Blog Race War
Edward J. Blum
If Sunday morning is the most segregated time in America, then evangelical studies may be the most segregated books by U.S. historians.
Over at patheos, John Turner revisited Time magazine's list of top 25 most influential evangelicals in America. I consider John a friend and a terrific scholar. His biography of Bill Bright is just terrific, and I've already read and reviewed his Brigham Young, which too is wonderful. But I'm ready to go to blog war over Time's list and his revisited one. There is 1, count 'em 1, African American named on the list: T. D. Jakes. The list had 25 in 2005; it had 1 African American then. Turner now revises it and calls for more names (in part to replace those who have died or fallen from grace), including Asian American and Latino American names.
My complaint is not with John, but with the entire field of "evangelical" studies. Until it can come up with a definition of itself that explains why books about it are almost uniformly about white people (because last I checked, lots and lots and lots of African Americans have fit Bebbington's definition), then it needs greater definitional precision. So many American historians bristle at "whiteness" studies, but this is a clear case, to me, where whiteness is hidden in plain site. This is the kind of assumption that leads books about religion and the founders to exclude Phillis Wheatley, to focus on Charles Finney but rarely William Apess, to pine for Lincoln to be evangelical but to ignore Frederick Douglass, and to lionize Dwight Moody and leave out Ida B. Wells.
I'm ready for "evangelical" scholars to go further ... to join Thomas Kidd by incorporating African Americans, Native Americans, and others deemed non-white in their studies of "evangelicals" to be far more robust in their reading and inclusion. If not, I'm prepared for a blog race war. (kidding about war ... blessed are the peace makers)