Race-less Gospel

A race-less life is a Christ- filled life.


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Resurrecting Race

Who told you that you were socially colored black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige?  Sure, you looked in the mirror and saw that the pigment of your skin had a ‘color.’  But, who told you that it was this color or that?  Who gave you its meaning?  Who told you that it was better or worse or meant that you would be richer or poorer?  Who told you that you were different because of it?  And why?

What is the meaning of race and why do we continue to bring it up in our discussions concerning human identity?  Why do we continue to spread this message?  Disproven biologically and unsupported biblically, why do we continue to talk about ourselves, to reduce our meaning, to allow our purpose to be determined by  the social coloring of skin?

The truth that race is a social construct and societal contract has long been proclaimed.  This good news has been around for a long time but we continue to repeat the lie: I am black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige.  But, if we are made in the image of God who does not define Himself by a social color, then who are we re-creating ourselves to be?

Unlike Jesus the Christ, race is dead and it has no resurrection power; still, we continue to prop it up, to lift it up as the standard for our lives and the lives of those to come.

Race has no power save what we give it.  We must stop talking about race as if it is real and present with us.  Race died a long time ago.  It only lives in our minds and memories.  We are resurrecting race.


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Anyone can be a racist

Racism has been defined by this simple equation: racial prejudice plus systemic institutional power.

Along with this equation goes the argument, “people of color can’t be racist because they don’t have the power to oppress.”   That is, in order to be a racist, you must be able to oppress persons socially?   So, if you are a socially colored black person who abuses a socially colored white person because of their ‘race’, you are not a racist because you are not oppressing them?  Well, what are you doing and why is it somehow not as bad as oppression?

It seems that there is a hierarchy of offenses when it comes to race and abuse is acceptable depending upon who is the recipient.  Such an argument suggests that while the action is inappropriate, it is understandable.  It is not as bad because it didn’t happen to the whole group.

But, I disagree with the definition cited above.  While racism is systemic, it begins with us as a system is built one person at a time.  To suggest that because it is widespread and affects millions of this cultural group but not millions of another– because of race– is prejudice.  Racism is a personal sin that is practiced communally.  Racism is individual acts of unkindness, hatred, violence and familial, educational, ecclesial, economic and political isolation.  Consequently, anyone can be a racist.

So, what qualifies a person to be a racist?

1.  If you believe that you know a person and their societal worth based on the social coloring of skin, then you are a racist.

2.  If you believe that one’s inferiority and supremacy is determined by the social coloring of skin, then you’re a racist.

3.  If you believe that without race, human beings can know nothing of themselves or others, then you are a racist.

A racist is one who believes in the supremacy of race above all other truths– social or otherwise.  She and he use their personal power to create a world wherein they can only see persons as oppressed and oppressor.  And if they do not have the systemic power to oppress, then they utilize their personal power for the purpose of micro-oppression (Roger E. Olson writes about it in A Few Words About Oppression.  These micro- oppressions are small in scale but impactful nonetheless: silence, distance, separation, hate, jealousy and the like.

It is not just in the obvious transgressions of history or that of present hate crimes.  It is in the little things that we say about “those people.”  Those are hate crimes too.

It is a painful truth but an obvious reality in our world that the sin of racism has infected us all, that there is a little bit of racist in each of us.  God, deliver us from race.  Amen.


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Blinded by Race

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

~ Luke 4.18-19, NRSV

This scripture from Luke, an echo of the prophet Isaiah (61.1-2), has been referred to as the mission statement of Jesus the Christ.  I like it for many reasons but primarily because of the qualifications for which Christ is enabled to serve us: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me … because he has anointed me … He has sent me.  There are no “I” statements.

There is no mention of his external appearance, familial pedigree or educational background.  He doesn’t say, “Because I am the Son of God.”  He did not get this position because of Who he knows or where he comes from.

No, Jesus is able because of God and God alone.  The Spirit is from God.  The anointing is from God.  His directive is from God.  Even his proclamation does not belong to him; it is “the Lord’s favor.”

But, these truths are not the point of my writing today.  What strikes me is the fact that he came to restore sight to the blind and it is my belief that race makes us lose sight of what is true, what is real and what is valuable.

In America, everything is a matter of race.  Not only does “cash rule everything around us” as we are a capitalistic system, a money- making machine; but race rules everyone around us.  It is our wisdom and understanding; nothing seems to make sense apart from it.  We believe that no matter what happened or didn’t happen, race has something to do with it.

