Are Black, Hispanic, and other people of color being traumatized in predominantly white, evangelical churches? And if they are, what’s driving it? Racism? Fear? Ignorance? Or, is it something else?
Joining me for this episode of The Roys Report is Kyle Howard, a racial trauma and spiritual trauma counselor. He’s also become somewhat of a lightning rod for calling out what he sees as white supremacy in the church.
Eight years ago, Kyle was a student at The Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and training for the pastorate. He also was a lay leader at a prominent, and largely white, evangelical church.
But that all began to change in 2014 when Kyle started speaking out about racial issues following the officer-involved chokehold death of Eric Garner. Suddenly, Kyle says he got notes from fellow seminarians saying, “I thought you were one of us! Why are you talking about this?”
Kyle says he was also accused of the sin of pride. And the church gave him an ultimatum: stop talking about racial justice and criticizing Donald Trump—or you’ll lose ministry and pastoral opportunities.
The years-long ordeal took a huge emotional toll on Kyle and left him with post-traumatic stress he’s still dealing with. But what’s the solution? And how can the church better love and care for people of all ethnic and racial backgrounds?
Our conversation bravely covers ground that’s often unexplored, with God’s word and His unconditional love as our guide.
KYLE HOWARD, JULIE ROYS
JULIE ROYS 00:04
Are black, Hispanic, and other people of color being traumatized in predominantly white evangelical churches? And if they are what’s driving it? Racism, fear, ignorance, or something else? Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to recording the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And joining me on this episode is Kyle Howard. Today Kyle is a racial trauma and spiritual trauma counselor, and he’s become somewhat of a lightning rod for calling out what he sees as white supremacy in the church. But eight years ago, Kyle was a student at the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and training for the pastorate. He also was a lay leader at a prominent and largely white evangelical church. But that all began to change in 2014 when Kyle started speaking out about racial issues following the shooting death of Eric Garner. Suddenly Kyle says he got notes from fellow seminarians saying, I thought you were one of us. Why are you talking about this? Kyle also says he was accused of the sin of pride, and the church gave him an ultimatum; stop talking about racial justice and criticizing Donald Trump or you’ll lose ministry and pastoral opportunities. The years-long ordeal took a huge emotional toll on Kyle and left him with post-traumatic stress he says he’s still dealing with, but what’s the solution? And how can the church better love and care for people of all ethnic and racial backgrounds? I’ll dive into that with Kyle in just a moment. But first, I’d like to thank the sponsors of this podcast, Judson University, and Marquardt of Barrington. Judson University is a top ranked Christian University providing a caring community and an excellent college experience. Plus, the school offers more than 60 majors, great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Judson University is shaping lives that shape the world. For more information, just go to Judsonu.edu. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity, and transparency. That’s because the owners there, Dan and Kurt Marquardt, are men of character. To check them out, just go to buyacar123.com. Well again, joining me is Kyle James Howard, a racial trauma and spiritual trauma counselor. Kyle also holds three degrees from Southern Baptist Seminary; an Associates in biblical and theological studies, a bachelor’s degree in Christian counseling and a master’s with a concentration in historical theology. In addition, he’s a mere five classes shy of finishing his Master of Divinity. And if you’re wondering why someone might get five classes away from an MDiv and then quit, stay tuned, we’re gonna get into that. But Kyle, thank you so much for joining me and just for your willingness to talk about this really painful time in your life, but also an extremely sensitive subject
KYLE HOWARD 03:00
Oh, thank you so much for having me. It’s my privilege.
JULIE ROYS 03:03
And I just want to say up front, I think I owe you an apology, because you and I were discussing the possibility of you coming to the Restore Conference. And I think about the same time we were in those discussions, some people tweeted about the lack of diversity in the Restore Conference. And when we then started having more discussions about it, you understandably, are like, you know, this kind of seems like an afterthought. And I don’t necessarily want to be added as an afterthought. And, and, and the truth is, prior to the reporting that I did on Bethlehem Baptist Church, and seeing what happened there, which we’ll get into, but prior to that, I honestly didn’t recognize how traumatizing the church can be for people of color, especially, I think, predominantly white evangelical churches. And I do think this is a topic that we need to discuss more and that if we’re talking about reporting the truth and restoring the church, this has to be part of our discussion. So, I just want to say sorry to you for not making that a bigger priority, and just want to say a commitment to talking about this more and helping us understand it. So, my apologies to you, my brother, and I pray that you’ll forgive me for that.
KYLE HOWARD 04:20
Absolutely, and absolutely forgiven. And if I questioned your sincerity, I wouldn’t be on this show with you. But it’s because I do genuinely believe that you are sincere that I’m willing to have these conversations and hopes that we are able to build bridges, learn, and move forward in a way that honors Christ and brings healing across the spectrum of God’s people across the multicultural trans cultural spectrum of God’s people. So, yeah, all’s forgiving and thank you for being willing to address that.
JULIE ROYS 04:51
I appreciate that and I appreciate you saying that. And that’s returned. I mean, I believe you’re sincere and I know you are somewhat of a lightning rod when you talk about some of these things, and I know there’s going to be a certain amount of people that are going to be like, Oh, Kyle, you know, I’ve heard it already, you know? because you talk about things, and you use terms like white supremacy, it does trigger people. But I think we need to have these conversations, have them graciously, admit when we’re wrong, because we’re going to be wrong, sometimes we can be sincerely wrong. And so again, just appreciate your heart and your spirit in this whole thing. Let me just begin with your story. I alluded to it in the introduction. But in 2014, you were at the Southern Baptist seminary, you were a lay leader in a church, and you were ostensibly thriving, and everything went really well. Can you describe your experience up until that time?
