Righting America

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A Black Evangelical Has Schooled Ken Ham on Race and Racism . . . and Ken is Not Pleased | Righting America

by William Trollinger

Black and White protrait of Martin Luther King Jr. in a suit and tie standing next to a lectern and microphone while giving a speech with an American flag billboard next to him.
Martin Luther King, Jr., three-quarter length portrait, standing, facing front, at a press conference / World Telegram & Sun photo by Walter Albertin. June 7, 1964.

In August, Ken Ham (Answers in Genesis CEO) and Charles Ware (founder and executive director of https://gracerelations.net/), spoke at the Indianapolis Castleview Church on the topic, “One Race, One Blood.” Ham and Ware drew from their co-authored book of the same title to – as the conference was promoted – discuss “how evolutionary thinking has led to an increase of racism,” as well as “the Bible’s powerful answer to racism.”

As we note in Righting America (184), AiG’s ubiquitous evolutionism-equals-racism claim “could easily lead the historically unaware to conclude that Darwinism had something to do with the 250 years of slavery in North America, even though Origin of Species was published just six years before slavery was abolished.”) 

One of the attendees at the “One Race, One Blood” conference was Larry Smith, founder and CEO of Leading Edge Advisory Firm, and graduate of Williams College and Stanford University. In an Indianapolis Recorder article entitled, “One discussion, two perspectives,” Smith highlighted the differences between the two presentations: while Ware (who is black) “spoke from the perspective of one who has a close kinship with the subject matter,” Ham routinely wandered into “tangentially related” topics before “remembering that he was supposed to have been discussing race and racism.” And even then, Ham “tended to speak from a 25,000 foot level.” 

In short, Ham’s spiritual gaze was fixed beyond the sky to an ethereal future; Ware understood that people of color must endure an existential crisis on Earth – in the here and now. (Importantly, neither man spoke to the scourge of systemic racism, preferring to focus on cross-racial interaction, personal recognition of the sin of racial bigotry, and personal transformation based upon faith in Jesus.)

Smith sparked Ham’s ire. While it took him a couple of months, Ham has now penned a response. As is his wont, Ham includes ad hominem innuendos: Smith “is an African-American who states that he is a ‘devout evangelical Christian,’” and yet “he was very lukewarm about the content presented at the conference.” 

Ham’s suggestion is obvious: if Smith really were a Christian, he would have been thrilled with what Ham had to say.

More substantively, Ham argued that “there is no way to fix the systems of this world in regard to racism,” just as there is no way to “fix the world’s political systems” and there is no way to “fix the planet” from what “is supposedly happening regarding climate.”

We can’t fix things (politically, socially, etc.) on this earth! And sadly, the majority of people are also doomed, but there’s real hope! What we can do is proclaim the “fix” for each individual – and that “fix” is to respond to the gospel and build all of one’s thinking on God’s Word!

Reading Ham’s blog post, someone unfamiliar with Ham might imagine that he is an apolitical evangelist who focuses his efforts on rescuing individual souls from the fires of Hell, and who has little or nothing to say about politics. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. It just depends on the issue. As Smith pointed out, while at the conference “Ham was generally dispassionate regarding racism . . . he ‘came alive’ when railing against the social issues that bedevil white evangelicals (e.g., abortion, homosexuality and gender identity).” 

This is precisely how it plays out on Ham’s blog: a multitude of posts regarding the specifics of gay marriage, transgender bathrooms, and the like, and nary a word about the particular and multitudinous ways in which racism bears down upon people of color in the United States. As we note in Righting America, the contrast is startling:

While Ken Ham and AiG immediately launched a series of attacks on the June 26, 2013 Supreme Court decision that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, they had nothing to say regarding the Supreme Court decision that came down one day before, a decision which, to quote the New York Times, “effectively struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act.” This striking contrast was weirdly repeated in the summer of 2015: while Ken Ham and other AiG contributors published a raft of angry articles in response to the June 26, 2015, Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, they were (as far as we can tell) silent as regards the Confederate flag controversy that erupted in the wake of the June 17, 2015 massacre of nine African American churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina (189).

Larry Smith is exactly right when it comes to Ken Ham (and white evangelicalism more generally, as Camille Lewis noted here) and racism. As Smith noted in his final paragraph:

Though I am a devout evangelical Christian, it is impossible for me to overstate the following: Being a baptized believer in Jesus Christ is far from enough to eradicate racism. Slaveowners usually were devout “Christians.” So were their progeny who created and protected Jim Crow, sharecropping, “separate but equal” laws, and domestic terrorism against African Americans.

True word.