We believe in race so much that we have a race card.  We can play it and it can change a perspective and challenge an outcome.  Race provides us with a kind of vision that distorts our various realities and in turn, divides us.

Primarily, race changes the way that we see ourselves.  As Christians, we are new creatures in Christ but our racial identity is not left behind.  It is incorporated into our beliefs, doctrines and practice of faith.  We change the Scriptures to support it and to justify our racism, prejudice and segregationist practices.  We become socially colored Christians who have socially colored churches where we worship a socially colored god and messiah.  Despite the nature of our relationship with God, that is spiritual, race has to have something to do with it though it is physical and external.

But, Paul said to the people of Galatia, “Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed.  Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith.  But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.  As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (3.23-28, emphasis added).

He thought it important enough to repeat it to the saints at Colossae: “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.  In that renewal, there is no longer Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian and free; but Christ is all and in all! (3.9-11, emphasis added).

Who creates the new self?  Race.  Of course not, we did not confess Jesus the Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives in order that we might be in relationship with race but with God.  So, how is a racial identity then a part of our new identity in Christ Jesus?

Race is a ploy of the enemy in that it fights against unity with ourselves, our God, our neighbor and the stranger.  Paul, when speaking to the Galatians, tells them (and us) “all of you are one in Christ.”  All.  Everybody.  Everyone has been clothed with Christ and therefore, there is no longer Jew or Greek, there  is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female.

Clothed with Christ and all of these external designations are removed.  So, who are you wearing?  And if with Christ, these external designations don’t matter then, why are we spending our lives trying to make Jesus fit into these categories?

Secondly, race changes the way that we see our Creator.  If we cannot give up race then we must give up the true and living God.  A racialized god or a god who incorporates race into the salvific plan is not the God of our Christian faith but an American god of a racial faith.  The race god is temporal and our God is eternal.  The race god hates some human beings but our God loves all that He has created.  The race god says that some will have dominion over the earth and this includes other human beings but the God of the Christian faith says that we are all joint- heirs with Christ (Romans 8.17).

God has no faith in race and race has nothing to do with the work of Christ in us and for us.  Race does not inform God’s view or treatment of us.  Race is not a counselor to God or a friend of the Trinity.  Race is with us not with God.

If we see God as socially colored black/white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige, then we have made a god in our image and likeness.  This is another god.  If we cannot worship God unless this god “look like us,” then we again have created an idol.  We cannot control the image of God.

Finally, race changes the way we see life and all of creation.  We cannot see past race or beyond it.  It is the plank in our eyes that must be removed (Matthew 7.3).  We cannot read the Holy Scriptures and accept its revelation because of it.  Race says that anything that does not support it is an enemy and a liar.  But, let God be true and race a liar (Romans 3.4).

Race has blinded us to the truth of our new being in Christ Jesus.  As believers, we are new so we don’t have to take on the old stereotypes of American slavery, Jim Crow segregation or today’s hand me down identities, patched together with pain, bitterness, unforgiveness and shame.

No, God says, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43.19).  Or, has race blinded you?

 

 


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God’s people

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all of the people’s on earth to be his people, his treasured possession.”

~ Deuteronomy 7.6, NRSV

The scriptures that accompany this verse have been used for all of the wrong reasons: American slavery, Jim Crow segregation, rules against “interracial” marriage also known as miscegenation or exogamy.  Persons have used it to justify their belief in human superiority and inferiority, separating persons according to the social coloring of skin.  According to race, persons are chosen according to physical characteristics– by other human beings.  Who are we to judge?  We don’t even like everything about ourselves.  How can we possibly talk of perfection as it relates to entire cultural group?  This ridiculous reduction does not begin to compare to what it means to be chosen by God, which is what the passage speaks to.

The nations that the Lord removes so that the children of Israel can occupy the land are described as stronger and more numerous (Deuteronomy 7.1).  They defeat them not because they have a larger army or better equipped soldiers.  They win because the Lord is on their side.  Persons don’t like to talk much about the God of the Old Testament but He is the same God in the New Testament.

Jesus, much like the children of Israel, was chosen to be the Messiah not based on looks or social pedigree.  In fact, he was not the king that the Jews were expecting.  He did not meet their “messianic expectations” so to speak.  But, this did not matter.  God was with him and because of him, God is with us.

