Tag Archives: Katharine Gerbner

Questioning our multiple supremacies

Katharine Gerbner writes in Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World that before there was the ideology of white supremacy, there existed what she calls “Protestant Supremacy.”  Gerbner writes about Anglicanism in Barbados what was also true in America, “The Anglican Church in Barbados was exclusive, the domain of slave owners and government officials. … The planter elite believed that their status as Protestants was inseparable from their identity as free Englishmen.  Like their counterparts in England, they purchased pews, memorialized themselves within church walls, and used the church as a place for both punishment and politics. … Unlike the parish churches in England, however, the Anglican Church in Barbados was restricted.  It separated masters from their enslaved ‘heathen’ laborers and marked Anglo- Barbarians as both English and free.  The association between Protestantism and freedom was so strong that most slave owners came to dismiss the idea that their slaves were eligible for conversion.”

How this kind of Christian identity functions and furthers the social oppression and cultural dislocation of people around the world can be considered if you want.  It is not a choice that one simply comes to.  There are no formal directions; it is not something that one simply arrives at.  Instead, you either see it or you don’t.

It is a question for the conscious Christian, those who are aware of the ghastly and grim differences between the Jesus of the New Testament and the practice of Christianity in America in its racialized, hyper-politicized and militarized form.   It is the quest for the dissatisfied with what has been and those who are simply not interested in the cultural projections of what will be.  It’s not trendy or fashion- forward.  It won’t be captured in polls or represented by a politician.  Because it is other- worldly.

It is the work of those who are interested in a faith tested to ensure that it is not self- centered or self- serving.  Because Christianity does not really work for us but it works against us and our tendencies.  If it is easy and causes no complications, no consternation, produces no ramifications that go against social norms, if it does not make obvious the competitions of our flesh, then we are doing it wrong– or not at all.  Faith in Christ leads to crucifixion: “Take up your cross and follow me” (Matthew 16.24-26).

Clearly, I am having my doubts about the expressions of Christianity on Sunday mornings at 11 a.m. and those I view at their multi- sight locations at various times.  Because if Christianity is serving our purpose or that of society, if there is any word in front of it that aims to define it, describe it, validate it– as if Christ’s life, ministry, death and resurrection are insufficient– if Christ is primarily used to doing something for you other than the work of salvation, if there is a narrative that seeks to explain God’s plan for the world other than that of Christ, if is not the means and the end, then this is not faith in Christ.

Instead, we are merely Christianizing our belief system, divinizing our top of the pile, king and queen of the hill position in the world,  making pseudo- sovereign decisions about bodies temporary and created before and outside of any system.  This is not apart of one’s identity in Christ.  Instead, it is human, carnal and ungodly.  Because there is no supremacy but God’s in this world or any other– created or imagined.  And if there is some other, color- coded, black, white or otherwise, well then, I have questions.

Because there cannot exist multiple supremacies.

1619

 

“About the latter end of August, a Dutch man of Warr of the burden of a 160 tunes arrived at Point-Comfort, the Comandors name Capt Jope, his Pilott for the West Indies one Mr Marmaduke an Englishman. … He brought not any thing but 20 and odd Negroes, w[hich] the Governo[r] and Cape Merchant bought for victuall[s].”

| John Rolfe

Four hundred years ago this month, the first Africans were brought to what is now America’s shores and we are still feeling the ripple affects of their bodies stolen, bodies chained, bodies renamed.  So, we can’t say their names.

“20 and odd Negroes.”

I write to count them among us.  1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8…9…10…11…12…13…14…15…16… 17…18…19…20.  These bodies count.  Add them to the body count.  America likes to pile on and today, persons continue the debate about stock piling weapons as a right.  Mass murderers, Americans are the king of the hill.

I write to acknowledge their presence because we are them.  We are what we have done to them.  In the same boat, we sink or swim, float or fall to the bottom, never to rise to the full expression of our human being.  If we cannot see them and frankly every human being as our sister and brother, then we are the real other.

Because they are what is foundational to America– bodies capitalized on, cultures undone, histories shunned, lands seized upon in the name of religion and then race.  But, it was and is always about power.  The others are just nicknames.  The Africans enslaved and those indigenous to what is now the United States of America know the country’s real name.  They know who America really is, which is why their voices were discounted and drowned out right from the start.

Their mouths were covered and their continued silence is evidence of the worst coverup.  Yes, they shout but have these persons really spoken up?  Because we don’t really want to know the cost of this so- called American identity.  We don’t want to know what it truly means to be an American.  How many names have been changed, cultures sacrificed, languages lost, allegiances sworn to America, forsaking all others.

Assimilation in America is assassination.  Who we were, could be, would be and should have the right to be falls to the bottom if we are to rise to the top.  Citizenship in America is the death of self.  No matter how many of your family members came together, whatever your number, we are no more and no less than those “20 and odd Negroes.”  No country of origin, only a color and human beings don’t find that odd.

What year is it?