KYLE HOWARD 05:53
And so long story short, 2012, I moved to Louisville, Kentucky with my wife and two small children. And I began my studies there. But even before I began my studies, I knew that this was going to be an experience. In the vast majority of my classes, I was the only black student. And I can only think of a few courses in the counseling program, where there was one other black person who was a black woman. But apart from that, I was, again, almost always the only minority. And so, because of that, I’d be in class, and I would hear, you know, various racial statements made about the black church. Statements made about issues related to the black experience. And they would be had as if I didn’t exist, as if I wasn’t in the room. To give you one example, I remember a preaching course, where the pastor, excuse me, the professor, he went, who was also a pastor at a local church, but the assignment was he wanted us to write a paper about a dead theologian, that theologian who had passed. And he for about 15 minutes, he went on his defense for why he would choose George Whitfield, who of course, was not only a slave owner, but was instrumental in bringing slavery to the Georgia colonies. And so, after this, a young, a young white, I want to say one young white kid, because I feel old now. But he was about 20 years old, 18-20 years old. He raised his hand, and he asked, he’s like, hey, this is great. But I would really like to write about a black pastor. Can you recommend a black pastor who’s passed away? And I was in the corner of the room, and I was like, oh, okay, this is interesting. And then the professor responded by saying, well, I can’t really think of any off the top of my head, but you need to understand that Black Theology is going to be inferior to ours, and any black preacher or theologian that you encounter is going to have an inferior theology than us. And so, I would encourage you towards not going that route. But if you want to go that route, I’m sorry, I don’t I don’t know of any, any preachers to recommend.
JULIE ROYS 07:53
KYLE HOWARD 07:54
And so that was the kind of experiences I would have. And, and this there was a profound awkwardness just in that because this actually happened later on, when I was already dealing with a lot of racial trauma and everything else. But when you’re in a room, and you’re the only black person, and the room has 30 future pastors, because everyone there is training to become a pastor. And you hear that kind of racialized ideology about the black church and black Christians and Black theologians, and you have to ask the question, do I remain silent and allow these sturdy white pastors to go into ministry with this idea of the black church? or do I say something and become that guy?
JULIE ROYS 08:29
So, what’d you do? Did you say something?
KYLE HOWARD 08:31
I did. In that situation I actually I did raise my hand. And I and respectfully, and I was like, with respect to the professor, I don’t think that that’s accurate. The black church and black theologians have historically had a very high view of God. They have had to have a high view of God because of slavery. And because of the way in which the white church sought to rob them of their imago dei and, and so to persevere through slavery. Even if you listen to the hymns, there’s a very high view of God’s sovereignty, of God’s omniscience and the God’s omnipresence. And so, I would argue that he that there are black preachers that a higher view of God of God than George Whitfield, who had a view of God that included not seeing black people as being made fully in His image and being worthy of dignity. And so, I did say it respectfully, he kind of you know, backtracked a little bit says, oh, yeah, yeah, you know, that’s right and this any other but then you then I have to deal with for the rest of that class. All the eyes on me of again, being that guy and it is not in my head. The eyes were definitely on me, the eye rolls, and the noises as I began talking of exasperation, all of that was very, very much present. And so, my experience at Southern the major turning point did come in 2014. And so, when Trayvon Martin was killed in 2012, I didn’t publicly say anything. Not because I didn’t think it was an injustice. And I didn’t think that it was wrong, but I understood the legalities surrounding that case and the Stand Your Ground law. So, to me, I thought that there would be a common understanding or common footing that Trayvon Martin was made in the image of God. And as a young, young man, a young teenage, I believe it was a teenager who was killed in this kind of way, who was murdered in this kind of way that all Christians would share mourning and lament that reality, based upon theological and Christian conviction, and I was radically wrong in that assessment. I didn’t speak out until Eric Garner being choked out, and video crying out, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe. to me, that was a that was the first time knowing that knowing the law and knowing all these things, I was like this is this is clearly a situation where these officers have violated the law and should be held accountable for that violation. And so that was the first time I publicly spoke. And that was when I was met with having several former friends of seminary peers, respond to me. And it was all separate. It wasn’t in a group text. So, I don’t know if they talked and then all, but it was, they all sent me the same message, which was weird, but it was, hey, I thought you were one of the US. Why are you talking about this?
JULIE ROYS 11:12
What does that mean when they say I thought you were one of us? Because you blogged about this, and I’m thinking, one of us, how? Like one of us Christians? Republicans? Is that what we’re talking about? What do they mean by that?
KYLE HOWARD 11:24
So that was the question that was on my mind. Yeah. What do you mean by this? but as someone who has, has lived the black experience, and has navigated these spaces for 37 years of my life, and also through fleshing out these conversations, it became abundantly clear that what the expectation was, this is in the seminary life in the church life and everything else. There was an assumption that I was an assimilated minority. And by assimilated, I mean that I was one who had forsaken my blackness and had forsaken my black heritage and culture, in exchange for being adopted into white proximity, white culture as expressed by the white Evangelical Church. And so me putting my arms and reaching back into the black experience and pulling it close and speaking Christ to it, that was a violation of what they expected of me, which was that I no longer cared about black bodies, I no longer cared about black people, I only cared about issues that white Christians cared about, such as abortion, such as Republicanism and the various things that that includes, etc, etc, etc.
