Category Archives: Racial Eliminativism

Sunday morning segregation

It’s almost 11 a.m., that holy hour that is concentrated with our hubris, when the worship services are but a reflection of our preferences, when the pews are filled with the people we are most comfortable with.  It’s almost 11 a.m. on this fine Sunday morning where people dress up or down and then sit down and get up unchanged and unchallenged to go out and subvert the kingdom of this world.  Instead, we fall in line and when told, we will skip to the front of the line.  I know that Jesus has an order, “The last will be first,” but this is the way they do things down here.  We act as if Jesus didn’t come down here and show us the way.

Called to turn the world upside down, we don’t feel comfortable touching anything (Acts 17.6).  Just leave it the way that it is.  Just go to work and come home.  Just live according to society’s schedule and its election cycles.  America will change in its own time.  We’ve got plenty of time.  Now is never the right time.

What time is it now?  Oh, we’ve got to hurry up and get to church now.  But, the Church is so late, so behind the times when it comes to race and its progeny.  Jesus came and stood side by side with us.  The miracle of divinity became human just to be close to us.  And yet, we human beings are still not close enough. Not wanting to live on earth together, we divide up dirt.

Human beings have convinced themselves that we come in colors and daily attempt to create distance between each other.  And Sunday morning doesn’t bring us any closer.  The Church in North America offers segregated services. “If you don’t want to worship with those people, you don’t have to.  Hallelujah and Amen.”

Instead, I suggest that the Church in North America close its doors until Christian leaders work up the courage and the nerve to point persons to the narrow way, to preach the life of Christ that is a tight squeeze, that would not allow our racialized, hyper- politicized, capitalized prejudices in.  If not, it makes no difference as a generation has closed its ears to what the Church would have to say.  The Church isn’t getting any younger as the members are all turning gray.  They were turned off by pastors turned entrepreneurs and worship spaces that became little kingdoms unto themselves.  Or, they took note of the Church when it did not chime in or hold her hand when she told stories of sexual predation, harassment, abuse and rape.  Or, they circled their absence when the bodies of unarmed African American children, women and men were being outlined with chalk.  Despite testimonies and video surveillance, they managed to preach a manacled gospel that suggested God was with some of us.

Let’s hurry along now.  Get in the car and pray that no one is parked in your spot or sitting in your seat when you arrive at church.  Pray that the choir sings songs that you like and that the pastor’s sermon is one you like, that it is one that is sweet and polite, that she not say anything to upset you or cause you to sweat.  Pray that the service doesn’t go more than an hour because that would be ridiculous and you might have to change your plans.

It’s 11 a.m. and time for a nap, time to stretch out in our pew- cribs, time for songs that sing our soul’s passions to sleep, time for sermons that redirect our callings to the marketplace.  Don’t start any trouble.  Don’t say anything that might trouble our conscious or renew our conviction that we are sisters and brothers.  Just leave well enough alone as if this society has ever been well, like all of us have ever had enough.  Let’s just say our prayers but then sit on our hands and in effect hold back the answer to them.

It’s that time again, that special time when Christian believers go into our color- coded corners for worship and come out swinging.  We all have an understanding, a memorandum of understanding regarding race though most Christians don’t have an informed understanding of race.  Our meanings for the social construct vary and are more than a little shaky.

But, we don’t need to know what it means.  We know what it means for us.  We have experienced racism, prejudice and privilege.  No need to question the impetus behind the biased or preferential treatment as if our skin explains this treatment.

We do not challenge our belief in the differences associated with our skin’s pigmentation.  No, we will confess that God is the Creator of all, that Jesus is our kinsmen redeemer, that the Holy Spirit blows upon all flesh and then hate the person standing right next to us for no reason at all.  All buttoned up, clothes, lips and all, we think that we can worship God and hate our siblings.  But, this is not love at all (First John 4.20).  It’s a lie and all who would live it are liars.  It should be illegal, this Sunday morning segregation.

