Although there are exceptions, fundamentalist churches areÂ predominantlyÂ full of (and I’m generalizing here) middle aged white people who like to watch reruns of the Lawrence Welk show. This lack of diversity comes as no surprise given the uneasy history of fundies with race relations. If you managed to get all the way through Christian high school and Bible college without having ever been taught why Martin Luther King Jr. was important in American history, you might have been a fundamentalist. After all, nothing bad ever happened in America prior to 1963, so whatever he did couldn’t have been that necessary.
Although it is less frequent nowadays, there are still some fundamentalist institutions that are overtly racist in their practices. For example, Maranatha Baptist Mission still carries in its Purposes, Precepts, Policies, and Practices booklet a prohibition both against interracial marriage and interracial adoption. There’s a sick irony in sending out international missionaries to bring the peoples of the world into the family of God while forbidding them to bring any into their own family that aren’t the right skin color. (Pardon me while I beat this drum again, but Pensacola Christian College has supported missionaries from MBM and had its President to speak in their services while this policy was in place. Mainstream? Hardly.)
More popular in the last decade, however, is a subtler more insidious ethnocentric approach to bigotry. It shows up in things like blaming Africa for the ‘demonic’ forces of rock music and condemning ethnic styles of dress. Although much of the racism has been forced underground by the winds of change and political expediency, the roots are often still there. Bob Jones University may now not officially prohibit interracial dating but it’s still a hotly debated topic among parts of the student body.
It stands to reason that a group of people who assign moral values to cultural norms would have issues with those who are different from themselves. Fundamentalists evidently espouse the theory that the more like Jesus a person becomes the more they will dress and act like a middle class white suburbanite. By this shall all men know that we are His disciples.