The saga of racism, a chapel message, and an anti-CRT Crusade
Dr. Tisby, I would like to thank you wholeheartedly for speaking at Grove City. As a white alum (class of 2019), I can speak to the the desperate need for these conversations, particularly given the student body makeup. Thank you for speaking, and thank you for your continued advocacy.
As someone with deep connections there is much to say, and I'm processing how to do that. The starting point would be to note that this Special Committee was made up of exclusively white members. That alone should give significant pause.
Hi, Dr. Tisby - My name is Elijah Duckworth and I am a current freshman at Grove City College. I am transferring to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill next semester. My transfer decision includes a multiplicity of factors, and some include the issues you highlighted. I have not publicly voiced my opinion of this controversy yet because speaking against the crowd often comes with consequences. But I want you to know: I stand with you.
Thoughtful as always.
I was struck by your perception of the response you received from your listeners that day and the reaction of those former students and donors who started the petition. The latter were clearly discipled by those culture warriors who shall not be named here.
And while this observation may not be fair, I couldn’t help but notice the graduation dates listed for the members of the “special committee.” (Does the fact that I’m their contemporary give me some leeway to point out that they’re all old?) It seems as if the outcome of the investigation was thoroughly predetermined.
My point is that you hit the nail on the head with this paragraph:
“This entire report represents an extended attempt at conservative virtue-signaling. They are reassuring their donors and constituents that they still subscribe to conservative politics and an exclusivist interpretation of the Bible and race.”
The biggest obstacle preventing historically Christian colleges from leaving fundamentalism for a more Christian Christianity may well be fear of aging alumni and their donations.
I would hate to be responsible for educating new generations of believers in that environment.
I am a graduate from 1994 and I'm not at all surprised by the response. I am so sorry you had to endure such treatment for speaking truth. This grad supports you (as do my husband, and my best friend, also GCC graduates). That baseless, misguided petition does not speak for all of us. Keep doing the good work God has given you to do. You are in our prayers
Dear Dr. Tisby,
As a parent of an alum I am so deeply troubled by this. My daughter, who graduated in 2015, received an excellent education in a STEM field from GCC. We have supported the college since that time because of the amazing scholarship she received. That support ends now, and I'll direct any funds they would have received to you. I'll be writing to GCC to inform them of my disappointment and decision to withdraw support.
Please continue to use your voice and speak truth to the darkness. I have been changed and believe that others can too.
Wow. Both unexpected and not unexpected. Thank you for your response. I continue to pray for your work and have been both blessed and challenged by it.
"The fire up in my bones."
Yep. That's what preaching is. Proclaiming the message concisely and powerfully, and then letting God do the work to bring awareness and repentance.
I imagine it is hard to have your words ignored and instead have your character attacked. It probably is not possible to be someone who loves truth so much that they speak it even when it brings rejection and hostility and abuse, and not feel the pain of being so deliberately misunderstood.
But all I know is this: speaking the truth in love is how God uses us to bring salvation to the world. There's no guarantee that it happens because men and women are hardened into cynicism and rejection, and are trapped by fear and intolerance. Yet we have this message of hope of the only one who can bring change.
The church *can* be the agents of repentance and restoration. May we listen intently to our preachers and prophets and elders, and may we be moved by the Holy Spirit to bring love and hope and healing to a world so terribly, terribly wounded by the actions of broken people.
You give us the inspiration to continue to spread the truth to not only our circle of influence but also support out brother & sisters.
Will read the attached articles as well,truly sorry you have been cast this way, your books & Pass the Mic podcast are very informative & inspirational!
Blessings, Chris & Brian
I am shocked - shocked! - that the committee was composed of people who all look just like me. Thank you for standing for the truth and for encouraging believers to work to fight racism.
I am a GCC alum and parent of a Junior at GCC, and I am greatly disappointed by this response from the school. I hope for a better future, but they will never attract a diverse student body if the Board continues to fail in the support of professors with integrity rather than acceding to the whims of far-right wing activist parents and donors. I only know one member of the committee, and enjoyed the classes he taught when I was there. He prayed for us before every test, something I remember quite clearly from many years ago and appreciated.
You have been mistreated by this committee at GCC. Your article is insightful. The committee’s report, like the Save GCC from CRT petition, turns the narrative upside down.
For example, the committee wrote, “CRT uncharitably detects aggression where none is intended, breeds resentment, and stokes recrimination. It impedes genuine repentance and forgiveness. So it corrodes the loving, unified, “close-knit family environment” that GCC seeks to encourage on its residential campus.”