Why God chooses us has nothing to do with how we look.  We are made in His image so if this were the standard, then doesn’t that suggest that God would choose everyone?  It does unless you believe in socially colored gods, that there is a god made in our image.  But, there is no god of socially colored white people and god of socially colored black people and god of socially colored red people and god of socially colored yellow people and god of socially colored beige people.  To be such is to live in a racialized reality, to live in the world that race has created.

We are chosen not based upon the fluctuating feelings, doubts and opinions of others.  We are not socially colored black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige people.  We are not race men and women as we can not be children of race and of God.  We cannot be chosen by race and  by God.  We are either a racial nation or a holy nation.  The two are not synonymous.

As Christians, we are God’s people, holy, a treasured possession, race-less.


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It’s Not My Armor

32David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” 34But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, 35I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. 36Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!” 38Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. 39David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them.

40Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the water, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.

First Samuel 17.32-40, NRSV

The story of David and Goliath is a familiar one.  There are many popular sermons and songs that sing of the faith and courage of David.  We love to celebrate his victory over Goliath, proving that “the bigger they are, the harder they fall.”

But, David’s story also makes an important point about the way we fight historical enemies that seem to be larger than life, whose stories are greater than reality.  I love that David defeated Goliath but I am more impressed with the way that Goliath was defeated.  David does not elevate his enemy but places Goliath on the same plane as the lions and bears that he has killed.  Goliath will die just as they have not because he is David but due to the faithfulness of his God.

David does not focus on the size of Goliath but on his past success.  David’s confidence is not based on who his enemy is but he relies solely on the track record of God who has delivered him again and again.  “He has done it before and He will do it again.”  Lions. Bears. Goliath.  The Lord saved me from the lions and bears; Goliath does not have a chance.  He will meet the same fate.

But, there is a problem.  Saul has placed his armor on David.  It is representative of Saul’s way of fighting and the weight of it renders David immobile.  Sure, it is armor; he’s protected but he can’t go anywhere.  He has the king’s sword, expertly tested and made of the finest materials.  But, it is of no use to him if it prevents him from fighting.  It doesn’t matter how many Saul killed if David can’t pick it up.

David has to use what he is most comfortable and familiar with.  He will fight Goliath without the armor of Saul, picks up five stones and walks toward Goliath.  He’s picking the fight today!

The armor of Saul is much like that of race.  Persons accepted it in the past and were comfortable fighting with it despite its weight.  They accepted the racial identities of white/ black/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige and gave no thought to other alternatives.  But, when it was passed down to me, it just didn’t fit.  I couldn’t fight race with their armor, with the name Black/ black, Negro/negro.  I had to use what I was most comfortable with so I put down race and picked up race-lessness.

Ironically, our racial identity makes us defensive and at the same time, defenseless.  We are always on guard and standing guard because “they are out to get us.”  Within the racialized reality, everyone is a suspect so we must be vigilant, expecting to be hurt or injured by every encounter.  But, this mindset breeds distrust and anxiety.  It is a painful way to live.

Race says life is a struggle or a battle and that we are not equipped to win.  There is no protection and no direction from race while it continually feeds us the images of war and we are a part of them.  Not only are “they” our enemy but we are too.  Consequently, we are fighting outwardly and inwardly.  We look in the mirror and want to fight.  We look at our neighbor and want to fight.  We look at the stranger and want to fight.

The racialized life says that our socially colored skin is both our personal power and a public weakness.  It is our skin and its social coloring that is the problem and no matter what we do to it, it is never strong enough.  It is our armor and the soft spot of our identity.

Race is the armor of generations past.  But, I cannot fight the giants of life in the armor of race: that is, with hatred, bitterness, anger, unforgiveness, prejudice, stereotypes and segregationist habits.  It doesn’t fit me; it’s not what I’m used to.  It’s too big and bulky.  It’s heavy and slows me down.

I know that I am young but I am not inexperienced when it comes to fighting.  Just because I don’t have the experiences of generations past, just because my battles are not as great, my resume not as lengthy and my victories don’t make front page news does not mean that I cannot kill Goliath.  I’ve got five smooth stones and I’m not backing down.  “Here, I come Goliath!”

 


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Race is a ‘different gospel’

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel– not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaim to you, let that one be accursed!  As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!”

~ Galatians 1.6-9, NRSV

Paul writes to the churches of Galatia and to us to remind us of the freedom that we have in Jesus the Christ.  The churches in Galatia had been converted to this new faith and were walking in its liberating life and love.  Paul had removed the shackles of regulations only to return and find them restored.  And it happened rather quickly!

