The End of White Christian America: A Conversation with E. J. Dionne and Robert P. Jones

Just two quick points.
One is I think there has been a tension
throughout American history between prophetic religion
and what you could call the alternative.
Liturgically, you could call it law-based.
And the African-American church has always
partaken of the prophetic.
And I’ve always found that you can–
if you’re talking about talking to a Christian,
you know which side they are on by whether they quote Micah,
Isaiah, and Amos or Leviticus.
And whether they–
–quote– whether they quote the social passages of the New
Testament or the conversion passages of the New Testament.
And I think you saw that in the fight over slavery.
You saw that over social justice issues
in the progressive era in the ’30s.
I mean, you saw it in the Civil Rights years.
I think that’s a deep tension that’s always running
through American religion.
that obviously, slave owners wanted their slaves
to be Christians, but that they were–
I remember reading this.
I haven’t seen evidence of it.
That they actually had Bibles printed up
for slaves, in which the Bible was printed,
but the Book of Exodus was left out.
Oh, OK.
I’ve heard that, yes.
I want to get that on display somewhere.
I’ve heard that, as well.
And what’s fascinating is how deeply important the book
of Exodus is in every African-American church,
and how central it is African-American preaching,
for obvious reasons.
I mean, “let my people go.”
But yes.
I’m going to try to remember where I have found this
because there were very–
the first slave owners tried to keep the slaves illiterate,
and actually didn’t want them reading the whole Bible
because the Bible is very dangerous.
And there was often a tradition of one slave, at least,
becoming literate.
And the original African-American churches
were in the woods, and they were–
and the slaves were very conscious of those parts
of scripture that pointed to the freedom.
And so I think, in some cases, they were limited Bibles.
But in a lot of cases, the effort
was to keep the slaves illiterate so
that they would only hear the parts,
say, of Saint Paul, that said slaves, obey your masters,
and that sort of thing.
Which was the part that influenced Billy Graham when
he spoke in Moscow— in Russia.
Spoke in Russia, yeah.
Thank you.