Category Archives: Post- racial

Why do Christians believe in race?

Image result for questioning“Calls are essentially questions.  They aren’t questions you necessarily need to answer outright; they are questions to which you need to respond, expose yourself and kneel before.   You don’t want an answer you can put in a box and set on a shelf.  You want a question that will become a chariot to carry you across the breadth of your life.”

{Gregg Levoy, Callings}

I believe that I have been called to question the validity of the social construct of race in the practice of faith.  In my head, I had been questioning the social construct of race for years.  In conversation, I would correct persons in my mind when they colored people in.   My perspective was changing and I wasn’t sure of how to express what I was beginning to see.   Then, the question came, “Do I have to be black?”  I answered, “No” and the race-less gospel of Jesus Christ was born.

This question revealed my calling and will carry me the breadth of my life.  I will spend the rest of my life repeating the answer to this question and the impact of this truth on our faith in Jesus Christ.  The truth is that God did not create colored people; American society did.  As Christians, we are ex- colored people, no longer known by the names of race.  There is no longer socially colored beige, black, brown, red, yellow and white people (cf. Colossians 3.11; Galatians 3.28).  But, this is not to suggest that we are not persecuted and privileged according to the social construct of race.  But, to suggest that God does the same and that the Church is called to embody it is a gross theological misstep.

The truth that the gospel of Jesus Christ is race-less, that God is not a Colored Person (socially colored white included), that the hope of my existence is not tied to my flesh seems obvious to me.  It also seems obviously contrary to the faith that we espouse.  Created as new creatures in Christ Jesus and the judgments of our sins removed, how then does God bless and curse us as believers based on the social construct of race?  How do the power and oppressions of the social construct of race remain in play for members of Christ’s body?  The answer is that we simply add the social identity to our confessions, doctrines, hymns, preaching, theologies.

Called to be a new community, we abide by the same rules as society and section off the body of Christ according to the pretenses, privileges and prejudices of race.  Gathered in as the family of God, race says that we are not related. The Church is called to challenge the systems of the world; instead, we incorporated it.  We justified hatred in exchange for pseudo- supremacy and excluded ourselves from other cultures with the self- generated blessing of Holy Scripture.  We don’t question the social construct of race because the answer is too hard to hear, too challenging to accept, too true to believe, too authentic to experience, too time- consuming to live in to.  We would rather be in the Church but of the world.

It is only recently that I have mustered up the courage to challenge our faith in it.  Why do Christians believe in the social construct of race?  Though science doesn’t support it, why do we believe in colored people and in turn, a god created in our image and subject to the rules and roles of race?  If we would all answer this question, the body of Christ would hear its calling.

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Race will not survive

I shared a meditation at a Maundy Thursday service last night titled “Do as I do.” It is a command that highlights the disconnect between our words and our actions.  We know and say what is right but so often, we do not do what is right. We point out the rule while side- stepping the practice of it.  We are great enforcers of the law but poor practitioners.   The same can be said of our life in Christ.  What of his life do we imitate, especially during this Holy Week?

What of ourselves follows Jesus to the cross?  Thomas will see the nail prints in Jesus’ hands but where are yours?  What of you has died so that Christ might live more truly and fully?  Where have you made room for him?

As Christians, there is only one that we can follow.  We do not follow personalities but chase after the very presence of God in Christ and therefore, in us.  One with God, this is the deepest and truest fellowship.

We do not follow our culture or the social coloring of our skin but the Christ who is bound by neither.  He is the only one whose words match his actions and who can say, “Do as I do.”  So, we are not stereotypical people.  We are not your average, run of the mill, same old, racialized beings.  No, that was nailed to his cross, clinched in his hands.

No longer Jews nor Greeks, how do we see ourselves as colored people anyway?  That old self and its identity died on the Friday we call good.  We no longer live in our flesh but in, through and by the spirit of Christ.  The social construct of race, the racialized self has been buried with Christ.  It will not survive the resurrection.

 

Not Worth Much

Image result for the priceYesterday, I shared a message with the congregation titled, “Costly Obedience.”  Unpacking the well- known hymn recorded in Philippians 2.5-11, I invited listeners to consider again the price that Christ paid for our sins.  It was a costly obedience because he was obedient to the point of death– not obedient for personal gain, not agreeable to pacify.  Christ was obedient to the end of himself, his will to live surrendered for our sake.

But, we see so much death these days.  With church bombings in Egypt and the gassing of children in Syria, we could get use to it.  Paranoia or succumbing to our circumstances seem to be the only viable options.  However, this is not simply “the world we live in now”; it is the world we have created.  Not to be confused with the kingdom of God, this is not heaven for any of us.  Persons are paying the price for our theological disagreements, our contests for power and need for recognition with their lives.  This kind of belief paid in dead children’s bodies is an unfathomable exchange.

This, of course, led me to begin thinking about the identities we hold on to, inherit and pass down to our children.  In America’s racialized society, we fight for colored bodies, for black power, white power and visibility.  Somehow, we learned that this identity connects us to some truth greater than ourselves, that being defined by the social coloring of skin is worth something.  And persons will spend their lives emptying themselves of their culture, language and mannerisms in order to be filled with “whiteness.”   For many, it is believed to be the complete and full expression of our humanity, the supreme (human) being.