Why?  Because it was familiar and it was what they knew.  They knew the law but were not yet familiar with God’s grace, that is God’s unmerited favor not based on works or in our case, the social coloring of skin.

This response is similar to that of today’s Christians.  We have experienced an emancipatory conversion through our relationship with Jesus and now live in the Spirit, liberated from the laws of the flesh.  But, it does not take long before we, too, turn our ears to those familiar voices and experiences.  Afraid of the newness of life that Christ provided, we will arrest ourselves and detain ourselves.  We will sentence ourselves and walk back into the cages of the socially constructed identities of race and the legality of the social coloring of skin.  This is not the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is a different gospel.

What is the gospel, the good new of Jesus the Christ for the 21st century?  It the same message that was given in the first century: “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (First Timothy 1.15).  Those are the only persons that he came for and it is the only category that all of humanity fits into.  We post- modern Christians want to do as Christians have before us.  We want to make the gospel new and even popular.  Well, referring to humanity as sinners is not new and it certainly isn’t popular.

What do race and sin have to do with each other?  What sin does the belief in race produce?  Race is pride in appearance, the external salvation of the self and the belief in the supremacy of humanity– even above God.  Race says that our salvation is found in the social coloring of skin not the salvific work of Christ on the cross.

It is an old sin draped in new words.  But, the worst of its kind, the creature attempting to be like the Creator in ability and knowledge.  Race offers the same deal that the serpent in the Genesis narrative offered to Eve (Genesis 3.1-7).  And the Church’s response imitates that of Adam: silent acceptance and subordination to race.

Frankly, the American Church is but a tool, a part of the machinery of capitalism as it was for slavery and Naziism.  Today, the Church is commercialized, a brand that wants to sell a new product.  We want to have the “latest and the greatest,” the shiny new toy.  But, the message of Jesus Christ is more than two thousand years old and it has not changed.  We have changed but Jesus has not.  He is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13.8).

We have allowed race to translate the gospel instead of the gospel translating race to us.  Race tells us who Jesus is and not vice versa.  Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon write in Resident Aliens, “By the very act of our modern theological attempts at translation, we have unconsciously distorted the gospel and transformed it into something it never claimed to be… (We have) transformed the gospel rather than ourselves” (22-23).

We can change the methodology but what it means to be Christian today is the same as it was when Jesus walked the earth: “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16.24).  The cost of discipleship remains unchanged: follow Jesus, deny yourself and die.

Race is a perversion of the gospel.  It says, “Follow socially colored white people.  Deny yourself in order to become like them (i.e. “act white”) and die to the true, authentic and new self that God has called and created you to be.  It is the good news of the flesh, the celebration of the social coloring of skin and that skin is ‘white’ (but not really).  This is not the gospel of Jesus Christ but different gospel and I join in Paul’s repetition, “As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!”  Race is another gospel.


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A Race-less Reading List

In order to live race-less life, you have to invest in resources that support this new way of thinking and being in the world.  It is not enough to say that you are race-less, but you must seek out the words and truths that support and affirm this declaration every day.  This truth is not on billboards.  The race-less gospel does not have its own television commercials or shows.  It’s not discussed on major networks or displayed on magazine covers.

It’s not popular or trendy or fashionable to deny what seemingly everyone so easily accepts.  This race-less life is not easy because there is no celebrity behind it.  It does not come with a product offer.  I’m sorry but I don’t have a t- shirt or a mug to send you.

The race-less life is not celebrated or highly sought after and perhaps, that is it’s biggest attraction.  It is but a part of the new identity and abundant life that Jesus offers and promises to give us (John 10.10).  He’s not always popular but he is always our model and we do have his word: “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ” (Galatians 3.28; cf. Colossians 3.11).

If you do not want to know what race really is, then you really do not want to know who you truly are.  If you do not care that race is a lie, then you have no interest in seeing your true self.  It is not enough to say that race is a social construct, if you have created a mental house for it to live in.  Make no place for race and no excuses for its life with you.

Reading about race and its progeny reorient, reposition and remind us of the place and limited power of race in the life of the Christian believer.  Primarily, it is important to turn our minds away from race because it is a thought that seeks to exalt itself against the knowledge of God” (Second Corinthians 10.3-6).  Race is a social doctrine; it does not support but seeks to undermine the authority of the believer and supplant the rule of God.