In your book The Color of Compromise, you wrote “the goal of this book is not guilt. The purpose of tracing Christian complicity with racism is not to show white believers how bad they are.” You said, “skin color is simply a physical trait. It is a feature that has no bearing on one’s intrinsic dignity.” You wrote, “white complicity with racism isn’t a matter of melanin, it’s a matter of power.” Your points in this book about Black Lives Matter and countless other things are also absolutely true.
The committee at GCC is supporting views held by the parents of a terrible petition. A petition that abandons logic when discerning the only real systemic racism is within CRT itself and through the educational institutions that are teaching CRT and falsely accusing white people. They uncharitably ignore actual racism and systemic injustice.
It is immensely uncharitable and prideful for GCC to hold a view that only political conservatives are capable of making biblical applications in chapel that are worthy of the school.
Your chapel presentation at GCC in October 2020 was cited in both the first and second Petition by the anti-CRT parents. The Petition accused it of false teaching, and gave the impression biblical text may not have even been incorporated into the message presented at chapel. You mentioned the biblical text from which you spoke in your insightful article about GCC. I will echo you in saying that anyone who has listened to the Livestream recording of this chapel presentation knows your message was grounded with a passage from the book of Esther. The fierce urgency of now to not remain silent for such a time as this. I believe some of your key points were “Mordecai identified with the people”, and “Esther took Mordecai at his word.” It was a good message with practical application to not be passive or silent about the racial tension we were all witnessing in 2020. You pointed out that if Esther did not act then deliverance will rise from another place. It is an urging to act in obedience to God’s calling for us to love our neighbors and to mourn with those who mourn. It was biblical.
Perhaps what you said is in conflict with a type of religion commonly called Christian Nationalism, but that is not gospel truth. There are many wonderful things about America, and it can be a shining example to the world at certain times. But it is no utopia and should not be idealized. Your books accurately highlight the many sins of American history, in which Christians have not been innocent. The image of America as a shining city on a hill goes too far. Jesus was telling his true followers what they should be, “a city set on a hill” (Matthew 5:14), which derives from identity in Jesus. We are not that city without Jesus. One gospel is oriented around Jesus, but Christian Nationalism serves two masters and is oriented around politics. Our only means of salvation is through Jesus. There is no Christian unity without Jesus. Unity will not be found in political identities such as our opinions about CRT, 2nd Amendment rights, size of government, fiscal policy, mask freedoms, or any other political opinion or idea about America. These things are not permanent. The kingdom of heaven is permanent.
I quoted you extensively in a failed attempt to persuade those anti-CRT parents with a response to their petition, sent with the hope of providing a different perspective to the GCC community. (I can’t write like you though!) They unknowingly reject more than you, a brother I am glad to be united with in Christ. I am sorry for all you have been accused of.
Hi Dr. Tisby,
Thank you for your article and the links you provided. I found the Newsweek article especially helpful for context.
This situation deeply troubles me. I will keep you and the American church in prayer.
I am a current student at Grove city College and I am absolutely heartbroken at the open hypocrisy of our school leaders. I LOVED your chapel— and I know the majority of the school did too. My friends and I have spent countless nights pouring out out frustrations (and tears) over how some people can be so closed minded. Unfortunately my observations have shown me that a handful of students and staff, usually the most vocal, have seemed to replaced Christ with Conservatism. I am embarrassed to have Grove City College on my diploma. For anyone outside of GCC reading this, please know that there are so many people here who are trying to push back. We are signing petitions, organizing prayers/chapels, and showing our support for an education that doesn’t shy away from tough topics like injustice. My friends and I stand with you, Dr. Tisby.
Dr. Tisby, this GCC alum (class of '16) is praying for you as you deal with harsh and (I believe) misguided critics. Your gifts are needed in the church, but I pray you also find respite and strength in Christ and the members of his Body around you. I wish you all the best.
I think ignoring your Footnotes would make my life so much easier. However, I don't think my Christian walk would do as well. I know the perception of CRT is distorted in Christian Communities. CRT has become a political can to kick down the road. But kicked political cans often include bruised brothers and sisters. Opinions of those I love split along skin color lines. White folks see heresy in CRT. Folks of color welcome the perceived critique of CRT against the church. I think my pain derives from a refusal of generosity toward one another.
Ephesians 4 is quite clear. We are members of one another. If I fail to support you in your growth towards Christlikeness, then the body of Christ is at a loss. I will have failed to grow WITH YOU in love. The mandate seems so clear. If we do these things we will be fruitful. But politics enters into the body of Christ like a virus insisting on suspicion rather than love. There is no transformation in love only deforming suspicion.
