God and Race: Wavering Between Two Opinions

“So Ahab sent to all the Israelites, and assembled the prophets at Mount Carmel. Elijah then came near to all the people, and said, ‘How long will you go on limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but Baal, then follow him.'”

~ I Kings 18.20-21, New Revised Standard Version

Often, I find myself frustrated by the slow pace of change when it comes to matters of race. How I wish that persons could see what I see and what I don’t see. It is not that I do not see that persons of other cultures are different, that I am color blind, hair texture blind, nose shape blind, eye shape blind, lip size blind. I do see the differences. But, I cannot agree with the rationale for the difference. I do not believe in race and thus, I am unable to see what others see. I wish that we could see people as race-less, that the language used to discuss race is a social reality and nothing more. Race is not a physical or spiritual reality. It is not a determinant of one’s nature and it should not be a deciding factor when one chooses a profession, a spouse or a neighborhood to raise a family in. I hope with all my heart that persons can grasp this vision, this sight that removes the veil of race and allows us to see persons as they really are.

We don’t need to hide behind race. We don’t need to be angry or fight about it. We don’t need to feel helpless because of it. We don’t have to live our lives according to its lines, its boundaries. We don’t have to live our lives by the restrictions and permissions of race because the life that Christ’s offers is more abundant (John 10.10). We don’t have to live racially anymore as born again believers in Jesus Christ.

But, I am afraid that the experience has been too formative. We have been with race too long. We’ve said and seen and done too many things together. We cannot rid ourselves of its memory, the actions we have taken in its name. Perhaps, we feel that in forgetting about race that we are forgetting about ourselves, at least in part.

Still, I wish that some one could hear what I hear when I listen to color-coded language. It is as “sounding brass or tinkling cymbal” (I Corinthians 13.1). For me, no matter the amount of knowledge that she possesses, if it includes some racial reduction, it is as if she has said nothing at all. It is as if she has learned nothing at all. Race tarnishes her understanding, skews her opinion, biases her perspective in a way that undoes her. Race unravels any tightly bound argument and is the cause for much of our undoing.

The language of race and the conversations shaped by its stereotypes and prejudices have become noise to me. I can make no sense of it and it certainly doesn’t bring any form of enjoyment. It is not entertaining or enlightening. Instead, it is evidence that she and we are still learning about our humanity. Still, learning to read the music so to speak and we have a long way to go. Quite frankly, race is not the instrument for us and no amount of rehearsing will make race or its progeny sound any better.

Often, I feel like the prophet Elijah and I want to ask the Church: “How long will you go on limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but Race, then follow it.” I want to call upon the prophets of Race to make an altar to it. I want to challenge them to call upon Race. I want them to see that Race has no mouth less they speak, that Race has no members less they provide their bodies, that Race does nothing for us. Like the prophets of Baal who began cutting themselves, we too hurt ourselves in the name of Race. We have done it all to ourselves, against ourselves and for ourselves. I want the people of God to see that “the Lord is indeed God; the Lord is indeed God” (I Kings 18.39). This is my prayer. Amen.

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