Secondly, we must turn our minds away from race because our thoughts should not be subjected to its social truths but God’s truth.  Let God be true and race a liar.  We must choose whom our minds will serve and which will lead us.  As believers, we do not belong to race but are now members of Christ’s body: “If you are confident that you belong to Christ, remind yourself of this” (Second Corinthians 10.7).

Finally, we must turn our minds away from race because the war in our minds is not physical but spiritual as are our weapons (Second Corinthians 10.4).  Race switches our opponent and makes people not Satan our enemy.  Race places us on the wrong side of the battlefield as we begin to attack ourselves, our God and our neighbor.  We become the accuser of the brethren and believe that all those who don’t “look like us” have come to steal, kill and destroy (The Revelation 12.10; John 10.10).  Race is the enemy not fellow believers (or unbelievers for that matter) and certainly not God.

But, if we don’t change our minds about race, we will never change our perspective on life and our living it with Christ.  We have been ensnared by race for hundreds of years now.  We know that it’s trap and yet, have made it our abode.  I am simply offering an opportunity to not just change the furniture or to clean up a bit but to leave race altogether.  And that begins in your mind.  So, read this and this and this!

Begin to read the Holy Bible without the lens of race and the goal of proving them wrong/ you right, them weak/ you powerful, them rejected/ you chosen.  Read the Bible for the strengthening of your personal relationship with God not for the approval of your racialized motivations and aspirations.

Jacques Barzun’s Race: A Study in Superstition is just that.  Race is stripped of its magical powers and god-like status with each chapter.  Bibbity- boppity- gone!

“As long as people permit themselves to think of human groups without the vivid sense that groups consist  of individuals and that individuals display the full range of human differences, the tendency which twenty- eight years ago I named ‘race thinking’ will persist” (ix).

Thomas Gossett’s Race: The History of an Idea is more than four hundred pages in length but it is well- worth your time as Gossett examines early race theories, scientific racism, literature and the like, tracing the roots of race right back to us.

“Before the eighteenth century, physical differences among peoples were so rarely referred to as a matter of great importance that something of a case can be made for the proposition that race consciousness is largely a modern phenomenon” (Chapter 1: “Early Race Theories,” 3).

Winthrop Jordan’s The White Man’s Burden: Historical Origins of Racism in the United States is a jewel in my library.  It’s loaded with truths that undermine the lie of race.  One of my favorites is this:

“The terms Indian and Negro were both borrowed from the Hispanic languages, the one originally deriving from (mistaken) geographical locality and the other from human complexion. … After about 1680, taking the colonies as a whole, a new term of self- identification appeared– white” (52).

Charles Mills’ The Racial Contract was inspired by Carole Pateman’s Sexual Contract and  argues that ‘the racial contract’ is a social (i.e. the people’s contract).  I don’t think that this can be repeated enough.  We agreed to race.

“The general purpose of the Contract is always the differential privileging of the whites as a group with respect to the nonwhites as a group, he exploitation of their bodies, land, resources and the denial of equal socioeconomic opportunities to them.  All whites are beneficiaries of the Contract, though some whites are not signatories to it” (11).

David Roediger’s How Race Survived U.S. History: from Settlement and Slavery to the Obama Phenomenon.  Roediger is a well- know race- writer and historian.  I think that the title is as good a synopsis of his book and his definition of race alone is worth the cost of the book: “Race defines the social category into which peoples are sorted, producing and justifying their very different opportunities with regard to wealth and property, confinement and freedom, citizenship and alienation and, as Ruth Wilson Gilmore puts it, life and premature death” (xi-xii).

Though I would like to review all of the books in my library, energy and our son’s nap time are both limited.  Here are a few others to place on your must read list.

