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Largely forgotten by black theology and evangelical studies scholars alike, the “radical black evangelical” movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s was organized primarily as an explicit critique of and alternative to a white evangelical culture shot through with racism. This paper argues that a number of these “new black evangelical” thinkers—figures like Tom Skinner, William Bentley, and William Pannell—not only diagnosed the un-interrogated white cultural assumptions of mainstream U.S. American evangelicalism, they also offered trenchant critiques of white evangelicalism’s entanglement with U.S. American civil religion. Such critiques, I will further suggest, presciently prefigured much of the contemporary “identity crisis” in U.S. American evangelicalism by more than four decades.
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