JULIE ROYS 12:35
When you say I thought you were one of us, just so you know. I mean, with Trump, I got those same things. Again, I think when you speak out, when you say what is going on? and I got that from my conservative friends who are like, I thought you were one of us. And I’m like, I thought I was one of you too. But I guess we’re not on the same page, because I thought the statements that he made, that became very, you know, clear that he thought it was fine to grab women, you know, and to do the things he did and that he had abused. I just thought you’re okay with this. We overlook this. So I mean, I’m not to the extent that you have, and I’m not trying to pretend that I have, but there is, I think there have been some assumptions within the conservative tribe, whatever you want to call it, where I think, you know, for a lot of us, these past few years have been very disillusioning, where we thought, This is what we stood for as Christians, you know. As I read the New Testament, we’re to stand for the disenfranchised, for the vulnerable for the abused and I, I’ve been shocked. So, I mean, probably a very small slice of what you’ve been through, but I can understand a little bit. And that’s where I think this has been so enlightening for me, because the same sort of things that I’m hearing from brothers and sisters like yourself are, are things that I’m experiencing, you know, as you begin speaking out about abuse and about abuse in the community, some very similar dynamics and gaslighting and DARVO, and we, you know, we can talk about some of those. But let’s talk about your church, which was Immanuel Baptist Church. I have reached out to them to ask if they want to give their side of the story if they want. I haven’t heard back. I don’t know, by the time we publish this, whether they will, I’ll include that if they do. But so far, I haven’t heard back from them. So, we’ll see. But you were a lay leader, you begin speaking out in my understanding is that they said they kind of gave you an ultimatum, is that right?
KYLE HOWARD 14:35
In 2012, we came to Louisville. Finding a church was very hard for us. This is a whole nother layer. But so, my wife is Vietnamese. And I’m black and I’m black and multiethnic. We’re literally a trans cultural family. And so, when we came to Louisville, it was we were already knowing that it was going to be really hard to find a church and the main thing on our minds was we wanted to find a church that understood trans culturalism and embraced it. And so, you know, we jumped in and within a year’s time I was a lay leader of a community group. In 2014, what ended up happening was, there had been these murmurings about me, that was kind of weird. And what it was some of the elders said that they had some concerns that I gave off a vibe of being prideful. I asked them, can you give me some examples? Because if that’s in my life, I don’t want it in my life, I’m more than willing to repent of it, can I have something? No, it’s really just a vibe, like, there’s not really any examples, just the vibe that you give off. And so, then when it came to social media, I had conversations where they’re saying that, hey, we think that you share, you post too much. You need to post less things. And then the other thing was, when I started my blog, I started writing articles, I had a sit down with the leaders, the eldership. And this was a major turning point. So, this is like an, I want to say, 2015, I have a sit down with the leadership. This is a three-year assessment where they basically take all the men who are aspiring for pastoral ministry. I was looking at church planning, and they sit you down, say, okay, after the three years, this is our assessment of you. And so, so I was going into this meeting already knowing because of what the elders have told me that I was serving in a pastoral capacity. And the work was just getting more, it wasn’t getting less. And so, I was going in there like, okay, this is going to be a meeting of affirmation of confirmation, and those kinds of things. And in that meeting, because they did affirm my character, they confirmed that I’m serving in a, in a pastoral capacity, my ministry is flourishing, people are thriving, all of those things, but then they come back and say, well, we have these concerns. One, you’re posting things about race and these other things, and you’re posting your articles. And we believe that that is showing that’s demonstrating your pride because of your impulse for self-promotion. And so, because I would share a blog, or because I would post something about justice, and because my follow account was beginning to rise, I was in the sin of self-promotion. And it was weird because the pastors, they if they had an article they posted if they would share articles posted by some of the other church members, they were white, or if they were even a minority who was just pushing their narrative, they would get shared, but for me, it was self-promotion. This is a three-page letter that I wrote to our senior pastor and I’m just gonna read the first paragraph because I think that it really gets to the heart of behind where I was at this point. Dear Ryan, beloved pastor, Vi and I have devoted over five years of our lives to Immanuel and have joyfully submitted to the leadership there as well. We have never once sought to bring attention to ourselves or asked for any form of recognition. We have labored and served the body of Immanuel simply because we love God and His Church. I have endured years of concerns, accusations, and misrepresentations from various pastors of Immanuel, and yet I have received them without once losing my temper, being aggressively defensive or disrespectful to the men God has placed over me. In humility, I expressed a willingness to step down from the leadership as a means of taking on a humble posture before God and men. I have come to the to the pastors with the request that they would clearly express their concern, grounded in Scripture, so that I could consider them and seek repentance if necessary. A month went by with complete silence despite being promised that there would be intentionality in considering the things as well as presenting a basic biblical definition of pride. A month went by with no follow up, and when no follow up came still no biblical definition or categories regarding the concern. I respectfully asked follow-up questions after receiving an email in which I was misquoted and misrepresented. And again, over a month went by without any feedback to those questions. So again, three months now, complete silence. I never got a response or even an acknowledgement to the questions I was asked. Four pastors were tagged in that email, and yet still, I was met with extended silence. Prior to all this, you met with Vi and I, and we sought to pour our hearts out to you. It was clear throughout that meeting, that you had already formed an opinion of me that was indeed negative, based upon what you have heard from others. Some of the information you provided was clear misrepresentation and mis quotes that were attributed to me that were made by other pastors. So, I go on for three pages, just laying out everything. And then I conclude by saying, essentially, what have we done? If whatever we’ve done if there’s any way we can fix it, if there’s any way that we can make this right, if I’m unapproachable, because I will go on my knees, and I will beg them for forgiveness. I mean, I just laid everything out and just asked pastor, what have we done to deserve this treatment? And it was never engaged meaningfully that letter that we that we wrote. So, when we left the church, give you a little bit of context. I had gained about 60 pounds of trauma weight, my facial hair I stopped being able to grow my facial hair, my facial hair because of the stress, my entire beard basically stopped growing. I didn’t get into the specifics because I know how these kinds of things can be weaponized, but I don’t mind sharing it. I was diagnosed at 18 with bipolar, which was one of the results with why I struggled with suicidal ideations. And the pastors knew about my struggles with clinical depression. The suicidal ideations had been dormant for years. And now it was like daily me holding on to life by a thread. I wanted to end my life almost every day of the week for over a year. And if it wasn’t for my wife, I would have. And so, all of that was happening to the point where VI was like, Kyle, when I say it’s killing you, I literally mean it was killing us. And I wrote an article I shared all these things a couple years ago, and I wrote a follow up because the leadership there began accusing me of self-promotion, again, Kyle’s is trying to self-promote himself. And I wrote a second follow up article that said, keeping a secret almost killed me. And what I say in that article was yo keeping the secret of what my pastors did to me as someone who struggled with suicidal ideations, it was literally going to kill me. I had to speak, which is why I’m even speaking now. It has more to do with that than anything else. So, when I left, and I’ll never forget when I stepped down, it was one of the most depressing again, I was absolutely suicidal, I was in my study crying, just bawling like a baby. And sorry I’m getting a little emotional here. It’s okay. But as I was crying, my wife comes up to me and puts a hand on my shoulder, and she says, I’ve never been more proud of you in my life. And that was a saving grace to me, because at that point, and you need to understand this, that when I stepped down from that church, and then in my ministry, I wasn’t leaving Immanuel. I was leaving ministry, because I had already heard of what Immanuel had done to others who had left in regard to miss representations of character and everything else. When I made that decision, it wasn’t just simply I’m leaving a church, I recognize that if I leave, then the potential for this church to fabricate reasons, all of this stuff, I’m done with ministry. And so, it was a profound, going from one day, looking to plant at church to another day of like, if I’m leaving, I’m leaving all of ministry behind. And so that was my mindset. When I left it was, I’m done with ministry, but I’d rather leave ministry, than ministry kill me. And so, we left.