These suspicions negate our witness and power. I implore us brothers and sisters to not be driven by the winds of politics. The trends are tossed to and fro only to gain power. Instead, let us reach out toward one another considering how we can encourage each to the good works of love and repentance found in our King Jesus.
I totally agree with you that the outrage-induced, reactionary nature of our current politics is no place for Christians to find refuge. The Ruffoian response to label anything and everything we don’t like as CRT and dismiss it out of hand or blindly fight against it is not a Christian position to take and rightfully deserves rebuke, IMO.
Christians are explicitly called to be shrewd, discerning, and those who test all thoughts and ideas against God’s word (1 John 4:1). Broad brushing, gaslighting, okaying lies and evil because they advance our personal political cause, is not Christian territory. It is enemy territory. I am reminded of Hebrews 11, when the author describes the posture of the heroes of the faith in this way;
“For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God… All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
The people who are noted in this chapter have their eye firmly fixed not on a “country of their own”, but a “better country—a heavenly one.” They were foreigners and strangers on earth, in the places they lived. They found no refuge in the arms of the political, nor many of the religious leaders of their days.
My concern is that while you speak so boldly and courageously against the reactionaries on the political right, you seem to find much comfort in the embrace of the reactionaries of the political left. Your message is truly a political one at heart. While you rightfully work to tear down the idol of conservative politics found in many parts of American Christianity, you seem blinded to the equally deadly idol of progressive politics.
In your article, you write;
“The climate in the nation was one where people of all political persuasions felt like the fate of the country hinged upon the election results.”
You have communicated over and over again in your talks and writings, that you personally felt/feel this way. The fate of it all rested on our shoulders in this moment, and if we do not do something to save it, all is lost. You then go on to proclaim;
“We are living in times that call us to take sides, either the side of justice or injustice. The side of righteousness or unrighteousness. Choose this day whom you will serve.”
When you wrote these words in the context of your talk at GCC, there was significant emphasis that the side the Christians must take in this moment is explicitly the side of the Black Lives Matter movement, which is an unabashedly political movement rooted deeply in unbiblical political ideology. Yours was not a call to serve a God outside of our current politics, to avoid dismissiveness, to take to mind and heart what people were crying out for, to weigh it against God’s commands, and honestly seek justice that is uniquely different from what the world tells us it is. Yours was an explicit call for Christians to link arms with a political movement, to join the millions of others, join the masses.
I find your use of Joshua 24, "Choose this day who you will serve," quite poetic, considering that the context of that specific verse is a calling out of both the idolatry of their forefathers as well as the idolatry of the place in which they were living at the time to worship God and God alone. The reference to this verse in your writing seemingly demands allegiance to a political movement, a god of the land in which we are living, and not the One who sits enthroned above all of it. If true, this is indeed a "destructive and profoundly unbiblical worldview". I will not take part.
There seems to be no room for Christians to pause and to ponder the command found in Romans 12;
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect will.”
Now, I know you are likely thinking. “If you disagree with me you would have said the same thing about King. If you weren’t the one holding the firehoses, letting lose the dogs, cheering on orders from Bull Conner, you would have assuredly been one in the complicit masses. You are no friend to those who are fighting racism.” In fact, you claimed this point almost word for word in your speech at GCC.
Personally, I disagree wholeheartedly. I see many Christians across the political spectrum (from those who voted for Trump twice to those who marched in the streets with BLM) playing their different and essential parts in the body of Christ to love God and love thy neighbor and getting demeaned by fellow Christians in the process. As a Christian, I have made my best effort to listen to the voices of people across the spectrum, and then go to God in prayer and diligent search of his word to determine how he is directing my steps and my path looks different than yours.
Is there room in the body of Christ for that?
What “side” of the binary does this put me on?
If my posture of skepticism alone automatically puts me on the side of unrighteousness and injustice, I find very little differentiation between your message and those who claim conservative Christianity is the only “true” Christianity. The idols have simply been swapped.
Now, I may very well be wrong in my interpretation of your words. I could very well be mishearing and misreading you. My heart is just as prone to deceit as anyone reading these words. And I am willing to be confronted and rebuked as necessary. I actually crave brothers and sisters confronting my errors with truth. So feel entirely free to do so.
I’ll leave you with the potent words of Dr. Carl Ellis that have resonated with me deeply in these peculiar times. Words I think are necessary for all Christians in our current cultural moment to take heed of. He says;
“Today's political ideologies of the left and the right are bankrupt. There is no salvation in politics. That's not to say we can't speak politically, but there's no salvation in politics. If you marry politics, it will pimp you. These ideologies are incapable of providing an adequate base for human flourishing.”
As Christians, I think we will bear far better fruit if we start hand in hand from this basic understanding.