Theodore Allen’s The Invention of the White Race: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo- America

Allan Boesak & Curtiss Paul DeYoung’s Radical Reconciliation: Beyond Political Pietism and Christian Quietism

Edward J. Blum & Paul Harvey’s The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America

Curtiss Paul DeYoung’s Coming Together in the 21st Century: The Bible’s Message in an Age of Diversity

Richard Ford’s Racial Culture: a critique

George Kelsey’s Racism and the Christian Understanding of Man

Robert Knox’s The Races of Man

T.B. Maston’s The Bible and Race: a careful examination of biblical teachings on human relations

Shameless plug! Starlette McNeill’s “In Search of a Race-less Gospel” featured in Faith Forward: a Dialogue on Children, Youth and a New Kind of Christianity (Chapter 3)

Michael Omi & Howard Winant’s Racial Formation in the United States: from the 1960s to the 1990s

Nell Irvin Painter’s The History of White People

David Roediger’s Colored White: Transcending the Racial Past, The Abolition of Whiteness, Working Toward Whiteness: How America’s Immigrants Became White and The Wages of Whitness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class

Audrey Smedley and Brian D. Smedley, Race in North America: Origin and Evolution of a Worldview

Thomas Sowell’s Race and Culture: A World View

Toure’s Who’s Afraid of Post- Blackness? What it means to be black now

Frank Snowden Jr.’s Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks

I’ve provided just a few of the books that I would suggest for those who are seeking the race-less way of life.  What books would you suggest?  I think that I have room for more on my bookshelf.

 

 

 

 

 


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The Spiritual Disciplines of a Race-less Church

During this Lenten season, we seek to draw nearer to God by walking more closely with Christ.  Like the Christ, who demonstrated in the wilderness that true identity is revealed not through what we so easily accept but by what we unequivocally deny, we too are closer to Jesust when we deny our racialized selves (Matthew 4.1-11).  What temptations do we avert in doing so?  Good question.

There are many but here are just a few.  When we see ourselves as racial beings, we are tempted to satisfy our appetite for provision, protection and power through physical not spiritual means.  We begin to look to the creature versus the Creator to feed, defend and strengthen us.  Or, we look to ourselves as the source, the beginning and the end of all that we need.  We say that we don’t need more of God but more of those who “look like us.”  But, we have only one Creator and thereby one source for all of these things.

It takes spiritual discipline to deny the racialized self and to affirm that our identity in race is  not enough. Start with these spiritual disciplines and add others as you continue this sacred journey.

1.  Make race your enemy (Exodus 20.3).

Race is identity enemy #1.  See it for what it is: a favorite idol, “a guilty pleasure.”  We know that we are not racial beings but human beings, that we created race.  But, we like the power that it gives us even if only social, superficial and temporal.

Socially colored black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige people are the imaginary enemy.  Most of the disagreements we have had with socially colored persons are in our heads. It is a war over what we would have done if this or that would have happened to us.  The truth is: it didn’t.  “They” didn’t and haven’t done anything to you.

Stop talking to race and don’t allow race to talk to you about anyone.  It is not your friend, your bosom buddy or confidante.  Race does not have your best interest in mind and does not know you best.  Don’t invite it to any functions– personal, professional or otherwise.  Don’t share your secrets or successes.  Don’t plan your life around race.  Walk away from it and don’t look back.

2.  Pray for your racially determined and/ or imagined enemy (Matthew 5.43-48).

Again, this enemy is not real and by this, I mean that this total cultural group (i.e. every member) has not offended you.  You do not have an aught with every single socially colored black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige person in the world because you do not have a relationship with all of them.  “They” are the historical not the present enemy that we are always fighting against.

Change the way that you feel about socially colored black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige people by praying for them.  Prayer changes your perspective on the person or people group that we have been taught to view as “the problem.”

Or, if you view yourself as “the problem,” then look to God and the sacred Scriptures to begin healing your image.  Start confessing that you are made in God’s image not in race’s image.  Your physical appearance is not your enemy.

3.  Love your racially determined and/ or imagined enemy (Matthew 5.43-48).

Love covers a multitude of sins (First Peter 4.8).  Let love have its way.  Allow it to overrule you, to challenge you, to convict you regarding your racist thoughts, beliefs and practices.  Let love have the last word and the final say with regard to your treatment of those who have mistreated you or your ancestors.  The golden rule applies to everyone (Matthew 7.12).

Love without the expectation of reciprocity; don’t expect to be loved in return.  Love her and him without question or wavering.  Don’t think about why or when or for how long.  Just love.  First Corinthians 13.1-8 provides the job description of lovers/ Christian believers.

4.  Bless your racially determined and/ or imagined enemy (Luke 6.28; Romans 12.14).

Speak peaceably and kindly to and about socially colored black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige people– no matter who is around.  We must challenge our reality if we are to ever change our reality.  Don’t allow race to bully you; you don’t have to say what others are saying.