Race is a kind of religion with a racialized deity, creating good and bad bodies.  We create Christ in our image to prove that our bodies are valuable.  But, what does it cost to be a racial being?  Who paid the price for us to call ourselves beige, brown, black, red, yellow and white?  Surely, it is was not Christ.  Jesus did not die on the cross so that we could become white people– but God’s people.

How much did it cost?  Did persons really die so that you and I could identify as a socially colored person or in order for you to have the rights that belong to all human beings, regardless of the constructs that we create to withhold them?  Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in The Cost of Discipleship, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”  But, what of our racialized selves do we bury?  What funeral service have we held for black power or white nationalism?  Show me where we have buried this social identity?

Disproven by all sciences, we continue to keep race alive.  And if we have learned nothing of death, it is this– our skin serves no purpose in a grave.  When I look at Christ’s cross, I am reminded that the identity offered in race is not worth much.

 

Not My Problem

Image result for not my problem image

I am at a meeting of clergy for three days of specialized training in interim ministry.  Day one focuses on theories.  On the second day, the facilitator offered a few tools and way too many personal stories.  But, when we began a discussion about power and he wanted to move to his next slide, the group of mostly European Americans wanted to say more.  He sat down in his chair uncomfortably.  He had not prepared for this.

Without prompting, they begin to critique their own privileges and then someone said, “And we need to listen to those who don’t share the same experience.”  Another clergywoman saw this as an opportunity and began, “I am a black woman.  I am a minority.  I am powerless.”  She is perhaps 20 years my senior and of a different time.  She bears the scars to prove it and most of our colleagues can remember when she got them.  I had only read about them and watched documentaries.

But, I realized that it was not only age or time that created distance between us.  I could not agree with her statement.  And while the social construct of race would suggest that we think the same and share the same beliefs, it left me no other choice but to challenge its omniscience.  My heart was pounding by now; the words were throbbing in my head.  “Let us out,” they seemed to say.  I am not one to hold back truth so I let them go.

“I do not identify with the social construct of race.  I don’t believe that human beings are colored people, that there are beige, black, brown, red, yellow or white people.  I would not describe myself as a minority as we are all counted as human beings.  And I am not powerless.  I enter the world with power; consequently, no one can give or take my power away.”

So, apparently, I am an anomaly.  My comments were met with silence– though we have a Word- God who affirms our being down to the hairs of our head (Matthew 10.30).  Afterwards, another clergywoman thanked me for sharing my perspective.  She wished she could see as I did.  For me, she, too, was expressing powerlessness.   “These are not my eyes.  I am not in control of what I see.  I can’t see anything else.”

She went on to talk about the fights that she had engaged in for the rights of others.  I expressed that I had also chosen not to start there.  I do not have to live on a battlefield.  I have rejected the fights of the past, decided not to enlist or allow anyone to force me to sign up.  No human being can tell me who I am or am not– and I don’t have to fight for my identity.

She started to credit her generation for my position but this too was rejected.  God had given me this vision: “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 3.18, NRSV).  This was not my problem because I accepted God’s promise.  I pray that you would accept it as well.

Receive this holy vision.  This is my prayer.  In Jesus’ name, I pray.  Amen.

Race is not a Mirror

Image result for not a mirror image

Mirror, mirror on the wall… Whiteness is the fairest of them all.”

What do we need or expect to see of ourselves that calls for the social construct of race?  What of our humanity is made visible, evident, real when we become colored people?  What can we not see without the lens of race?  What of our vision of self does race provide, enhance and reveal?

Do you know who you are if you are not addressed by the social construct of race?  Would you know how to answer for yourself if race could no longer speak for you?  Could you find yourself if you could not be socially colored beige, brown, black, red, yellow or white?

Could you see yourself without the social construct of race?  What do you think that you would see in the nakedness of this reality?  What do you and I cover up when we put on race?  What are we hiding behind when we say that we are socially colored beige, brown, black, red, yellow or white?  And why the need for these colors?

Why do we pretend that race is our reflection, that it can see us as nothing else can, that it is our true self, God- given even?

What of ourselves are we ashamed of, embarrassed by, unsure 0r afraid of that we need race to boost our confidence, to hide behind or to shield us from assault?  Why do we keep it so close to us even as it is used to segregate us from ourselves and others?  When it does not show any of us in the best light?  Race is not our good side.

And why can’t we, why don’t we snatch it down, crush the idol under foot?  Why do we make ourselves look at it and like it?  Why do we hang it up in our homes, schools, offices and houses of worship?  How do we lift up race when it is neither Creator nor looking glass?  We are not made in its image and it is no reflection of who we really are.

Race is not sight or vision but prejudice.  It has never really us but looked passed us.  I suspect that it may be blind, blind to our humanity.

I suppose you are wondering, “Why all the questions?”  But, why not?  We would do our identities a great service to question the social construct of race, to challenge its colored-ness.  And to allow these answers to reflect back us what we really see when we say race.