Good Skin

Bad skin.  Good skin.  A larger problem than pimples, blackheads and an oily T- zone, the social coloring of skin and the meanings we associate with it are important.  We talk about our flesh as if we expect it to behave or perform in a certain way, as if it represents our character and can somehow let us down.  Ah, but in America, it can and it does.

The social construct of race says that my skin defines me, tells you what my presence means not just in this present moment but for the rest of my life.  Much like how we look at fruit and inspect it for ripeness, I am expected to believe that solely by looking at my appearance one can determine if I am good or bad.  Worse still, persons can toss me aside based on their observations without ever having a personal experience with me.

Wanting the preferred “color,” many of us train our epidermis with bleaching creams and lighteners, change the skin around our eyes, nose and lips to look right and consequently, to be right.  We are then the right kind of person.  We are socially acceptable.  We can show our faces here.  Our bodies are safe and safe here.

And we have made the process of identification very simple.  We have color- coded good and bad people.  And all we have to do is look at persons to tell the difference.  Goodness also comes in degrees.  Consequently, the lighter the skin color, the better the person.

Still, the social construct of race is a troublesome invention.  It is a meddlesome creation that gets in the way of our humanity.  It restricts the way that we see God, ourselves and our neighbor.  This is why our declarations of the race-less gospel of Jesus Christ is so important.  This is why we must repeat again and again that we are not children of color but children of God.  Again, we are children of God not children of color.  Because there is a difference as race is not our creator; it is not the beginning of us.  Because there is life after the flesh, it’s salvation is limited.

The social construct of race offers salvation through the social coloring of skin.  However, this is not the gospel of Jesus Christ.  As Christians, it is his nail- scarred hands that save us– not the color of our own.  Because if whiteness is our salvation, then what does it atone for?  If all we have to do is be born in the right skin, what is socially colored “white” skin, then what salvation are we secure in?  If the social coloring of skin saves us from suffering and/or affords unearned privileges, then why believe in the work of Christ’s cross?

The fact is, our belief in race does not supplement our faith in Jesus Christ; instead, it supplants it.  The message of race does not affirm the good news of Jesus Christ.  Because who needs a good God if you have good skin?

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.

Not Your Average Identity

During this season of Lent, a kind of forty- day challenge for some believers, I have been reflecting on surrender and what we mean when we say, “I give up.”  In the practice of our faith, according to the terms and conditions of our discipleship, giving up is a good thing.  Dare I say, it is the goal.  “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me'” (Matthew 16.24).

In our surrender to the Spirit of God and the denial of self- gratification, we practice a little of Christ’s death.  In denying our carnal selves, we accept more of the spiritual life of Jesus.  Because he denied himself on a daily basis in service to humanity and as a servant of God’s will: “not my will but yours” (Luke 22.42).

He could have been full of himself.  He could have touted his successes.  He could have pointed to the number of angels that follow him.  He could have boasted of all his creations– but he didn’t.

But, the social construct of race does just the opposite.  It puts the confidence and the change in our flesh.  Whether privilege or powerless, it is a work outside of the Spirit of God.  Race says because of the social coloring of skin, beige, black, brown, red, yellow, white, we are valuable and worthy.

But, if we are following the social construct of race, we are walking in the opposite direction of Jesus Christ.  Race puts our flesh up front and says that if we are this “color,” then we are good, acceptable, blessed, righteous, pure, upright.  This is heresy.

It is not your average, run of the mill identity but competes with our identity in Christ Jesus.

Race say that there is no change, no room for improvement.  We are who the social coloring of our skin says that we are.  There is no wiggle room but these are our marching orders.  We can only fall in line as there is no place for those who would not surrender to the color- code.  But, we cannot be a disciple of Christ and race?  Either you are going to be a color or a Christian but you cannot be both– because Christ’s is not your average identity.

Don’t let race fool you

April 1st is reserved for pranks.  No serious business today.  But, I thought it could also serve to remind us to not be fooled.  You are more than the eyes can see.  You are race-less and that’s no joke.