JULIE ROYS 22:24
And you left Southern, the Southern Baptist Seminary at the same time?
KYLE HOWARD 22:28
So, from 2015, to about 2017, I was still enrolled at Southern. I lived across the street from Southern so literally, it would take me five minutes to walk from my house to the Southern campus. I didn’t go on campus for about a year and a half. I took online classes, even though I lived across the street, because the hostility and animosity towards me at that campus was so strong.
JULIE ROYS 22:52
Well, and so let’s talk about that. And about the larger issue because you have your particular context where you and Vi experienced so much racial trauma, and also spiritual abuse, because I mean, that was what you’re describing sounds like that kind of spiritually abusive system. But I alluded to this earlier, I didn’t realize the degree to which this was such a rampant problem in the church until I began reporting on Bethlehem Baptist Church. And that’s really where we had had some conversations, I think earlier. But this was when we had some real substantive conversations about what had happened, because at Bethlehem Baptist, you had been part of the story. You had been brought in, I believe this was back in what 2019, and to do some intensive like a one-day intensive right of racial trauma with the staff there. And then you also had a dinner where anyone who was a person of color was invited to this dinner at Bethlehem. And sounds like what you discovered there, but I let you speak to it , was that there were a lot of people of color who were struggling or wrestling with how they were being treated in a predominantly white church as a person of color. So, could you speak to that?
KYLE HOWARD 24:12
Yeah. So, I was invited by pastors who are no longer there.
JULIE ROYS 24:17
Jason Meyer right. Brian Pickering Ming Jinn Tang?
KYLE HOWARD 24:21
Yeah. Ming Jin and
JULIE ROYS 24:23
KYLE HOWARD 24:23
Yeah, Richard Starks. I came up there months before I actually did this intensive just to meet them hang out and I actually stayed with a faculty member Jonathon Bowers and his wife. They had me stay I stayed in their home. Um, amazing couple who also ended up leaving for these reasons. I stayed with them, and I got to know them and then they after getting to know me, you know, kind of filling me out then I was invited back again, to actually do this intensive and then as you said that dinner as well. The intensive, I believe, was a Saturday. It was an all-day thing. I think I talked for like eight hours straight. And so, it was like, even through lunch, it was an all-day intensive, where I laid out the realities of spiritual abuse, but largely emphasized the racial trauma component of spiritual trauma, more or less. And so, I laid out what is trauma? What is racial trauma? How is racial trauma perpetuated within white evangelical spaces? How can we stop perpetuating racial trauma within these spaces? you know, all those kinds of things. And present, Jason Meyer was there, his wife was there, the pastors who invited me were there, various staff from the Bethlehem College and Seminary were there. Now, at this time, I did not know this until later, that not everyone was in agreement with it. There was a reason why I only met four of the pastors, they got like 20, but I only met four. At the time, I thought the whole church was on board. And so, I do have some qualms with not being given the whole picture there. I’m thinking that I came there to speak to the church, rather than just to be some select elders, because that ended up pointing back on me. Well, one day, it’s like, yeah, we’re thankful for Kyle. The next day, I’m being disinvited from a panel discussion that I was basically the keynote of as a start off by some other elders, other than the ones. So, this, there was a lot of drama that happened there. But I came, I spoke. After that I did, I did a lot of counseling. I had a dinner where I was hearing the various issues and challenges. And I shared with, with Jason specifically, and with the elders, where I thought the health was of the Church, which is something that I do. I do consultation work, where I come, I talk to the church, I talk to members, and I’ll tell the church, hey, these are the areas where I think that you’re failing, these are things that you can do to become to be better. And so, I did that with them. And that largely focused on the wasting. I did talk about other issues related to gender as well. But I largely focused on the racial dynamics of things there. And I was I will say that I was received very, very well. I was received so well that again, these elders were talking to me about asking me about the potentiality of me moving to Minneapolis and being on staff of Bethlehem because they need someone. Right? So those are the kinds of conversations that I was having at that time.
JULIE ROYS 27:04
What were people saying? What kind of feedback did you get back from members of Bethlehem?
KYLE HOWARD 27:11
Oh, 1,000% positive from black and white.