The power of life and death, the ability to bless and curse is in your mouth (Proverb 18.21).  Don’t join the historical, racialized conversation.  Begin a new one and say something new.  Fill your mouth with possibility not with pain.

Be present; don’t live in the past.  It is not about what they did but what you are doing about it. Your plan of action is simple: bless them.

5.  Befriend your racially determined and/ or imagined enemy (Luke 6.31-36; First Peter 4.9).

Not just one.  “This is my ______ friend.”  It is so easy to talk negatively about “the other.”  Race makes our skin strange and the people who don’t possess the same social coloring of skin strangers.  We must extend our hands, not point fingers.  We must stop blaming and start befriending.

I challenge you to make more friends not imagine more enemies.

6.  Abstain from prejudice (James 2.1-13; Galatians 3.28; Ephesians 4.29; Colossians 3.11).

Get to know people.  We must leave our thoughts, come out of our minds and entertain the reality of those we walk past.  We don’t know as many people as we think we know.  Prejudice gives us the illusion of omniscience; it is but a categorical knowledge.  It only works when persons agree to fit into them or when we choose to force people into them.

Think outside of the lines.  Who is she and he really?

7.  Confess and repent of hatreds (Leviticus 19.17; Proverb 10.12; John 13.34-35; First John 2.11; 3.15; 4.20).

This is a tough one.  We all want to believe that we are loving people, nice people, good people who would “not hurt a fly.”  But, this is not true.

We know that we own a fly swatter and hate with passion whether spoken sweetly, proclaimed publicly or shared privately.  Whether said behind closed doors or shouted in the marketplace, the whisper and the shout have the same effect.  The volume of our hatred does not affect its value.  It’s all the same.

Listen to what you say about other persons but don’t stop there.  Challenge what you say.  Question the rationale for your belief.  Why do I hate– not “them” but her or him?  What am I saying really?

Accept that you hate and then, get rid of it quickly and constantly.

8.  Prepare and be ready to reconcile (Matthew 5.23-26; Second Corinthians 5.18-21; Ephesians 4.32; Colossians 1.20-22).

We are so used to hating each other, being on opposing sides, having differing views and living separately.  I don’t think that we are prepared for the possibility of our togetherness.  We have a ministry of reconciliation but we don’t practice it when it comes to the social construct and contract of race (Second Corinthians 5.16-20).

We don’t have faith in unity but have convinced ourselves that there is more power in segregation.  But, “how very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” (Psalm 133.1)  It is not only a good thing but it feels good to live in unity.  And we are to “strive for peace with everyone” (Hebrews 12.14).

Where do you begin?  With you.  We must first be reconciled to our true nature and spiritual ourselves.  We must settle our differences; rebuke the flesh and live by the spirit.  Give an account for our Christian faith and racialized living, understanding that we cannot keep them both.

If you choose your identity in Christ over your identity in race, then look inside of your heart and see what prevents you from reconciling.  What barriers have you constructed?  What borders have you erected?  What stands in the way of new relationships, an increased manifestation of God’s love for you, your neighbor and the stranger?  Yes, we are to guard our hearts but we are also called to let down our guard, to trust the God who calls us to love our enemy (Deuteronomy 28.18-19; Proverb 4.23; Ecclesiastes 4.9-12).

Examine your thoughts and get rid of those that encourage you to remain in isolation of other cultures.  Stand in front of the mirror and practice looking, seeing, acknowledging your full existence and in so doing, you will not look over the human beings, the brothers and sisters, that you pass by every day.  Do you really see what you are saying?  Where are these socially colored people?

Then, start moving your lips; practice smiling because joy is coming your way.  Get ready for committed and authentic relationships with persons of other cultures and a happier and healthier relationship with yourself and your God.  But, remember: practice, practice, practice.  Let the race-less church say, “Amen!”

 


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Nell Irvin Painter and The History of White People

There has been and continues to be much discussion on what it means to be socially colored “black in America.”  Cases, including that of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, encourage many persons’ view of “the Negro (as a) problem” and “the white man’s a burden.” But there is a steady increase of interest in and discussions of whiteness, white privilege and even white theology (See James Perkinson’s White Theology: Outing Supremacy in Modernity).  There is even a whiteness studies department in some institutions of higher learning.

By way of The Harvard Bookstore, Dr. Painter, the Edwards Professor of American History Emeritus at Princeton University, discusses the history of the idea of race as it relates to white races; yes, that’s plural.  She challenges the uses of race in antiquity, examines the “science” of race, proves the creation of white-ness and so much more!  She begins her lecture by reading from her book The History of White People.


