Crucifying Jim Crow: Conservative Christianity and the Quest for Racial Justice -- By: Russell D. Moore

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 08:2 (Summer 2004)
Article: Crucifying Jim Crow: Conservative Christianity and the Quest for Racial Justice
Author: Russell D. Moore


Crucifying Jim Crow:
Conservative Christianity and the Quest for Racial Justice

Russell D. Moore

Russell D. Moore serves as Dean of the School of Theology, Senior Vice President for Academic Administration, and Professor of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as Executive Director of the Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement. Dr. Moore is the author of numerous articles and has edited (with Tom J. Nettles) Why I Am a Baptist (Broadman and Holman, 2001). He is also the author of the forthcoming book, The Kingdom of Christ: The New Evangelical Perspective (Crossway).

Jim Crow was not voted out of office. He was drowned, in a baptistery. Contemporary evangelicals, like most Americans, are prone to see the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s as the triumph of secular Enlightenment egalitarianism. In fact, however, the civil rights movement drew on the imagery and vision of American revivalism. In so doing, the civil rights movement succeeded precisely because its proponents were able to shame the American conscience by appealing to a profoundly orthodox understanding of conversionism and churchmanship. With an underpinning of conservative evangelical concepts of soteriology and ecclesiology, American evangelicals were able to see that their sins against African- Americans in the oppressive Jim Crow power structures were about more than southern tradition. Instead, segregation and racial injustice were, at the gut level, a repudiation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Conservative evangelicals had their segregationist views confronted, not with an alien ideology, but with their own theology—a theology that emphasized both the dignity of the individual and the reconciliation of the community in ways inconsonant with racial bigotry. With racial, ethnic, and tribal animosities accelerating across the globe, it is imperative that contemporary evangelical conservatives understand the evangelical impulses at the heart of the civil rights movement, impulses that provide a biblical portrait of the personal, corporate, and cosmic aspects of the gospel. In so doing, conservative evangelicals can speak theologically to the crises of racial hatred by drawing on the implications of their convictions about personal regeneration and the community of the church. This theological awareness is even more critical when contemporary evangelicals are asked increasingly to accept newer movements —from feminism to homosexual liberation and beyond—as the legitimate heirs of the civil rights movement.

Evangelical Theology, Racial Justice, and the Witness of History

The civil rights movement is often pictured as the triumph of a progressive secularist ideal of progress and equality over the dark prejudices of orthodox Christi...

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