The Vortex of White Evangelicalism

Esau McCaulley has been caught between multiple identities his whole life. Family legend has it that his grandfather couldn't read, and when it came time to pick a baby name for McCaulley's father, that grandfather opened the Bible and pointed to a word, not realizing it was Esau. It's no accident that there aren't that many baby Esaus crawling around: In the Bible, the "red" and "hairy" Esau is most notable for selling his birthright to his brother for a bowl of lentil stew. The name was passed down from father to son. To balance out this weighty association, McCaulley's mother chose the middle name Daniel, after the biblical hero who escapes from a lion's den. Perhaps this inheritance destined McCaulley for a career as a New Testament scholar, bound from birth to puzzle out biblical mysteries. But his name also fits the larger spiritual path he's traveled: as a son of the Black church ordained in a predominantly white Christian tradition, and as a professor at a mostly white evangelical college who found himself searching for Black theological spaces.

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