JULIE ROYS 27:15
Were they saying some things as being a person of color at Bethlehem that you’re like, oh, this is Deja vu all over again? I mean, did you hear similar dynamics?
KYLE HOWARD 27:26
I would say that everything that I heard was relatively textbook. Now when I say when irelatively textbook, I understand that there’s two layers to them. One of those things is one of those layers is like, people will think textbook could be people using the N word or being like something like that. Where when I’m talking about textbook, I’m talking about things that most people especially white Christians didn’t even catch on to. They wouldn’t even have categories to understand those things, and how offensive they are, how it perpetuates white supremacy in the church, while minorities do. So those things are textbook. A prime example of that is that article that I sent you on when the church colonizes femininity where I talk about the way in which white women, a specific kind of white women, mind you, not all white women, but a specific kind of white women is elevated as being the paradigm of godliness. And all the men, including ethnic minority men, are encouraged to look to that paradigm of what it is that makes a godly wife. And what ends up happening is that ethnic minority women who have their own cultural dynamics and expressions, they’re looked at being as being unrighteous and ungodly, and so you have ethnic minority men who marry white women. I’m the product of interracial marriage. This isn’t an anti-interracial marriage statement. I think that it’s wicked when we weaponize something that is beautiful. I think interracial marriage is a demonstration of the kingdom of God. It’s glorious, and can be beautiful, which makes it all the more insidious when it’s weaponized against people. So just want to make that clear. But what ends up happening is that ethnic minority women, especially black women, are looked at as being, their femininity is looked at as being inferior. It’s looked at as being deviant in some form. And so, you have ethnic minorities that will, that’s an expression of white supremacy, of making white women supreme, and the supreme paradigm of godliness within a space, and then enforcing on everyone else, an ideology that says you need to look at this. And you need to see this as being superior.
JULIE ROYS 29:27
And when you say that, when you write about that, you talk about the white woman as very meek and mild, and not outspoken, softer spoken. I mean, I’m reading that and I’m like, I’ve never fit that paradigm very well either, although I know that paradigm.
KYLE HOWARD 29:44
So, to be clear, there are women who are naturally like that, that’s totally fine. What I’m talking about is when you take a personality type, and you baptize it as being the paradigm of femininity, and then you tell everybody that they need to measure up to that, including other white women. And so yeah, so white women who are boisterous independent thinking, who you know, all those different kinds of characteristics, they are looked at as being ungodly, rather than just having a different personality type. And so, they’re so single white women are being ostracized in the church. So that that’s where the, that’s where you get the intersection between the gender and the race dynamic. And so, it mostly affects ethnic minority women. But it absolutely affects white women. And it affects all sisters. And it also affects brothers, because what ends up happening there is that it’s not love that is leading to these marriages. But it’s a desire to fit in, a desire to be safe and accepted. And so, I am the guy who’s doing the trauma counseling when I get an interracial couple, like, what do we what do we do now that we realized that the reasons that we got married, were not because of love, but it was because of faith based pressures? And so social pressures within the church? How do we reconcile this marriage? I got to deal with those kinds of counseling things. I’ rather on the front end by like, Yo, this is not the reason why you should be getting married. You should be getting married because you love someone, not because you as a black man, are going to be deemed safe if you have a white wife. Which is how it’s used; how interracial marriage is weaponized in the church.
JULIE ROYS 31:20
And I know that as a result of your meeting, they formed an ethnic harmony Task Force to begin addressing some of the things like why is it that they, the elder board at Bethlehem, doesn’t have more people of color on it, and began digging into this and they did it with supposedly ostensibly the elders blessing. But then, after months and months of working together on this, I spoke with Janice Perez Evans, who headed up that entire effort and she said it was beautiful, like they had some of the best conversations, those who worked on this taskforce, yet she began hearing. And again, this when they presented their report, basically, nothing was done with it. It just like they never did it like that the church never really acted on any of the recommendations of this taskforce. But beyond that, is that they began hearing and this is where I said, oh, this sounds familiar, when I’m reading what happened to you. They began hearing rumblings and this was confirmed, I spoke to Brian Pickering about this, who was one of the pastors there. But they began hearing that there was speaking about them, even among elders and leaders of the church, but other members, that they were pro critical race theory, they were woke, whatever that means. They were Marxist. I mean, when I talked to Janice, she was so shocked, because she was like, this had nothing to do with any of that. This was simply trying to work together as you know, people of color and the church and understand how it is that maybe we overlook people of color. I mean, she’s like, I was a product of this church, I was brought up under John Piper’s teaching. Why would they say these things about me? I mean, I’ve been called these things. And I’m like, which is funny, because I’m very conservative in my political ideology. I’m very not Marxist, anti-Marxist. But these labels that that begin getting applied to people, I mean, what do you think is driving this labeling of persons of color when they speak this sort of othering? And, you know, when you get that label, then people are afraid because I mean, I’m reading books that say this is going to destroy the entire church. Critical race theory is like the number one heresy that’s going to destroy the church and now you’re one of them. I mean, I think it’s been mis applied. I think it’s, it’s, it’s, you know, kind of this politics of panic, everybody’s in a panic and you know, if we can use this against somebody. But, you know, when you look at Bethlehem and what happened, it does seem like this played into it. And I do think people were unfairly labeled. So why, why does that happen? And is that racism? Is that blindness? Is that fear? Is it all of the above? I mean, what is it that drives that kind of behavior?
