Religion Faculty Hate Speech against Evangelical Christians

UVa President James Ryan

by James C. Sherlock

Thirty percent of Virginians identify as evangelical Christians. So, one can never say that the University of Virginia, in targeting them with school-sponsored hate speech, doesn’t swing for the fences.

Members of UVa Department of Religious Studies faculty have unloaded on white evangelicals in as wide-ranging and comprehensive an example of collegial vitriol as you will ever watch or read.

The hatred spewed out is visceral and brooks no dissent.

So UVa’s Religion, Race and Democracy Lab invited only a hallelujah chorus (excuse the expression) of people who utterly despise evangelicals to a webinar on the book Informed Perspectives: White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America. Subtle title.

With this exposure of the fiercely anti-evangelical comments by the University-selected participants, including two faculty from the University’s Department of Religious Studies, I expect a major political problem for every Democrat running statewide in the fall elections.

What do they say when their Republican opponents raise this? Do they anger the dominant left of their party or the evangelicals?

UVa is currently an arm of the Democratic party of Virginia. The entire leadership of the University has been appointed by Democrats. The members of the Board of Visitors are each appointees of Democratic governors. President Ryan is a Democratic political star in waiting. UVa’s lawyer is a Democratic Assistant Attorney General appointed by Mark Herring.

The leftists at the University, which include nearly the entire faculty, continually worry both that organized religions will not engage in civic commitment (support Black Lives Matter, for example) and that they will. This webinar had the latter concern.

A few of the comments, and trust me that these are in context or watch it yourselves:

“Evangelicalism is synonymous with whiteness. It is not only a cultural whiteness, but also a political whiteness.”

They are using these moral issues as a shield.

Being white is colorblind racism that I talk about. And that when people say to you, I don’t see color, I see what Jesus sees in you, that really actually means that they just see white and that people who are in evangelicalism like I was in and previously are considered to be white if they behave in certain kinds of ways. And if you don’t behave in those kinds of ways, or if you don’t accede to white evangelical cultural norms, that means that you are not acceptable. And those kind of cultural norms are not just about singing or how you dress or how your deportment is, but it’s also about voting.

I’m teaching a class this semester called The Religion and Politics of Black Lives Matter. It’s jointly taught with the Religion, Race and Democracy Lab. So, it’s between the politics department and the religious studies departments,

The capitalist economy might be the antithesis of God’s economy.

I think that a strong and compelling argument can be made that it’s not just a lost cause, a narrative that still animates white evangelical Christianity wherever it exists, whether it’s on the West Coast, in the south… the Midwest is Confederate. In fact, America is Confederate. So deeply does white evangelicalism WASP religion penetrate the ethos and mythos of the United States, the lost cause is alive and well.

These institutions, American institutions, not just religious ones, have followed this cultural logic of white supremacy rooted in white supremacist white Jesus image, Christianities in the United States, but namely evangelicalism and fundamentalism.

You remind us that evangelicalism is very material and in fact, the ways in which we think about the organization and the operation of capitalist political economy, that the idea of being an entrepreneur really maps on to certain ideals and characteristics of American evangelical culture and its embedded norms, and it’s embedded white supremacist norms.

Much of this professed piety was simply a form of outright hypocrisy.

That’s more than enough. You get the point — the only point — of this “academic” exercise is that White evangelicals are irredeemably (again, excuse the expression) evil.

And this is from the Religious Studies Department.

But I owe you one more quote from that session from Charles Mathewes, Professor of Religious Studies at the University:

There seems to be a real sense of beleaguerment and besiegement — that’s a word — on the right, which is alarming and interesting.

The lack of awareness in that statement is utterly astonishing.

The man had just sat through almost an hour of University-sponsored bitter denunciation of evangelicals and he finds their sense of beleaguerment “alarming and interesting.” At least he didn’t say surprising or unfounded.

From University President James Ryan:

“We should strive not simply to be great, but also to be good, recognizing that in the not-too-distant future, it will likely be impossible for a university to be truly great if it is not also good.”

The University has an Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights (EOCR) which is “dedicated to creating a respectful, inclusive, and welcoming living, learning, and working environment for all faculty, staff, and students.”

Really?  We will find out from each source.

I will file formal hate speech complaints against the Religion, Race and Democracy Lab and the two UVa professors who spoke at this event.  

My charges will be filed with President Ryan, the Board of Visitors, the Provost, the University’s Counsel (Senior Assistant Attorney General Timothy Heaphy) and with the EOCR.

I will demand the disbandment of the Religion, Race and Democracy Lab and the firing of the two professors.

We’ll find out what they think is “respectful, inclusive and welcoming” and, from Ryan, what he means by “good.”

Join the conversation.