, like South Carolina’s William Henry Brisbane, were forced to flee to the North. Otherwise, they would end up like Methodist minister Anthony Bewley,
who was lynched in Texas in 1860, his bones left exposed at local store
to be played with by children. Whiteness offered protection from many
of the South’s cruelties, but that protection stopped at the subject of
race. No one who dared speak truth to power on the subject of slavery,
or later Jim Crow, could expect protection.
Generation after generation, Southern pastors adapted their theology
to thrive under a terrorist state. Principled critics were exiled or
murdered, leaving voices of dissent few and scattered. Southern
Christianity evolved in strange directions under ever-increasing
isolation. Preachers learned to tailor their message to protect
themselves. If all you knew about Christianity came from a close reading
of the New Testament, you’d expect that Christians would be hostile to
wealth, emphatic in protection of justice, sympathetic to the point of
personal pain toward the sick, persecuted and the migrant, and almost
socialist in their economic practices. None of these consistent
Christian themes served the interests of slave owners, so pastors could
either abandon them, obscure them, or flee.
What developed in the South was a theology carefully tailored to meet
the needs of a slave state. Biblical emphasis on social justice was
rendered miraculously invisible. A book constructed around the central
metaphor of slaves finding their freedom was reinterpreted. Messages
which might have questioned the inherent superiority of the white race,
constrained the authority of property owners, or inspired some interest
in the poor or less fortunate could not be taught from a pulpit. Any
Christian suggestion of social justice was carefully and safely
relegated to “the sweet by and by” where all would be made right at no
cost to white worshippers. In the forge of slavery and Jim Crow, a
Christian message of courage, love, compassion, and service to others
was burned away.
Stripped of its compassion and integrity, little remained of the
Christian message. What survived was a perverse emphasis on sexual
purity as the sole expression of righteousness, along with a creepy
obsession with the unquestionable sexual authority of white men. In a
culture where race defined one’s claim to basic humanity, women took on a
special religious interest. Christianity’s historic emphasis on sexual
purity as a form of ascetic self-denial was transformed into an
obsession with women and sex. For Southerners, righteousness had little
meaning beyond sex, and sexual mores had far less importance for men
than for women. Guarding women’s sexual purity meant guarding the purity
of the white race. There was no higher moral demand.
Changes brought by the Civil War only heightened the need to protect
white racial superiority. Churches were the lynchpin of Jim Crow. By the
time the Civil Rights movement gained force in the South, Dallas’ First
Baptist Church, where Jeffress is the pastor today, was a bulwark of segregation and white supremacy.
As the wider culture nationally has struggled to free itself from the
burdens of racism, white evangelicals have fought this development while
the violence escalated. What happened to ministers who resisted slavery
happened again to those who resisted segregation. White Episcopal
Seminary student, Jonathan Daniels, went to Alabama in 1965 to support voting rights protests.
After being released from jail, he was murdered by an off-duty
sheriff’s deputy, who was acquitted by a jury. Dozens of white activists
joined the innumerable black Americans murdered fighting for civil
rights in the 60’s, but very few of them were Southern.
White Evangelical Christians opposed desegregation tooth and nail.
Where pressed, they made cheap, cosmetic compromises, like Billy
Graham’s concession to allow black worshipers at his crusades. Graham
never made any difficult statements on race, never appeared on stage
with his “black friend” Martin Luther King after 1957, and he never
marched with King. When King delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech,”
Graham responded with this passive-aggressive gem of Southern theology,
“Only when Christ comes again will the little white children of Alabama
walk hand in hand with little black children.” For white Southern
evangelicals, justice and compassion belong only to the dead.
Churches like First Baptist in Dallas did not become stalwart
defenders of segregation by accident. Like the wider white evangelical
movement, it was then and remains today an obstacle to Christian notions
of social justice thanks to a long, dismal heritage. There is no
changing the white evangelical movement without a wholesale
reconsideration of their theology. No sign of such a reckoning is
Those waiting to see the bottom of white evangelical cruelty have
little source of optimism. Men like Pastor Jeffress can dismiss Trump’s
racist abuses as easily as they dismiss his fondness for porn stars.
When asked about Trump’s treatment of immigrants, Jeffress shared these comments:
Solving DACA without strengthening borders ignores the teachings of
the Bible. In fact, Christians who support open borders, or blanket
amnesty, are cherry-picking Scriptures to suit their own agendas.
For those unfamiliar with Christian scriptures, it might helpful to
point out what Jesus reportedly said about this subject, and about the
wider question of our compassion for the poor and the suffering:
Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for
the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I
was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not
take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you
did not visit Me.
What did Jesus say about abortion, the favorite subject of Jeffress
and the rest of the evangelical movement? Nothing. What does the Bible
say about abortion, a practice as old as civilization? Nothing. Not one
word. The Bible’s exhortations to compassion for immigrants and the poor
stretch long enough to comprise a sizeable book of their own, but no
matter. White evangelicals will not let their political ambitions be
constrained by something as pliable as scripture.
Why is the religious right obsessed with subjects like abortion while
unmoved by the plight of immigrants, minorities, the poor, the
uninsured, and those slaughtered in pointless gun violence? No white man
has ever been denied an abortion. Few if any white men are affected by
the deportation of migrants. White men are not kept from attending
college by laws persecuting Dreamers. White evangelical Christianity has
a bottomless well of compassion for the interests of straight white
men, and not a drop to be spared for anyone else at their expense. The
cruelty of white evangelical churches in politics, and in their
treatment of their own gay or minority parishioners, is no accident. It
is an institution born in slavery, tuned to serve the needs of Jim Crow,
and entirely unwilling to confront either of those realities.
Men like Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s
public policy group, are trying to reform the Southern Baptist church in
increments, much like Billy Graham before him. His statements on
subjects like the Confederate Flag and sexual harassment
are bold, but only relative to previous church proclamations. He’s
still about three decades behind the rest of American culture in
recognition of the basic human rights of the country’s non-white,
non-male citizens. Resistance he is facing from evangelicals will
continue so long as the theology informing white evangelical religion
remains unconsidered and unchallenged.
While white evangelical religion remains dedicated to its roots, it
will perpetuate its heritage. What this religious heritage produced in
the 2016 election, when white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump by a
record margin, is the truest expression of its moral character.