‘THE END OF CHRISTIAN WHITES IN AMERICA’ by Robert T. Jones
When I came across Robert Jones book my first thought was ‘Hey, you talkin’ to me?’ The more I read the more I realized how much denial I lived in during my tenure and into retirement. I guess some of it has a lot to do with how and when one gets immersed in a calling early on. When I came into ministry and attended Methodist conferences the white guys were the dominating leaders. The pastors of large churches, superintendents and bishops were lily white. So, I figured to get ahead pasty preachers must aspire to acquire those lofty positions. I had no idea how white I was until the civil rights demonstrations erupted five years into my ministry. I knew it, but frankly I pursued prominent leadership positions more than I imagined or deserved.
The abrupt wakeup call occurred twenty five years into my ministry when I became a nominee for bishop. Six white males and an African American were on the list. A month earlier I had spoken at an annual conference in Illinois on the subject of Religion and Race. The elective process was a heady event and I felt privileged to be a part of it until the celebrative spirit suddenly imploded. A white clergy friend stepped up to me and whispered “Why don’t you withdraw from the elections, you racist!” I was stunned. Had I been in severe denial up until that moment? Well yeah, evidently it wasn’t over yet because I stayed in the race.
Am I a racist? Did I need to best Blacks in my education and vocation? I recall an encounter I had with an African American while we were in Navy boot camp. I asked him what he planned to do in the future. He quickly replied “I intend to get a master’s degree in engineering.”
I admitted to him that I was struggling to finish community college and I was not all that inspired to pursue schooling beyond that.
I asked “What is it that motivates you to get a graduate degree?”
“This may seem pretty presumptuous but I want to do it for the good of my race.”
He was invigorated and I was bummed. I never forgot that chance meeting and maybe that’s why I chose to get a doctoral degree.
I came across a quote that may speak to my achievements. La Rochefoucauld penned the following in 1665. “We would frequently be ashamed of our good deeds if people saw all of the motives that produced them.”