Guest Post by Jemar Tisby, Founder and President of RAAN (Reformed African-American Network)*
Briarwood Presbyterian Church, a PCA congregation, is located in a “suburb” of Birmingham, Alabama. I say “suburb”, because Vestavia Hills is actually a bastion of what is usually referred to as white racism. The city of Birmingham is 74% black; Vestavia Hills is 4% black. Vestavia Hills was an empty unincorporated area outside Birmingham until the Civil Rights Movement began in the late 1950s. Before then, when “black folks knew their place”, the kind of white people who attended Briarwood were quite content to live in Birmingham. But when Martin Luther King came along, and the blacks of Birmingham started getting uppity and demanding rights, the white people of Birmingham engaged in massive white flight, and the “suburb” of Vestavia Hills was born. And Briarwood Presbyterian Church was the first church built in Vestavia Hills. So, from its very beginning, Briarwood Presbyterian Church was a blatantly racist church.
On top of that, Briarwood Presbyterian is one of the churches most responsible for the founding of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) denomination, which was founded in no small part to fight efforts at racial integration in the PCUSA denomination. The average PCA member may not be aware of this fact, but the racist roots of the PCA are well-documented. If any new readers doubt this, just google “PCA racist roots” and knock yourself out reading about how big a part racism played in the founding of the PCA. Today, nearly all PCA pastors and leaders are well aware of this, and are constantly repenting of and denouncing the racism of its founders. And one of the churches that was foundational to the creation of the PCA, because it was one of the PCUSA churches most opposed to racial integration, is Briarwood Presbyterian Church. Briarwood is still considered one of the “flagship” churches of the PCA.
So Briarwood was founded by white people who fled Birmingham after the Civil Rights Movement took off because they didn’t want to live around blacks on an equal footing. And it led the movement to create the PCA, and did so in large part because of its strong opposition to racial “reconciliation” efforts in the PCUSA. By any definition of racism, churches don’t get much more racist than Briarwood Presbyterian. But all that has changed, right? The PCA, to demonstrate its repentance of its founders’ profound racism, is now embarking on a new era of integration and racial harmony, right?
Well, yes…and no. It’s true that many PCA churches are actively seeking to reach out to the black community. They’re preaching hard against racism, pursuing racial reconciliation, promoting interracial marriage, and are recruiting black members and black leaders.
But how is Briarwood Presbyterian Church reaching out to its black neighbors?
Well, they’ve just requested permission from the State of Alabama to…….create their own police force.
Yes, you read that right.
Stop, in the name of Christ!
A megachurch in Alabama is on the verge of establishing its own police force — made up of gun-toting officers who have the same power as local law enforcement.
Briarwood Presbyterian Church, which is also home to a K-12 school and theological seminary, claims it needs a team of cops to patrol the grounds and protect its 4,100 members and 2,000 students and teachers, according to NBC News.
A bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader J.T. “Jabo” Waggoner — allowing the Birmingham sanctuary to employ its own police squad under Alabama’s nonprofit corporation law — was agreed upon last week by the Senate Judiciary Committee and sent to the full Senate for a final vote.
“The sole purpose of this proposed legislation is to provide a safe environment for the church, its members, students and guests,” church administrator Matt Moore explained in a statement.
“After the shooting at Sandy Hook and in the wake of similar assaults at churches and schools, Briarwood recognized the need to provide qualified first responders to coordinate with local law enforcement,” he said, referencing the 2012 mass murder of 20 first-graders and six teachers at the Connecticut elementary school.
So this is all about preventing another Sandy Hook?
Sure, that’s what the church says. Of course they’d say that.
But we know better. Because for the past half-decade, ever since the death of Trayvon Martin, one Christian leader after another has been prophetically reminding us that cops love nothing better than gunning down innocent, unarmed black men in cold blood.
John Piper, Al Mohler, Russell Moore, and many other pastors and teachers, like Isaiah and Jeremiah of old, have told us again and again that there’s a huge problem with racist cops killing innocent black men, and that black people are deathly afraid of cops for this reason, and rightly so. Black people never know when they encounter a cop if they’re going to live or die, these preachers tell us.
And Briarwood Presbyterian isn’t satisfied with having both a county and municipal force of cops itching to kill black men?
They’re so filled with hatred of black people that they want the church to have its very own armed police department?
And don’t try to say that this isn’t about hate and racism, because it clearly is.
You want proof?
Shelby County, where most of the church members live, voted 74% for Donald Trump.
I’ll repeat that – 74% of Shelby County voters voted for Donald Trump. And I’d bet you a week’s pay that for members of Briarwood Presbyterian, that percentage is probably over 90%.
In fact, the pastor is a big supporter of Donald Trump, and often uses his podcast to praise him.
And, as any racial reconciliation advocate in evangelical and Reformed churches will tell you, Trump’s election was a triumph of hate and racism over the forces of love and inclusion.
Trump’s election was so hateful and racist, in fact, that on the Sunday after the election, I myself said it wasn’t safe for a black person to attend a predominantly white church:
This is probably going to surprise a lot of white people and maybe even sound offensive to them. But here it is, just the raw honest truth. I really, this Sunday, don’t feel safe worshiping with white people.
Jemar Tisby isn’t some no-name crank with a Tumblr. And I’m no bozo – I’m founder and head of the Reformed African American Network, and the right-hand man to J. Ligon Duncan, the head of Reformed Theological Seminary. I speak in churches and colleges and on radio stations all over the country. Plus, I was simply stating what many black evangelical and Reformed Christians were saying on Twitter and Facebook after November 8th.
And when it comes to cops, trust me, I know what time it is. Cops aren’t interested in law enforcement, or maintaining the peace. Cops just want to kill young black men:
Under that weight of fear and unrighteousness, I wrestle to see the police as allies and protectors. Eric Garner, the man who died after police put him in an illegal chokehold, sums it up well. Just before he was physically detained by several officers he says, “Every time you see me you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it!”
When I see Michael Brown or the countless other young black men who get in life-threatening or life-ending altercations with the police I see myself. I see my son. And I know I may not be safe. The multiple graduate degrees I’m pursuing won’t protect me. My Standard English-speaking won’t protect me. Not even, apparently, will the universal sign of surrender, two hands up in the air, protect me.
Nothing will protect a young black man from police officers, because officers hate young black men and want to murder them.
And now this church that was built on white flight, and then helped found the racist PCA, wants to have its own police force?
This is the “new” PCA that has repented of its founders’ racism and seeks racial reconciliation?
By letting its churches near black metropolises have their very own police forces?
As our Orthodox friends might say, “Lord, have mercy.”
*Of course it’s not. This is satirical. But we can easily picture Jemar Tisby writing this.