KYLE HOWARD 34:17
Yeah, that’s an excellent question. And Janice as a friend of mine, faithful sister the idea that she’s anything other than faithful and theologically orthodox is just utterly humorous to me. And also, like that she would be anything other than kind like yeah, so that’s, it’s just it’s just very it’s one of those things you have to laugh not to cry. And not to show but I had the privilege of meeting and spending time with all of the minorities and Bethlehem and so and then to then hear how they were treated after I left. It was like did y’all not hear a word of what I said? I literally spent eight hours telling you the devastation of racially traumatizing the people in your care. And then as soon as I leave you like nuke all the minorities in your kill, when they tried when they went above and beyond to try to help you be better. And so that’s just it’s you had a laugh not to cry. Now with that being said, what I would say is, and I think this is what I think this is, this actually speaks to even the broader issue of when we talk about spiritual abuse and why I do believe that ethnic minority voices should be centralized in those conversations, even though they’re often neglected. Because white Christianity, and when I’ve used say, white, I’m using a social construct, I’m not talking about race by biology, I’m not talking about an ethnicity, I’m talking about the social construct of whiteness that fuels specific theological expressions in the West. White Christianity has always been a force of spiritual abuse against ethnic minorities. The conception of white theology in white Christianity meets with spiritual abuse. What do I mean by that? Well, even if you look at something like Manifest Destiny, the concept that God has ordained the Europeans to spread across the land, and essentially conquer and spread, and that whole theological concept of divine providence being exercised through white domination. That is a theological ideology, which led to the genocide of Native American groups, that led to the torturing and rape and killing and slaughtering of a multitude of First Nation peoples. And so even before you get to the slave trade, you talk about what happened to the Native Americans. One of the things I’ve always said is that white supremacy is a theological enterprise. It’s not something that is like a sociological construct that the church adopted. It is a theological enterprise that society adopted. The church served as the chaplain of white supremacy to society. It administered its ethic, or morality to society. And so when we think about the slaughtering of First Nations people, and as an exercise in spiritual abuse, what happened to Native Americans, the entire chattel slave trade was fueled as a spiritually abusive enterprise, whether we’re talking about the way that scripture was weaponized to enslave the way that scripture was perverted to maintain slavery, the way that black Christians that the Bible is that they were given with sections ripped out and missing. I mean, the entire enterprise was fueled by spiritual abuse. When it comes to Jim Crow and the various theological ideologies that served in mentioning that served in creating the sundown states which served in creating this whole separate but equal dynamic, was all fueled by the church by Christians on Sunday.
JULIE ROYS 37:45
Let me stop you though because I know what the pushback is going to be. And the truth is, if you cut out from about, you know, the 1500s, through the 1800s, the church has generally been against slavery, you know, and there’s even some accounts of monks who in Europe would take all of their money and buy slaves to free them. And you know, even in New Testament, I mean, it’s very clear that Paul didn’t like slavery, even though he didn’t try to upend it. He also was like to Philemon, hey, you need to take your brother and treat this man who was a slave as a brother, right? I mean, so there’s this, this ethic throughout Christianity, which is anti-oppression, anti-slavery, and then they’ll say, well, I mean, there’s also the entire abolition movement, which was very strong among evangelicals. So, and when we look at John Piper’s church, I mean, John Piper was one of now I think you’ll have some pushback on this. But I’m going to say it because this is going to be the pushback, is going to be John Piper himself, wrote an entire book, right? about his own repenting of the racism that he had had and how we need to change as a church. And Bethlehem was thought of in a lot of evangelicalism as sort of leading the way on the church doing better. So, in the circles that I was brought up in, if it was perpetuating racism, I wasn’t aware of it. But I will say, in the past five to 10 years, I’ve become much more aware of some things in larger evangelicalism. But I mean, there’s another side.
KYLE HOWARD 39:30
Yeah, I think all of that has great pushback, which in that I think that that that’s pushback that motivates nuance, which is as a theologian, I love nuance. That’s one of the reasons why it’s important to understand terms. I gave that extra prerequisite saying when I say white theology, or white Christianity, I’m not talking about ethnic peoples. I’m talking about a social construct, rooted in power within a racial caste that elevates the power of people who are from an ethnic group, but who essentially exchange that ethnic heritage for a sociological construct that grants them power that we call whiteness. And so, there’s absolutely been what Christians, who would be perceived and identified as white, who have been a part of the global Christian movement. And so, when I think about Charles Spurgeon’s refusal to even have communion with slaveholders, Charles Spurgeon was a European Christian. He was a white Christian, but he wasn’t part of white Christianity, he repudiated white Christianity to great consequence. And he chose to side with the historic faith of Christ. There were abolitionists who were willing to stand against the onslaught of white Christianity, the heresy of white Christianity. And would say, no, we will not look at black people as being less than human and not deserving of dignity and honor and freedom and those kinds of things. So, regarding that I would say is, that’s why it’s important to understand the difference between Christians and Christian traditions that don’t find their identity and are not rooted in whiteness, but rather are rooted in the historic faith of Christ, the Creed’s, etc, etc, etc, and who are pursuing faithfulness from theological traditions that are fueled by pursuits of power. So theological traditions that are more married to politics than they are to the kingdom of God. And so, they’re more identified by their Republicanism than they all by the kingdom ethics, for example. You know, and so that that would be the distinction that I’m making. And what I would want to make abundantly clear is that when I say white Christians, I’m not talking about Christians who would be perceived and identified as white. I’m talking about Christians who embrace the power structure, the social construct of whiteness, and they move accordingly in regard to how they use faith. So again, faith is weaponized, faith is used to oppress, faith is used for self-glory and self-advancement. Faith is used to silence and marginalize other people, you know. So rather than the way that the faith has historically been used, as you mentioned, who whether it be the Methodists, whether it be, you know, other white, you know, Baptists, northern Baptists who split form white supremacist Baptist? Yeah. So, I think that it’s important to make that distinction of what is being said versus what’s not being said. And then when it comes to something like, go ahead.
