Articles by Otis W. Pickett

Race and the American Church 6: Lynching, Violence & White Supremacy

Article by   August 2015
Americans also supported a physical degradation of African Americans largely through the practice of illegal lynching, which was a heinous and unspeakably violent activity that also violated the rights to due process, guaranteed under the constitution, of African American citizens. Historian Ed Blum has written recently about the degradation of African American bodies over time in U.S. history over at the Journal of Southern Religion, where he reflected on Don Mathews' piece on southern religion and the spectacle of lynching. Dr. Don Mathews is one of the finest historians of southern religion in America and his Religion in the Old South is required reading for anyone in the field. Fifteen years ago, he wrote a piece called "The Southern Rite of Human Sacrifice", which was both brilliant and brave. It connected the religion of the South (Christianity), something meant to be transcendent, with something incredibly violent: human sacrifice through lynching. According to Mathews, not only were Christians in the South complicit in this practice, but the way they practiced their religion (in segregation and proclaiming that "whiteness" was good and Godly while "blackness" was evil) might have sparked and even buttressed the practice of lynching in the South continue

Race and the American Church-Part VI-Sin, Slavery, Silence and 'Separate but Equal'

Article by   August 2015
Before reading this article, please consider reading through the first five pieces as this article is best understood in the context of the others and reading the first five articles will enhance your reading of this one as each article builds on the previous one. Article five focused on the institution of slavery and how race as a social construct affected American Christians from 1620-1860 as they justified the institution of slavery and the mistreatment of African people whom they viewed largely as a sub-human species. My friend and colleague Dr. Miles Smith has expounded on this idea in the minds of antebellum southern Christians through a recent post here. continue

Race and the American Church - Part V

Article by   July 2015
One way to think about race as a social construct is how the Belgian government socially constructed race in Rwanda during European colonialism in the early nineteenth century. The Belgian's believed that taller, lighter skinned Rwandans (called Tutsis) with more European features, occupied a privileged position under Belgian Colonialism. Therefore, colonial power brokers made racial distinctions between Tutsis and Hutus a cultural and economic reality. The Hutus tended to be shorter than Tutsis and had darker skin. Thus the Belgian government created a social construct along racial lines that fomented racial division, hatred and eventually genocide among the people of Rwanda. Hutus and Tutsis were given identification cards and Tutsis in Rwanda enjoyed the best positions in society and the best jobs as a more privileged minority. continue

Race and the American Church - Part IV

Article by   June 2015
I began graduate study in history in the summer of 2006. I was ecstatic to be home and I was also excited because I obtained a graduate assistantship working at the Avery Center for African American History and Culture. Not only would I learn more about my own research, but I would learn, or re-learn, the history of Charleston, SC through the lens of the African American experience. As part of my assistantship I helped process archival collections and I gave tours to visitors who came to Charleston from all across the United States. You must understand, many of these groups were reunion groups, church tours and families (most of whom were African American). The director of the center placed me at the front desk so the first thing these folks saw when they walked in "THE" Center for African American History and Culture in Charleston was a bow-tie clad white man named Otis. It usually took people the better part of an hour to process this. continue

A Lament for Charleston

Article by   June 2015
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Please know that as I write this it is with an incredibly heavy heart and a heart still deep in mourning. Yesterday I spent the entire day in lament, with my brothers and sisters in Christ in prayer at a historic African American congregation in Jackson, MS (Mt. Helm Baptist Church) and then had a healing time processing these events with my brothers Carl Ellis, Mike Higgins and Jemar Tisby on the Reformed African American Network's podcast called Pass the Mic. You can check that out here. continue

Race and the American Church - Part III

Article by   June 2015
In the Fall of 2003, I enrolled at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. At the time, I was thinking seriously about pastoral ministry, but would learn that God had other plans. I had traveled outside of South Carolina to Europe several times and around the U.S.A. to pretty much every major city and section of the country. However, I had never lived permanently anywhere outside of South Carolina and had always lived in majority-white, middle class suburbs. Covenant Seminary saw fit to place us in a seminary-owned apartment in a working class African American neighborhood just six miles south of Ferguson, MO. Someone much smarter than me (perhaps my friend Bobby Griffith) needs to write a history or sociological study of those seminary-owned apartments, the impact of the students in that community over time and the impact of that community and the wonderful people who live there on the lives of Covenant students over time. continue

Race and the American Church - Part II

Article by   June 2015
I thought it might help the reader to know that God has been pulling me into places of racial interaction ever since I was young. As a southern white male, I believe God has gifted me with an ability to speak into the southern white Christian experience about race. I write this piece to display that this is all a work of His doing and not of my own. All I did was stumble along and make mistakes. I hope that gives you some comfort. We just have to be willing to stumble along, learn, grow and listen. It is only because God has lifted a few of the scales from my eyes that I am beginning to see. It's not because I am good or that I have understanding or insight. I was blind and now I see somewhat dimly. I ask the Lord and my African American brothers and sisters to continue to help me to see and to keep me from stumbling so much. continue

Race and the American Church

Article by   May 2015
I decided to start by telling you my story, which will be the second part of the series. It is a unique story. It has a lot to do with my name, my experiences, the work of Christ and what God is accomplishing in me. I want to share that with others. My hope is that white Christians will be able to read this perspective from another white Christian and thus attempt to listen to and understand their African American brothers and sisters, their experiences and their frustrations with a bit more grace and love. My hope is similar for my African American brothers and sisters although I know that many of them, having been raised in a society where they are the minority, grow up forced to think about whites. Indeed, to engage in and maneuver American society requires the minority to know, learn and understand those in a majority position continue
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