There’s a Storm Comin: How the Evangelical Church Responds to the Fergusons and Charlottesvilles that Shake and Shock America’s Sociopolitical Landscape
Surveys taken within the last two years have indicated that the majority of Americans believe that race relations are getting worse. This is in stark contrast to what the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States seemed to signify. Numerous people, pundits, and papers hailed this political victory as evidence that the United States was now entering a post-racial period. Eight years later, however, after several racially charged tragedies, many Americans are now wondering if the country can ever heal from the wounds of its racial past. During the summer of 2016, churches and faith leaders across America struggled to respond to video footage of a series of police shootings of black men. Alton Sterling died in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, after an altercation with police officers. Within twenty-four hours, a Facebook live video showed Philando Castile (with his girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter in the car) dying from gun wounds once he alerted a police officer that he was legally carrying a gun. The next day, five police officers were gunned down at a peaceful protest in downtown Dallas. The trio of events led to socio-political uproar. The American Evangelical Church is unprepared for the current socio-political climate that is producing severe racial strife and tension in American society. Highly publicized killings of unarmed black people are an intense political issue for individuals and communities. These shootings cause considerable psychological distress in individuals and racial tension in communities and cities. The Evangelical Church is unprepared and thus vulnerable to division and strife within its own walls, is hindered in achieving and sustaining ethnic diversity, and typically does not provide a robust prophetic message of hope in the midst of socio-political despair. This thesis will employ qualitative research in the form of literature reviews. First, drawing from current sociological, psychological, and political research I will make the case that the church must take proactive measures to prepare for—using my own coined term—racialized storms. The church must prepare for these storms to reduce the severity and impact of these racially-charged events in their respective communities and cities. I intend to research and recommend strategies drawn from the academic and professional fields of climate change adaptation and natural hazard mitigation. These insights will be analyzed and synthesized with biblical data to create a framework that gives churches practical steps to prepare for and respond to racially charged events that cause upheaval and division in the socio-political landscape of our communities and cities.
African American studies
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