JULIE ROYS 42:38
Well, and wouldn’t you say, and I don’t know, maybe you wouldn’t say, but it’s been my understanding that evangelicalism has been a reform movement within Christianity. And historically, when it comes to this issue, you know, we look to the William Wilberforce and what started in Europe, and then came to the United States, I would say, not necessarily in the south in the Southern Baptist Convention. Nobody’s going to argue whether that was racist and used against, you know, African Americans. But as a movement, evangelicalism historically, and I think this is what’s been hard for people like me that grew up evangelical. And to me, evangelical was about reform. It was about abolition. At Wheaton College, that’s where I graduated from, our founder was Jonathan Blanchard, who was an abolitionist. And so, when as evangelicals, what I think of, historically have thought of, was that we were reformers within a system that had become very corrupt. And that’s what I think is so hard right now, is looking at how we have become very, I would say, corrupted by the culture around us, by the power dynamics by this evangelical industrial complex that we’ve just gotten wrapped up in it. And it impacts, even how we’re treating now, people of color, and maybe I’m wrong, and I’m looking with rose colored glasses at the history of evangelicalism. Maybe there’s a lot of worse things there. But, you know, I grew up in the north, I grew up in, in again, a very separatist kind of movement. And so, this is shocking to me. I’ll just say it – it’s shocking to me.
KYLE HOWARD 44:22
On the grand scale of things, speaking from a historical perspective, I think one of the things that white people often overlook. So, when we think about something like racism, we typically and there’s a reason for this why society has chosen to classify racism in this way. But when we think about racism, we think about white hoods, the N word lynching. We’re thinking about all the most wicked and most devastating expressions of racism. But instead of looking at that as being the most terrible expressions, we encapsulate all of racism and put it into that thing. So, racism is not racism unless it’s one of these things. And so, there is no room for nuance, or subtlety. It’s either you’re either all in or you’re not. Your either nonracist, or you’re 100% both feet in racist with a white mask.
JULIE ROYS 45:14
And the subtle stuff is really toxic.
KYLE HOWARD 45:17
Yeah. So, what I would say is, I think it’s important to understand that even when it comes to white abolitionism, that there is a difference between, there were white abolitionist. Many, if not most, who believed that blacks were human and deserve to be free, but they were actually still racist, or still white supremacist. So, whether that looked like, hey, you can be free, we don’t think that you should be slaves. But you also shouldn’t be marrying our women. We think you should be free, but we also don’t think that you have the mental capacity to actually learn to read or actually own your own businesses. It was just simply the abolitionist ideology was that that no one should be enslaved. That did not automatically equal equality, which is why we ended up with Jim Crow is because even with the liberation of black bodies from bondage, there was still an ongoing idea that black people were inferior to white people. For this conversation, let’s just say racism is the posture of ethnic superiority against another. One of the things that I would ask, that I think is very important for many white Christians to understand, is that there is an expression of active racism, and an expression of passive racism. And what I mean by that is, well, it can be summed up in the story of the Good Samaritan, right? Who was considered loving, who honored the imago dei in the wounded in the afflicted and who did not? It wasn’t just the people that beat him. It was the people who didn’t esteem the dignity in the person on the ground who has been beaten enough to stop. And so, there’s an act of racism, an antagonistic kind of racism that looks like, I am going to actively seek to destroy this image bearer. But there’s the other kind of racism that doesn’t consider the dignity and worth of another to the extent that they are worth their time, energy, and advocacy. And that’s where we get into the dynamics of enabling, even when we think about abuse. There are those who are like abusers, and there are those who don’t value the survivors enough to actually stand and advocate. And I know you would agree with me when we both would say that no love for survivors looks like not an indifference, it looks like an active advocacy. And so, what I would say when it comes to the white evangelical posture towards black people, towards black survivors of trauma of racial trauma, of spiritual abuse, and all these other things, the dynamic of alienation, or the erasure of their experience and lived realities, speaks to the value and dignity that they are ascribed, when in regard to their crying out. So, when black people are crying , black lives matter. It matters how you hear that. Is that a statement? Black lives matter? Is it a question? Black lives matter? Or is it a cry? Black lives matter! It matters how that’s understood. And what’s happened largely by the white Evangelical church is that they’ve listened to that statement from a passive and different posture, where they’ll just hearing it as if not as a cry, not even as a question of, do you think that black lives matter? but they’re just hearing it as a declaration to which they respond, no blue lives matter, or no, all lives matter. Completely ignoring the fact that if there was a genuine belief that black people are equal in worth, value and dignity to white people, my belief would be that white people would then care about their lived experience as much as they care about other white people’s, especially their family, for talking about the church. And what my experience has been and what many other ethnic minorities experience has been, you say you love us, and you say we’re family, but you would treat a white stranger or care more about the plights of a white stranger than you do me, who actually shares the blood of Christ with you. With you, I’m talking in the general sense not you specifically, of course. And so again, thinking about John Piper for a quick second. That one stings a little bit because Piper was super influential in my life. And when my wife left Catholicism and became a Protestant and all that she had to suffer in that process, he was hugely influential with helping her obtain a grand vision of who God is. And so there will always be a thankfulness for what we’ve learned from him. But at the same time, yes, he wrote the book Bloodlines. But he is still friends, and he’s still platforms and enables a pro Confederate, white supremacist who believes that slavery was not a big deal. Even more than that, believes that slaves love their masters as paternal figures.
