If God were black

“Wishing He I served were black, 
Thinking then it would not lack
Precedent of pain to guide it, 
Let who would or might deride it, 
Surely then this flesh would know
Yours had borne a kindred woe.
Lord I fashion dark gods too, 
Daring even to give you
Dark despairing features where, 
Crowned with dark rebellious hair, 
Patience wavers just so much as
Mortal grief compels, while touches
Quick and hot, of anger, rise
To smitten cheek and weary eyes.
Lord, forgive me if my need 
Sometimes shapes a human creed.”
 
~ An excerpt from Countee Cullen’s poem Color

Regrettably, Cullen’s poem remains true, our racist theology captured in his words. We have not come very far in our faith because of it, still fighting for the flesh that gets pimples, blisters, can be cut, is susceptible to disease, that wrinkles and will certainly decay in death.  Still, I am grateful for his words for they allow us to examine our unconscious thoughts, our silent prayers, our unspoken desires, our attempts at fashioning the Potter for our social need and racial advantage.

It is one the greatest sins of racism: the thought that we can make God in our own image, the belief that if God is this race or that one, then we can determine His thoughts, ways and will.  It is also the hope that God is on our side not because it is His will or His way, not because we have kept His commandments, not because we have confessed Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior but because He “looks” like us.  God’s commitment to us is determined by the shape of His nose, the size of His lips, the texture of His hair.  God is empowered by race and we are encouraged because of it.

And God is our kindred not because our brother Jesus was “in all ways tempted” and suffered on the cross but God is our kindred because of His so- called skin color and thereby understands our sufferings.  If God is not black, then God does not.  But how is this possible, that God is unable to understand us because God is not a member of our race?  God is the Creator of all things, yes?  Yet, God loses His ability to know us and thus, to know all things simply because He is not a member of our race.  Certainly, this god of race is not the God of Israel and besides that, the Bible teaches us that God is Spirit (John 4.24).  God has no flesh and the Bible records that Jesus, that is the Word, was made flesh (John 1.14).  This then is another god, the dark god that Cullen writes about.

But, that’s not all, according to Cullen, God’s character and subsequent ability depend upon His race and we are able to know either or both if we know the social coloring of His skin. This would make God knowable, predictable, able to be figured out from beginning to end like us. But, God’s thoughts and ways are not the same as ours; they are not even close (Isaiah 55.8).

Like Cullen, we believe  that if God were socially colored black, then the lives of those who are defined as black in America would be better.  And if our lives are not better, it is because God is not.  Race then informs our view of God, shapes our responses and determines our relational proximity to God. But, this logic is flawed as God’s ability and God’s will are not determined by the social coloring of His skin neither is God subject to or limited by the social coloring of skin.  Race would then be the god of God, determining who receives divine assistance and who does not.

If God were black, then God would not be God at all because the god of our choosing is no god at all.

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