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What is the race-less gospel of Jesus Christ?

What is the race-less gospel of Jesus Christ?  Is it new or revelatory?  No.  It is captured in the Holy Scriptures and offered to us as believers.  But we, as Christians, have not been able to accept God’s vision for humanity due to the social realities of injustice, violence and oppression caused by our acceptance of the socio- cultural construct of race, our belief in prejudice, our practice of racism, our employment of stereotypes and our choice to live as segregationists.

As Christians in America, we have accepted Christ and race, joining two as one religion.  This is most evident in our racialized images of God and Jesus the Christ and our segregated churches.  But, the two are not partners, co- laborers or co- creators of humanity.  Race is an idol; a god of our creation.  This is why they do not work together and they will not work together no matter how hard we try.

In short, we are blinded by race, distracted by the world of the senses.  We praise God for making us new creatures in Christ Jesus (Second Corinthians 5.16-17) and with the same mouth and often within the same conversation, complain about the historical oppressions that restrict our abilities and limit our aspirations due to race.  We live by the words of race and in so doing, have reduced the vastness of our being in our minds.

This is where the change must begin.  The mind is the place where the first steps are taken.  We must begin to move away from race in our thinking, no longer giving our thoughts to racism, stereotypes and prejudices.  We must take our minds, our thought lives back from race.  If we do not open our minds to this possibility, this truth, then our ears will not be opened to receive it.  “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear” (Matthew 11.15).

The race-less gospel of Jesus Christ is this:

You are not a racial being but a human being.  You are not the sum total of your external attributes.  You are not the social coloring of your skin, the texture of your hair, the shape of your eyes, the size of your nose or the width of your lips.  Your life’s worth and its meaning is internal, intrinsic.  Your appearance will change but your value to God will not fluctuate because of it.  You are made in the image of God not the image of race.  “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness” (Genesis 1.26).

You are not even what your culture says you are or what your social status or gender suggest.  None of those social designations or boxes matter to God.  “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3.27-28).

You are made by God’s design not according to race’s stereotypes.  God did not design you based on the social will of race or assign your life’s purpose according to the stereotypes of race. Race is not the architect of humanity. You are not the dumping ground for fear, shame, guilt and blame. Your life is not based on the past performance of your ancestors but the future plan that God has for you. Jeremiah captures the voice of the Lord, saying, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29.11).

Your existence is not based upon what you are not. You were not created via negativa (that is, a “negative path). You were not made as a comparison but an equal to all other human beings. You are not here as a supplement, an addition but you are fully human, possessing all of the dreams and rights to dreams as any one born before or after you. No one is ever more human than anyone else. John, a disciple and New Testament writer, dispels the thought that the will of race is what determines our lives. He writes, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man but of God” (John 1.12-13).

Race has nothing to do with God’s sovereign rule of you. It is not a part of divine meetings concerning your life. Race does not have the ear of God and when God talks about you, race is never apart of the conversation. It does not have a representative, a voice or a vote. The Trinity remains the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

You are who you are because of God’s word not race’s. God spoke you into existence not race. Your life is to follow the path and the plan of God. How do I know this? The prophet Isaiah provides this revelation: “So shall my word be that goes from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty; but it shall accomplish that which I purpose and succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55.11).

You are not defined by the prejudices of others. You are not what people don’t like about you; you are what God loves about you. You are not who people fear; you are who God trusts and has faith in. “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made ” (Psalm 139.13-14). God knows you better than race and gave His son for you. Paul shares with the church at Rome and with us, “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5.8).

The good news of the life, ministry, death, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus the Christ is for all bodies.  Jesus the Christ died to save you from sin not the social coloring of skin.  We know that the flesh of our bodies does not have eternal life, that God is seeking to save the eternal part of us, our souls.

This message is not just for “them” but for all of “us.”  God’s love is not prejudicial and God’s provision is not segregated.  This is the gospel of Jesus Christ: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3.16).  God so loved the world in its entirety– not the first world or the third world, not this continent or that country– that He gave.  God did not pick and choose who He would give to, who He would save, who He would love.

Unlike us, God loves everyone and is for and in favor of everyone.  God desires to be in relationship with all of us.  This is true love and this is the way that we are called to love– unconditionally and without prejudice, race-lessly.  That’s good news!

 

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