Tag Archives: aracial Christianity

It’s our anniversary!

See the source imageI didn’t forget.  Though I don’t have flowers or dinner reservations, I wanted to wish us a happy eighth anniversary.  I have been writing, thinking, talking about the socio- political construct of race, the malformation of Christian community and the call to be reconciled in a world that thrives on division for 2,920 days.  It has not been easy to keep faith in the ministry of reconciliation but Christ’s bloody hands reaching out to us hold it all together.

Now I write as a matter of resistance to the old way, to the prejudicial, stereotypical way of being.  I write to die daily to race (First Corinthians 15.31).  I write to remind us that it is a daily confession, this denial of the flesh and its people- given, people- driven powers.  The raceless gospel is reminder that the power of Christianity does not lie in what our flesh can do but in what Christ did with his.

I began this blog on Ash Wednesday eight years ago.  It is a fitting reminder for the socio- political construct of race, the power we give it and the weight we throw around it.  Because in the end, we must, “Remember that you are dust and that to dust you shall return.”  The flesh is not worth much and it not what Jesus died for any way.  These flesh fights are all our doing and of our own making.  So today, thank you for choosing another way, to walk away from the temporal and fleeting powers of epidermis in order to pursue more closely the holy trail that Jesus is on.

I am so proud of the work that we have done together and look forward to many more years with you.  I am deeply grateful for your support, to have you as travel companions and conversation partners.  I pray for many more years and even more words to share with you.  Happy anniversary!

What are we talking about when we talk about race?

We’ve got to come back to ourselves.  We’ve got to take more than a few steps back and  we will have to step on more than a few toes in the process.  But, let’s begin to walk it back.  Let’s go back to the beginning.  Return to the first Word that is certain to be the last Word, Alpha and Omega.

Race is not God’s story with us or for us.  Race is not even a narrator.  It has no speaking role.  Instead, it is a rumor run rampant, a hand me down lie that has never fit our humanity.  An 18th century invention, it has no theological support.  Still, we cheer it on, take it on as apart of who we are.

But this race talk has got to stop.  I call on your tongues to push back.  I ask that your souls not budge, that you not give it an inch or an ear.   Instead, we must listen more deeply as race is simply skin talk, superficial gibber, surface level banter.  When we talk about our skin and its social coloring, we literally have not scratched the surface of our human being and its understanding.

Still, we carry on with our prejudicial assumptions and segregated living arrangements.  But, we must not make room for race.  Because we’ve gotten no where with it.  Carried down through these hundreds of years, carried on the backs of one generation after another, we’ve got nothing but bent back and broken hearts to show for it.  We’ve got to leave it on the side of the road now, admitting that we do not need it to survive but have used it to serve our pride, greed and lust for power.

We’ve got to confess that this has gone too far, gotten out of hand and that we are tied up by our own tongues.  Our freedom is literally on the tip of our tongues.  We need only speak the Word to return to God’s story.  Race has created this distance between us and the Divine.  A hierarchical humanity, this is a step down and far, far away from what God had in mind when God called us by name– not by social colors.

When we talk about ourselves as racial beings and not human beings, we are talking ourselves out of our shared humanity.  Our common denominator is not color but our Creator.  To be sure, race is not a likely substitute, a shoe in and certainly not a stand in, which is why we have to really think about what we are saying about ourselves and each other.  Because we are more than out on a limb or hanging ourselves out to dry when we suggest that the totality of our existence depends on our skin when Jesus came to save souls.

Useless

images-1“It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless.”

~ John 6.63

These are the words of Jesus and they follow a “difficult teaching.”  The disciples feedback was not favorable.  The message was not entertaining; the classroom of discipleship was not a fun place to be.  This was a hard lesson to learn. They commented, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it (6.60)?”  The words of Jesus made the disciples think that no one could pass the course, that no one would graduate.  But, the words that followed might also prove difficult for many of us to accept given our investment in race: “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless.”

I taught a class on baptism at Panera this past Saturday.  Over soup, salad and sandwiches, I talked to a new convert about the new life, the fresh start she had been given.  Along with talking about Jesus’ life, she talked to me about hers before making this life- changing decision. She shared about her family of origin, her plans for the future, her interest in all things black.  Race.  I had not prepared to say anything about it.  It wasn’t apart of the notes that I had reviewed the hour before.

