What Ahmaud Arbery’s Death Recalls About Lynching and Church HistoryHistorians in the News
tags: racism, Christianity, lynching, podcast
Last week, a video was leaked of a white man shooting and killing Georgia jogger Ahmaud Arbery in his neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia. While Arbery’s death occurred in February, the alleged shooter and his father were only arrested last week following a massive public uproar following the release of the tape.
Many Christians, of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, have condemned the Arbery’s killing. But widespread condemnation from the church for these types of killings was not always the case.
For years, for white Christians, “the critique of lynching rarely moved beyond ‘Lynching is anarchy, and we need to kind of reinforce the rule of law,’” said Malcolm Foley, a PhD candidate in Baylor University’s Department of Religion, whose dissertation examines African-American Christian responses to lynching from the late 19th century to the early 20th century,
Not surprisingly, the black church took a much more forceful response to these atrocities.
“Many black pastors were commenting on this and saying, ‘If you can either stand in a mob of thousands of people and watch a black man be set on fire alive, or if you are one of the people holding the rifles that riddled this body with bullets, you're most likely not a Christian,’” said Foley, who is also the director of discipleship at Mosaic Waco.
Foley joined digital media producer Morgan Lee and editorial director Ted Olsen to discuss the colonial history of lynching, how beliefs about white women provided justification for this violence, and how lynchings changed the theology of the black and white church.
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