Category Archives: Post- racial

Race cannot save you

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It’s not in the Bible, not a part of the creation narrative in Genesis, not stuck in between the serpent’s teeth or on the tip of its tongue.  This is not the devil’s work but ours.   We must take full credit.  It’s not even historical fiction but a modern day lie.

Not B.C. but way A.D.

Race didn’t come with Adam and Eve’s knowledge of good and evil or the Ten Commandments Moses receives in Exodus.  It was not a tree or on one in the Garden of Eden.  Race, its categories and prejudicial policies for human behavior and interaction weren’t etched in stone by the Divine finger.  Its stereotypes were not packed in one of the bags of the Israelites, who were on their way to the Promised Land.  Search them all.  Race is not there.

Race was never a law, Levitical or otherwise.  There is no saying, “We are as guilty as skin.”  It wasn’t joined with the priesthood, used in the selection of God’s chosen people, their prophets or kings.  Their physical appearance was not apart of the criteria.  The social colorings of skin didn’t make the list.  No skin- sins here.

There were no race wars or hierarchies or systems at work.  Race was not in their vocabulary.  It was not how they saw themselves or others, including their enemies.  They saw color but not as we did; they did not attribute such power to flesh and certainly didn’t believe that they could rule persons based on the color of it.

Race wasn’t the inspiration for anything in the Bible.  It wasn’t a muse and is not listed on the extended worship track also known as the Psalms.  They did not worship a colored God, beige, brown, black, red, yellow or white.  Race had nothing to do with the Israelites’ relationship with God.

It wasn’t apart of the prophets’ pronouncements and judgments.  Through “forty and two generations,” race is not passed down.  It begat nothing in the Old Testament or the new one.  Jesus spends no time talking about his physical appearance– because it makes no difference though we create images to our liking.

Don’t believe me?  Take noted biblical scholar Cain Hope Felder’s word for it.  He writes in Race, Racism and the Biblical Narratives:

In antiquity, we do not have any elaborate definitions of or theories about race. … Ancient authors of biblical text did not have color conscious (awareness of certain physiological differences). … In fact, the Bible contains no narratives in which the original intent was to negate the full humanity of black people or view blacks in an unfavorable way. Such negative attitudes about black people and persons of direct African descent are entirely post- biblical.”  He cites Dr. Cornel West, American philosopher, political activist and public theologian who writes, “The very category of ‘race’—denoting primarily skin color—was first employed as a means of classifying human bodies by Francois Bernier, a French physician, in 1684.  The first authoritative racial division of humankind is found in the influential Natural System (1735) of the preeminent naturalist Carolus Linnaeus.”[1]

It’s not in the kingdom/ kin- dom of God.  It didn’t slip past Peter or scale the pearly gates. Race won’t make it in.  Race cannot save you.

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[1]Cain Hope Felder, Race, Racism, and the Biblical Narratives, (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2002), 2.

Felder is citing Dr. Cornel West’s book Prophetic Fragments,(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 100.

Race who?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“If a question can be put at all, then it can also be answered.”

| Ludwig Wittgenstein

Most persons feel compelled to answer to race and to question those who don’t.  “Who does race say that you are?”  Skin deep, the epitome of superficial meaning, we speak as if its value is apparent, a parent and second creator.  It is a rebirth, a remaking, a new creation made in the image of whiteness.

A social righteousness, we pray, “Make my skin light, lighter, lightest of all.  Amen.”  We baptize our skin in bleach, hoping that chemicals will straighten out the tangled mess our hair has made, that our noses won’t get in the way, that our big mouths won’t get us into trouble.  We wrestle with flesh and blood in hopes of being pinned with this prized social perfection.

Blue ribbon skin.  Trophy flesh.  First place in the race contest.  It is faith in skin filled in, in skin that fills in for our faith.

We believe that race makes us or breaks us, that it all comes down to our physical appearance.  We talk of race as if it is the only way in which we fully identify, that we cease to exist without these colored words, that our flesh fails us unless it is colored in.   In race, “we live, move and have our being.”

We behave like we all fit into these boxes, that everyone has to go into one of them: beige, brown, black, red, yellow or white.   Get in.  Squeeze in.  We’ve all got to fit in.  And we say this while espousing the belief that we are buried with Christ.

Still, race gets up and in our faces.  We cannot look away.  Picking at our flesh, we feel that this is real.  We open our mouths to answer to it.

But, why?  Instead, question it.  Race does not tell you who you are and if it does, you should wonder why.  I mean have you ever met Race?  The relationship is superficial; it only knows your skin.  You don’t have to let it in.

