The Myth of Colorblind Christians: Evangelicals and Racial Hierarchy in the Civil Rights Era, coming Fall 2021 from New York University Press, uncovers the little-known history of black and white evangelical encounters in the second half of the twentieth century. Amid the upheavals of the civil rights movement, black evangelicals insisted there must be no color line in the body of Christ. In an effort to preserve the credibility of their movement, white evangelicals discarded theologies of white supremacy and embraced a new theology of Christian colorblindness.
But instead of using this colorblind theology for anti-racist purposes, white evangelicals found new ways to invest in whiteness in the name of spreading the gospel. Through their churches, schools, and parachurch ministries, white evangelicals prioritized the interests and identities of the white majority while embracing the rhetoric of Christian unity. When black evangelicals demanded more concrete racial reforms, white evangelicals responded that these race-conscious efforts threatened the unity of the body of Christ. The Myth of Colorblind Christians shows that white evangelicals’ turn to a theology of colorblindness enabled them to create an evangelical brand of whiteness that occupied the center of American evangelicalism and shaped the American racial order from the 1960s to the 1990s. The claims of Christian colorblindness became key drivers of evangelical identity and infused the nation’s colorblind racial order with sacred fervor. At the center of colorblindness’s enduring appeal in American life was the vitality of evangelical religion.