Often times people attempt to discredit Christianity, or at least its more evangelical forms, by pointing out that it’s predominately white, middle-class, and western. Of course, the people generally lambasting Christianity for being white, middle-class, and western are often “New Christians” who are white, middle-class, and western.
Regardless, the claim is the wrong claim to make for two reasons:
1) So what? Even if it were true that Christianity was predominately composed of white, middle-class, western Christians (and when you consider world-wide figures, such a demographic only makes up a minority percent), how does that make it wrong? Do we say that Hinduism is wrong because it’s composed of brown, poor, eastern people? Is Islam wrong because it’s composed of middle-eastern, poor to upper class, mid-Eastern people?
To point out that a group caters to one racial group or tends to be unwelcoming to other racial groups is one thing (which American Christianity is guilty of doing). To bash a group and assume it’s wrong solely because of its perceived racial make up and socio-economic make up is flat our racist and classist. What if we said Jeremiah Wright’s church was wrong because it was full of black people? That would be racist, would it not? So isn’t it equally racist to say, “Well that church is just full of white people, so it can’t be right”?
Regardless of Christianity’s composition, the truth of orthodox Christianity must be evaluated on its own merits and not on the genetic and social make-up of the people who attend the church.
2) It’s false. In our modern age, there are Christians from South America to Africa to Asia. American Christians, who are predominately white (though the percentage is much smaller than one would think) only make up a small portion of Christians worldwide.
But the idea that Christianity has somehow always been a “white-guy’s” religion and that other cultures only believe in Christianity because it was forced upon them is equally false. Christianity did not reach America’s shores until 1492 and even then it was a watered-down Christianity, having been subjected to politics first. True Christianity did not reach America’s shores for almost 150 years after 1492. Regardless, by that time, Christianity had already spread throughout the Old World Continents. Not through wars and conflicts, but through missionary activity. In fact, Christianity had been spread to Asia, Africa, and Europe well before the Crusades or before politics mixed with Christianity. We know that Thomas, the disciple of Christ, was active in India. We know that there were Christian communities in China prior to 1000AD. Even after Constantine officially ending the persecution of Christians in 325AD, Christianity was still a vast minority in the Roman Empire (do not forget that the emperor after Constantine was a pagan and that Christianity was not made a state religion until long after Constantine).
What is more shocking is that if one were to read the early Church fathers, one would find it quite difficult to find a white man among them. Most of them had their heritage in Alexandria, Antioch, Damascus, or some other north African or Middle Eastern background. Even Tertullian, the “father of Latin theology,” was from North Africa. In fact, the first white Church father of significance was Jerome, who came about in the early 5th century.
The point is, Christianity does not have her roots in Europe, but instead in the Middle East and north Africa. We can look to see that Athanasius, who is one of the more important Church fathers, had the nickname “the black dwarf.” With a nickname like that, I’m guessing that he wasn’t some tall, fair-skinned, blond-hair, blue-eyed Viking. Rather, since Athanasius was from Africa, he was most likely black.
As time progressed, Christianity did take on a predominately “white” demographic due to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East by Muslims. The reason Christianity is so white in America is that it was white missionaries and colonists that transported Christianity with them. However, even in the modern day blacks, Hispanics, and whites make up significant portions of Christianity, particularly evangelicalism.
Granted, we have quite a ways to go in Christianity before we truly represent the body of Christ. One of the travesties of the modern age is how segregated we are on Sundays when we are brothers and sisters who do not even disagree on beliefs. I do believe that we will be held accountable for not addressing this issue. At the same time, for all her flaws, Christianity is not a “white, middle-class, western” religion. She was founded by people of black to brown skin, poor, and Middle Eastern. She found growth among the same demographic, moving her way up to olive skinned people. Whites did not become a majority in Christianity until after the Muslim conquests of the Middle East. Even up to 700AD, Arabs and Africans composed the majority of the Christian demographic with much of Europe still adhering to a pagan faith.
This is why it pays to not only study the history of Christianity, but also to simply open one’s eyes and look around at the modern world. We see that Christianity is not limited to one race, but instead is composed of multiple races. From many races we have become one race of holy people. From many nations we have become one holy nation.