What is the experience of a person of color in predominantly white evangelical Christian spaces today? What does the Bible say about racism, ethnic community, and worldview bias? What does it mean for the church to truly live life together?
Bible Gateway interviewed Bryan Loritts (@bcloritts) about his book, Insider Outsider: My Journey as a Stranger in White Evangelicalism and My Hope for Us All (Zondervan, 2018).
What message are you communicating with the title of this book?
Bryan Loritts: I wrote Insider Outsider as a reminder to readers that when it comes to the church there is no ethnic home team. This was an issue the first church wrestled deeply with in the book of Acts. In fact, the essential message of the first church council in Acts 15 was that when it came to the church, Jews did not have a monopoly on following Christ.
Certainly, white is not a four letter word; however, white evangelicalism has historically functioned as the home team in America, and this has had—and continues to have—profound implications that inhibit true unity in the body of Christ. I show these truths in a hopeful way through my own narrative as a Jesus-loving African American who has spent a lot of time trafficking in white evangelical circles.
What do you mean when you say we all “bring our ethnicity when we approach the biblical text”?
Bryan Loritts: One of the first lessons I learned in a class on how to study the Bible when I was in college (taught by my professor who just happened to be white), was that none of us approaches any text of Scripture completely unbiased. That’s impossible. We all bring our own worldviews, biases, and presuppositions—all of which have been shaped profoundly by such things as our ethnicity.
It’s impossible to disrobe my blackness when I come to the text, just as it’s impossible for one to disrobe their whiteness, Hispanicness, etc. This should lead to us doing theology in community, so that our biases are exposed, and that we can actually illumine one another in our quest to mine the meaning of a passage.
Not to belabor the point, but here in America we live in a hyper individualized society, so we carry this with us when we read God’s Word. But the Bible was written to and among a people who were much more communal. So much of the disconnects we have in the West with a given periscope can be overcome when we do theology with those who have a more communal worldview.