JULIE ROYS 50:23
KYLE HOWARD 50:24
Yeah. So, what I would say with Piper is that you demonstrated that you are aware that there’s a problem in your book Bloodlines. You’ve even demonstrated that God cares about the problem, in your preaching and your theology of a big God with Kingdom ethics. But in the way in which in your relationships, and in your ministry, based on all that we know about what’s happened at BBC. And I know more than most because I know conversations that are behind the scenes that have been happening in various situations related to these things. You have demonstrated just, oh, I know I’m going to get pushed back on this. But you have demonstrated yourself to be passively racist. Your indifference to Douglas Wilson and his rhetoric, your refusal to listen to faculty who have taught at your seminary who are crying out saying that there is racism happening here. There’s racial marginalization that’s happening here, there’s racial ideology. White supremacist ideology is permeating here. Based upon that, your infatuation with the white supremacist who owned slaves. Jonathan Edwards. Yeah. So, he owned/trafficked girls, who were slaves who served his wife, Sarah Edwards. And so, your infatuation with him to the point where you see him as being the paradigm for godliness, to the point where you overlook that reality, your relationship with Douglas Wilson, despite the fact that he’s a self avowed pro confederate. And, and based upon his book, I’m having the mind back on the name of it, but.
JULIE ROYS 51:32
Wait. Who you’re talking about right here? I know the one you’re talking about, but when he talks about how great it was to be a slave.
KYLE HOWARD 52:05
Yeah, based upon that, what happened with Jonathon Bowers and how he sought to speak about this, and the letter that Piper sent to the faculty dismissing Jonathon Bowers and claiming, look at all I built, look at all these things. Who you gonna believe? Him on me? All of those things to me speak to the fact that, though Piper may see the problem, though we may have a theology of God that has God in a posture that would care about the problem. In the actual working out of his public life, there has not been a demonstration that’s consistent in regard to these things.
JULIE ROYS 52:41
I think it is not surprising that the same church that would treat people of color the way that they have, and embrace Doug Wilson, then also tells you that empathy is a sin. And that is such a perversion. If, if right now if there’s one thing that I would say we need, and again, I’m no authority on this, you’re the authority on this, you’ve lived it out. But I feel like, if there’s one thing, I would say to the church right now that we need is empathy when someone says something different from you, when a person of color expresses something like let Black Lives Matter instead of jumping on them, because you’ve associated Black Lives Matter with riots or an ideology or whatever, why don’t you listen to them? And when it comes to trauma, why don’t you try to hear the trauma that’s behind that? You know, that’s what I don’t understand is in the church, why we’re not acting like Christians. And Christians, we lead with love. We lead with empathy. We lead with, you know, being able, it doesn’t mean that we embrace everything that somebody embraces. You might have said something today, I can hear it right now, some discernment blogger is going to jump all over it right now and say, Julie Roys, is, you know, she’s a Marxist. And she’s woke and all this because you express something on this podcast, and I didn’t like push back on it. Right? Yeah. And it’s amazing how we’re filling in the blanks for other people, instead of just listening and putting down our weapons for once. And, and that’s what I would love to see in the church. That’s one thing I appreciate about you, Kyle, like, I feel, you know, a certain amount of safety to be able to engage in these conversations. I don’t feel like you’re like trying to gotcha me on something. I feel like we can have an honest discussion, and there’s some love and some, some understanding. So, you know, I appreciate you, brother. We could talk for a really, really long time on this. And we should, but this is a great first discussion. I really appreciate you. I appreciate the fact that you’re speaking prophetically, but I also sense you’re speaking in love. I mean, you could have shaked the dust off your feet, and then like I’m done with all of you. And instead, you’re willing to engage, and I appreciate that. And I see that as an act of love. And so, we’re going to have to wrap this just because we’re getting so long. But, you know, I want to give you that opportunity to say anything that you haven’t said that you really feel needs to be before we end this.
KYLE HOWARD 55:08
Yeah, absolutely. So, there’s two things that I’d like to just want to just really quickly touch on. And then kind of a closing thought. I have spoken a lot about my experience at Immanuel Baptist Church. And my experience, I think, was horrific, as I explained it, but I want to give space and I need to honor the single sisters who have been at Immanuel Baptist Church and have experienced trauma and abuse there. Most of the people that I’ve cared for have for, that have come out of that church, have been single women. That church has found single women to be easy prey, because they don’t have people, like men in their lives or husband or someone to come alongside. And so, in my opinion, there has been a targeting of single women in that space. And so, if you’re a single woman, and you have been a member there or somewhere else and feel a unique sense of what I’m describing here, I want you to just know that I see you, I hear you, I am sorry for what you’ve gone through and what your experience was. It so deeply matters. And it matters to me. Then, as a final thought, what I would say is that all of these things, I know for a lot of your listeners, this may be the first time that they’re hearing things related to racial issues. And I know, there’s a couple points where I’ve kind of dived in deep, without a lot of like prep of building up to and so I just want to say that this is the beginning of that journey. My encouragement to you would just be to continue. I promise you; I don’t bite. I know other minorities don’t bite. I ain’t gonna lie, we got some trauma. I got some trust issues, you know, but I love you. I am going to always assume sincerity and try to relate to people as if they’re being genuine and seeking to be sincere. And so, if you’re listening to this, if you have any questions, if you want to engage, you want to dialogue with me, you can hit me up on Twitter. I have no problem, you know, having conversations. I just hope that this, as you said, would be the beginning of conversations leading to further deeper conversations and relationships that can lead and cultivate empathy, rather than this being the beginning and the end with like, okay, you know, we talked about that, and then just a complete moving on, as if the conversation never happened.
JULIE ROYS 57:15
Well, again, Kyle, thank you so much. Blessings to you, brother. And I pray that, that there will be continued healing in your own life. And I pray that your platform as well and in ability to speak into spaces, those of us who really need to hear it, that God will give you a favor in that. So, thank you so much.
KYLE HOWARD 57:35
Thank you so much for having me, Julie. I really appreciate it.
JULIE ROYS 57:38
And thanks so much for listening to The Roys report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. If you’d like to connect with me online, just go to JulieRoys.com. Also, just a quick reminder to subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcast, Google podcast, Spotify, or YouTube. That way, you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, we’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thank you so much for joining me today. Hope you have a great day and God bless.