Instead, leave it on the outside of you.  Peek through and ask, “Race, who?”

I need another word

 

See the source imageWe need new words.  I need new words, ones that roll off my tongue.  The colored ones get caught in my throat.  New being in Jesus Christ, these racialized ones don’t work for me.  They didn’t go down easily.  They didn’t stick to me.  I cannot make them a part of me, just take them when they treat me as foreign, my body no longer kin.

Race gets me beside myself, compared to someone else.  And I just want to be free.  I want this word off of me.  It has no right to rule over me.  I have something to say.  I have the final say in who I am and who I will be.  Still, race interrupts so frequently that I’ve grown tired and now it speaks for me.

Hold my tongue.

Hold my breath.

Die to self.

Die to who God created me to be.

Baptized with Christ, race should be dead to me.

Skin.

Ashes.

Dust.

I need to talk about it in the past tense.  Race was here.

America capitalizes on everything, even skin is its own kind of currency.  But, I am not buying it.  Change the market.  I want something else.  Because race is not another word for human.

No, I need a new word.

Plain and simple: It’s Jesus or race

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“His (Jesus’) life must mean the death of race in us.”

| Brian Bantum, The Death of Race: Building a New Christianity in a Racial World

It’s not hard.  Letting go of race is not difficult.  I know that it is not something that we would consider and that you didn’t ask for assistance with.  I know that you two have your problems but they’re your problems.  I know that I should stay out of it, that its a personal problem, a social conundrum, a spiritual dilemma.  I really should keep my nose out of it and my two cents.  But, I can’t.

While some people can’t get their minds around this race-less gospel, they shake their heads in agreement. Yes, it is a social construct.  Yes, it is not a biological reality.  I know that color and country are not synonymous, that color is not my Creator.  Yes, I am more than skin but soul and Spirit- filled.  Yes, but no.

No.  We have to stop right there because they can’t go beyond this intellectual acceptance.  Yes, that was their confession but no.  Getting rid of race is too hard.  It will take more time.  No talk of starting now and no mention of when this racialized existence would come to an end.  They just know that it can’t happen.  It won’t happen anytime soon, in the near future.  Strangely, they cannot see a future when race is not near.

“Because who would I be without my color?  I have always been beige, brown, red, yellow, black or white.  How would I identify myself?  Who would I identify with?”

So much to lose and not enough to choose from.  Race has them covered.  Life can only make sense to them if they are colored.

You would think that I asked them to peel off their skin.

They speak as if they would cease to exist and though Christian, the idea of being born again never crosses their mind.  There is no need to enter the womb a second time (John 3.4).  Enter water and Spirit.

But, for those who confess Jesus as Lord, it seems way too easy to put race to death through our new life in him.  New creatures, we simply cannot stop identifying with race.  And worse still, we imagine that God cannot be identified apart from it.  But, we can have one without the other and only one cancels out the other.

So, what will it be– Jesus or race?

We’re going to need a bigger table

See the source imageI love Communion, also known as the Lord’s Supper.  More than serving it, I love seeing the people that Jesus prepared a table for.  While our Communion tables could not accommodate all those we serve each Sunday, it is amazing to see just how many persons Christ aims to sit next to.  Forget elbow room or pulling up a chair, there isn’t much room for either.

And what is shared isn’t your typical meal.  By most standards, it isn’t much.  Juice and bread, most prisoners have it better.  But, for us, it is more than enough.  Symbolizing the body and blood of Christ, cramming our mouths with bread or gulping down the juice isn’t the point.  Savoring the morsel of bread, swallowing a meager amount of juice, we are satisfied with full hearts– not stomachs.

Not an invitation only gathering, this catered meal is prepared by Christ alone.  He is serving and being served.  Christ prepares a table and serves himself up to us.  Take and eat.

Christ prepares a table for us in the presence of our sworn enemies.  Leading by example, Christ prepares a table and sits down with his enemy, Judas.  Have a seat.  He makes room for persons who make us want to leave the room.  Jesus sits down when we would get up and storm out.  “I’m not talking to her!”  “I’m not sitting next to him!”

His table is so much larger than our own.  We can seat our four and no more.  During the holidays, we move to the formal dining room to accommodate more persons.  But, still, it is family members only.

When we partake in Communion, we see all the people that Jesus is willing to sit down with, crossing cultures and all of our lines.  He reminds me that the seating arrangement in churches across the country and the world does not accommodate all of his guests.  But, if we want Christ to be fully present to receive them, then we are going to need a bigger table.