But, I understood her interest, her passion for the social identity and I told her as much.  After pointing to the black and white color combination that I was wearing and placing it against my skin, it was obvious to her that we were not seeing that we were black or that they were white.  So what were we really saying?

Then, I started talking about the funerals that I had recently officiated or served in.  The body was there.  They left it behind and they were gone.  “They are in a better place,” I heard friends and family members say.  Well, what of them is in a better place if their body is still here?  And if the flesh is so important, then why didn’t they take it with them?

It is their breath that is taken.  We speak of the evidence of death as the “last breath.”  She or he took their last breath.  Their spirit has left the earth, that which makes them animate and active is gone.  It is the spirit, the breath that is to be valued and over which we have no control.  The body is buried, left in the ground.  Useless.  This is why Jesus also says, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10.28).

She would be experiencing a funeral of her own in just a few weeks.  The flesh and its old nature will be of no use to her as a new creature in Jesus the Christ.  Instead, she will be baptized in the Spirit and given a new and purpose- full life.   I pray that in time and over time, she will learn that society’s categories, to include that of race, are meaningless and that she does not have to be found in any of those boxes in order for God to use her, that she is already unpacked, revealed because of the spirit that is shared and that is never useless.

Think again and again

po5cl7uuos8j9u“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind.  To make a deep physical path, we walk again an again.  To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”

~ Henry David Thoreau

Persons often question my convictions concerning race and my commitment to the race-less life.  While they ask many different questions, they all boil down to the same question: “How do you believe?”  They really want to know how I do it.  The simple is with my mind.

Transformation starts in the mind.  There is more power in the mind than in arguments, armies and government administrations.  It is in the mind, where intellect and feeling reside, where the conscious and unconscious meet, that decisions are made.  This is the place of reason, the battleground, the real ruling authority.  And there is nothing more powerful than a made up mind.

Transformation done here cannot be undone or reversed.  It is a change that you won’t see in a mirror.  The results won’t be captured on a scale.  It is not a matter of rosy cheeks or wrinkles, inches or pounds.  No, the outward proof is a life better lived, carefully thought out.

The condition of our minds determines the condition of our lives. But, it takes practice, mental conditioning.  Change does not occur with the arrival of a single thought but the repetition of that truth.  While a single truth can defeat any number of lies, they are not overcome easily and must be stomped out, walked out, lived out.

Our transformation will require us to “set our minds on things above” (Colossians 3.2), to meditate on the truths of Christ.  If we desire to become new, we must think again… and again.

God’s people

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all of the people’s on earth to be his people, his treasured possession.”

~ Deuteronomy 7.6, NRSV

The scriptures that accompany this verse have been used for all of the wrong reasons: American slavery, Jim Crow segregation, rules against “interracial” marriage also known as miscegenation or exogamy.  Persons have used it to justify their belief in human superiority and inferiority, separating persons according to the social coloring of skin.  According to race, persons are chosen according to physical characteristics– by other human beings.  Who are we to judge?  We don’t even like everything about ourselves.  How can we possibly talk of perfection as it relates to entire cultural group?  This ridiculous reduction does not begin to compare to what it means to be chosen by God, which is what the passage speaks to.

The nations that the Lord removes so that the children of Israel can occupy the land are described as stronger and more numerous (Deuteronomy 7.1).  They defeat them not because they have a larger army or better equipped soldiers.  They win because the Lord is on their side.  Persons don’t like to talk much about the God of the Old Testament but He is the same God in the New Testament.

Jesus, much like the children of Israel, was chosen to be the Messiah not based on looks or social pedigree.  In fact, he was not the king that the Jews were expecting.  He did not meet their “messianic expectations” so to speak.  But, this did not matter.  God was with him and because of him, God is with us.

Why God chooses us has nothing to do with how we look.  We are made in His image so if this were the standard, then doesn’t that suggest that God would choose everyone?  It does unless you believe in socially colored gods, that there is a god made in our image.  But, there is no god of socially colored white people and god of socially colored black people and god of socially colored red people and god of socially colored yellow people and god of socially colored beige people.  To be such is to live in a racialized reality, to live in the world that race has created.

We are chosen not based upon the fluctuating feelings, doubts and opinions of others.  We are not socially colored black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige people.  We are not race men and women as we can not be children of race and of God.  We cannot be chosen by race and  by God.  We are either a racial nation or a holy nation.  The two are not synonymous.

As Christians, we are God’s people, holy, a treasured possession, race-less.