Dead in the water: Raceless Identity as Baptismal Identity

Photo credit: Jeremy Bishop, Unsplash

Racism is often confused with race. So, when I say raceless, I am not suggesting that racism is not real. The sociopolitical construct that supports our hate is a fallacy but racism, prejudice, stereotyping and their progeny are facts and proof of an unequal reality. We are not post- racial or past this, not in the least bit.

But we, Christians, have got to work at it, talk about what it is and isn’t.

Race is based solely on self- serving human observation and was created in order for human beings to take sides. A life lived in comparison, race puts us side- by- side and then rates us on physical appearance: texture of hair, size of lips, social color of skin, shape of eyes. We are told what American society will see and how we will be measured.

Whiteness is an American treasure. 

Fool’s good, whiteness is a fake identity, a false self, made up for the hoarding of riches and resources.  Whiteness, it cost those first immigrants their culture, heritage, mother tongue and last names. See How the Irish Became White. See The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class. See that whiteness has nothing to with God’s righteousness, that right- standing, our position in Christ and with God has nothing to do with our physical appearance.

Because God looks at the heart—not the outward appearance (First Samuel 16.7). Because Paul told the Corinthians:

“For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way” (Second Corinthians 5.14-16, NRSV).

Why can’t we repeat after him? Instead, we color God and Jesus in. We want the Divine to be just like us and nothing like them.

And like those immigrants, we would give up our selves for race— but not for Christ. Because what would I be if I couldn’t be beige, black, brown, red, yellow or white?

Now, it’s time that we walk it back in order to discern how we got here.

“A raceless gospel, huh? It sounds nice.”

“Yes, it would be nice if we could be but that’s just not reality. How do you think that is going to happen?”

My suggestion is often met with skepticism and I am viewed as naïve, having never experienced racism or offering some “pie-in-the- sky” theology—neither of which are true. Or, I am asked, “What will replace it?” Well, for Christians, how about that baptismal identity? Let me remind you of what Paull said to the believers at Galatia:

“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”

(Galatians 3.27-28, NRSV).

He repeats it to the church at Corinth (First Corinthians 12.12-13) and another version of it is shared with the believers at Colossae (Colossians 3.11) so I’ll say it again and again I say. I will repeat these words until we have an answer for why nothing changes. Though the old self is supposedly dead to us, we get up and behave much the same way, harboring the same old hatreds and calling ourselves by the same old names.

No, I’m not going to take your racial categories away. The waters of baptism were supposed to wash them away. You can keep them if you want, but that kind of defeats the purpose of dying to self and the old way. I have lots of questions these days about what it means to follow Jesus and the distance that it should create between the old self and the new life like, “Why do Christians repeat after society when it comes to identity and have nothing new to say?”

I thought we were counter- cultural, that we were called “to turn the world upside down,” not name ourselves after their oppressive and dominating systems so they wouldn’t mind having us around (Acts 17.6). Jesus was nearly thrown off a cliff, stoned and got kicked out of town. Later crucified, there’s nothing safe about following him.

Baptism should come with a warning. Forget who you were before stepping in. Because race and all other categories that bind and compete are dead in the water.

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Seeking to lead words and people to their highest and most authentic expression, I am the principal architect of a race/less world.

2 thoughts on “Dead in the water: Raceless Identity as Baptismal Identity

  1. I absolutely love the closing paragraphs:

    No, I’m not going to take your racial categories away. The waters of baptism were supposed to wash them away. You can keep them if you want, but that kind of defeats the purpose of dying to self and the old way. I have lots of questions these days about what it means to follow Jesus and the distance that it should create between the old self and the new life like, “Why do Christians repeat after society when it comes to identity and have nothing new to say?”
    I thought we were counter- cultural, that we were called “to turn the world upside down,” not name ourselves after their oppressive and dominating systems so they wouldn’t mind having us around (Acts 17.6). Jesus was nearly thrown off a cliff, stoned and got kicked out of town. Later crucified, there’s nothing safe about following him.
    Baptism should come with a warning. Forget who you were before stepping in. Because race and all other categories that bind and compete are dead in the water.

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