“Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. I have spent a night and a day in the depths of the sea. On frequent journeys, I have faced dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own people, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the open country, dangers on the sea, and dangers among false brothers; labor and hardship, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, often without food, cold and lacking clothing. Not to mention other tings, there is daily pressure on me: my care for all the churches.” ~ Second Corinthians 11.24-28
This daily race of self- examination, the questioning of socially approved answers and the critique of the American interpretation and practice of Christianity is tiring. Sometimes, I wonder if I’ve said enough or if I should even speak at all on matter. Why continue to carry this message of race-lessness? Maybe I should let this sleeping dog lie but it is not sleeping at all. It is a guard dog that prevents me from moving out of the place that I have been colored to hold. So, I’ll kick it every day no matter how many times it lunges at me, no matter the number of times I am bitten.
While taking a walk this afternoon, I was reminded of the words that the apostle Paul shared with the church at Corinth and was encouraged. Needless to say, I have not experienced much of his sufferings for the sake of the gospel, having not been beaten, stoned or even threatened with such as punishment for my faith. I have not been shipwrecked seeing as though I have never utilized this mode of travel, suffered imprisonment or found lacking in food or clothing as I traveled to share the message of Jesus Christ. But, I do know something about a couple of the dangers that Paul writes about: “dangers from my own people and dangers from the Gentiles.”
We have invested our lives and its future in this idea, this social construct of race and I have been reminded on a few occasions of the depth of its meaning in the lives of so many Americans. Race means a lot to us. It is the rationale for our privilege and the reason for our mistreatment. It explains why we do what we do: hate, segregate, prejudge and stereotype. I can’t just take that away, right? Wrong.
Carrying a message that is opposed to an identity so treasured and thus, valued is dangerous and I find myself at odds with my own people: friends and family members. Because of my denial of race and a racialized life, I am often ostracized. If I don’t want to belong with black or beige people, then with whom will I find myself? My hope is that my denial of race will further position me in Jesus Christ, that it will assist in my continued spiritual formation and identity. I also hope that my friends and family members would join me there, knowing that in my leaving race, I am not abandoning them, that there is a group that we can all belong to wherein we possess equal privilege and powerlessness.
It is also dangerous to share this message with you, the reader. I am never certain of how the message will be received. Do I want the world to be color- blind or post- racial? Neither. Then what exactly is the goal? I want the Church to live the Truth that is Jesus Christ, live the already proven fact that race is not biological but social, not biblical but cultural. My hope is that the Church would not continue invest its faith in race, knowing that we have a sure foundation and a secure identity in Jesus Christ, that it would serve as the leader of this journey toward race-lessness, to love all of its members and to demonstrate the unconditional love of God. And I believe that God has granted us, like Paul, traveling mercies. Yes, there will be pain and suffering, plans will be thwarted and terror might appear to reign, but the message will survive. So, keep on walking. Keep on talking.