Responding to Anthony Bradley about “Practicing True Diversity” and His Dangerous Insinuations About Racial Motives

Posted: October 5, 2010 by Rick Hogaboam in Christ & Culture, Social Issues, The Mysterious World of American Evangelicalism
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Anthony Bradley, a writer for World magazine, as well as the author of “Liberating Black Theology“, posted an article “Practicing True Diversity“, in which he advocates more cultural diversity within Evangelicalism to reflect the global Christian faith, but insinuates that Voddie Baucham, Tony Evans, and Thabiti Anyabwile are invited to mostly “White” Evangelical conferences as a token effort to show diversity. Here are my issues with Bradley:

  1. While I wholeheartedly agree with his plea for more diversity, and would even amen his observation of the lack of Latinos and Asians in many of the Evangelical conferences across America, I would be bit more tempered, lest we advocate some form of Affirmative Action for every Evangelical conference or gathering in the country. Now I think that we should pay attention to racial diversity; we are not to be color-blind, for God is not color-blind, which means that we should positively affirm the global Church and show appreciation for the diversity that God has given us. This however should not equate to some form of Affirmative Action scale where we make so much of race to call to attention the fact that a certain conference only had one “token” black guy and whites. Bradley should apologize to Evans, Baucham, and Anyabwile.
  2. I hate to state the obvious, but many of these conferences are hosted by churches that are predominantly white. I’m not suggesting that you should only invite your own kind, but is it really reasonable to expect a local church to reflect global diversity when their local demographic is predominantly white? I commend Bethlehem Baptist church and the leadership of John Piper, who dealt with the reality that there was a sizable black demographic in the Twin Cities and therefore wouldn’t be content with an all-white church. They have sought diversity in their pastoral staff and have targeted blacks in the community, targeting African immigrants, which are a growing population in the Twin Cities. I bring up Piper, because he has invited people of various ethnic backgrounds to his conferences throughout the years. Does Bradley have issue with Piper? I certainly hope not, considering his call for global missions and adoption of a black daughter. I’m sure that Bradley would offer more qualifications to sooth some of my angst. I realize that a brief post can’t die the death of a thousand qualifications, but I caution Bradley to be careful with what he says and insinuates. I have read some comments on Voddie Bauchamn’s Facebook wall, that includes a peaved individual who actually invited Voddie to speak at a homeschool conference. I will leave the details of the comment private to Facebook, however this person made it absolutely clear that Voddie was invited because of his passion and convictions relating to the topic of discussion and race played no equation at all. I don’t think Bradley gave enough forethought to how his comments would seem to insinuate that people who have invited black speakers were simply trying to appease their own conscience for diversity sake. Power hungry politicians prostitute racial tensions for the sake of gain in the polls, but I would certainly hope that the Body of Christ would not play the race card in such a fashion. If anything, Bradley should be celebrating the prominence of blacks on the Evangelical consciousness…including his own.    
  3. I still like Anthony Bradley and don’t think he should be crucified for his post. Many followers of the quoted black invitees have show disgust with Bradley and have written World Magazine to complain. I acknowledge the tension of racial relations and am in fact going public with this post, but I still stand by Bradley as a thoughtful Christian who longs for more diversity in American Evangelicalism and has been willing to call out the black church to abandon liberation theology and other harmful theologies. For that, I give him praise. This is not some Blood-Crip thing where blacks are shooting each other in the Evangelical ranks, but I do wish Bradley would have been more careful about the grief he has caused to many by his post. His post has not brought more reconciliation and healing to whatever racial strife exists, but reinforces a stereoptypical bitter prophetic voice that I think no longer applies the way it once did. Bradley presupposes that the motives of the conference was to invite a token black; he even calls into question the competence of his brothers as he suggests that they are mostly invited because of their color and less to do with their competence to address the matters they are called upon to address, and Bradley is perilously close to suggesting that his fellow brothers are accomplices in a purely racially motivated, conscience appeasing effort from the white Evangelicals. This is a lose-lose-lose from Bradley’s end and I wish he would now offer the necessary qualifications to the subscribers and readers of World (I have been a subscriber of World and am not renewing my subscription, but due to other reasons that Bradley’s post). I would hope he would demand the same if I carelessly suggested that he is a “token black” for WORLD Magazine and for his publishers because they are aiming at some minimal level of diversity for conscience sake. I find it ironic that he will offer blanket criticism for the Evangelical conferences that invite certain black speakers, but not criticize Crossway publishers because they happen to publish a disproportiante number of white to black authors, ironically including  both Bradley and Bauchamn. Should we throw Crossway under the bus as well? I hope not. Just to be clear, I am employing “inductio ad absurdum” (arguing against Bradley because of the absurd consistency it would demand).  I speak in love and hope that Bradley will offer us a better vision and more responsible criticism in his future appeals for diversity. I trust he knows better and look forward to what he has to say.
  1. Scott Kistler says:

    Rick, these are good points about words that may have been written in a way that actually distract from the intentions of the post. Criticizing the organizers of the conferences as he did perhaps violates the cultural intelligence that he is hoping for.
    It’s good that these organizers are trying to have some diversity; it would seem that a proper comment to them would be “good start, now further up and further in” (to quote D. Wilson quoting C.S. Lewis).

    Probably one of the ways to do this is within and between congregations. I think that Bradley is right that “When the term “evangelical” is used, it commonly references white suburban contexts.” There seems to be so little sense that the various ethnic divisions of evangelicalism are even really on each other’s radar screens, probably as a result of several factors in which the different divisions share blame.

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