Lifeway Research has released a new study on the state of racism and the Church in the U.S. and the findings are worth reflection.
For starters, most Protestant churches (88 percent) agree that churches should strive for racial diversity, even as they admit it doesn’t really reflect reality. 76 percent of Protestant pastors surveyed say their church is predominantly one racial or ethnic group. Those numbers have ticked down a little since 2013 when Lifeway first started asked asking the question, but Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s observation about Sunday morning as the most segregated hour in America still rings largely true.
Where things get really interesting is the threat assessment. About half of Protestant pastors said racism was a bigger threat to the Church than Critical Race Theory. 29 percent of pastors surveyed said CRT posed a bigger threat to the Church than racism. 16 percent said neither presented a real threat to the Church.
When you break it down by denomination, some stark differences reveal themselves. 70 percent of Mainline Protestant pastors said racism was the bigger threat, compared to just 38 percent of Evangelical pastors. Meanwhile, 39 percent of Evangelical pastors said CRT was the bigger threat while 15 percent said neither was a threat and eight percent are “unsure.”
Long story short, roughly the same number of Evangelical pastors consider CRT to be a bigger threat to the Church than racism as do vice-versa.
Critical Race Theory is a once-obscure field of legal academia that sees society as striated into different artificial levels of power, with race being one of — if not the — primary factor in building and maintaining those striations. As a field of scholarship, it’s pretty dense and rigorously debated. However, the term itself has been astroturfed into an absurd cultural bogeyman, sparking moral panics that have resulted in it getting banned in the classroom. So nebulous is the populist definition of “Critical Race Theory” that some states have even removed requirements to teach the writings of Civil Rights figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Susan B. Anthony.
Lifeway’s survey found that many Protestant pastors want change, but that urgency isn’t necessarily reflected in the pulpit. 40 percent of pastors surveyed said they preached against racism “several times a year, while 12 percent said it came up “about once a year.” Another eight percent said they “never” preached on it. 11 percent said they preached on it “once a month,” while eight percent said they brought it up “several times a month.” Black Pastors were the most likely to bring it up several times a month (21 percent) and the most likely to say racial diversity should be a goal of the Church (97 percent). They were also the most likely to highlight racism as a threat to the Church (74 percent) and the least likely to select CRT as a threat (15 percent).
You can read more about the study here.