Tag Archives: post- racial Christianity

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 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.

The Life Race Has Planned For Us

plan-laberinto“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

~ Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell, an American writer and lecturer, had it right.  Echoing the words of the writer of Proverbs, Campbell reminds us that there is a difference between the life that we have planned and the life that is planned for us.  That old sage said, “The human mind may devise many plans, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established” (19.21).  We can make lots of plans but the ones that matter will fall through if they are not in accordance with the will of God.

Likewise, race has a plan for us.  It has our prejudices lined up for us.  It has a stereotypical path prepared for us.  It offers a group meaning, a prepackaged reality that comes in bulk colors.  According to race, you and I can only come in socially colored beige/ black/ brown/red/ yellow/ white.

Six ways to be.  Six ways to be seen.  Only six ways to perceive the world and be understood.  As a woman, I cannot live with only six pairs of shoes so this option will never make sense to me.  This limited way of being is unnecessary when there is the possibility of at least seven billion other options.

With the number of human beings well- above seven billion as of March 2012, it seems absurd to try to fit them all into socially constructed categories.  We can’t all fit into races.  There isn’t a box, a community, country, continent or a color large enough to contain us all.  No, only God is able to accomplish such a feat.

And since race was never apart of God’s plan, it will fail.  The life race has planned for us is not the one that God is waiting to give us.

Seven Habits of a Race-less Christian

0011828It’s a popular beginning for a book title.  I’ll spare you the examples.  And the number seven is considered lucky so, why not.  Seriously, I am not concerned with popularity (Well, maybe a little.) and I don’t think that persons would describe my approach to the social construct of race as a lucky one.  Most days, it is a look of confusion, irritation and more often, relief.  But, I digress.

My intention is to get you and I to think of the ways in which we can intentionally remove race from our interactions with each other.  This idea concerning the habits of a race-less Christian was spawned by a series of questions that included, “How does race impact your ability to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?”  Does race, its prejudices and stereotypes change the ways in which we believe and worship, love and serve, work and play?  Absolutely, it does.  I’ ll spare you a review of the theologies that have developed from it.  But, there will still be a quiz on Friday.

So, how do we behave as Christians, the hands and feet of Christ if we are judging them based on the social coloring of skin?  What can we do to prevent race from getting in the way of our witness and work for Christ?  Why can’t we come to church and not allow our prejudices to come with us?  The short answer to the last question is because we do not die to them.

The seven habits of a race-less Christian may read more like a funeral program because it will involve practical applications for cross- bearing.  Dying to our will and ego is essential.  We simply cannot proceed until their is a burial.

The seven habits of a race-less Christian are not complete by themselves but should be used as initial steps.  So, let’s get going.

Step 1.  Commit to learning about race– not in order to informatively react or to resolve that this is not our church’s problem.  But, learn about the history of race through scholarly research and make your interest in understanding apart of your private devotions.  Sit with the words of race and the commandments of Christ.

Step 2.  Pray for persons who are involved in race-related incidents.  Don’t listen to form an opinion or to give a verdict.  Just listen to what happened, how race impacts the soul and impedes the ministry of reconciliation.  And be in tune with how race makes you feel.

Step 3.  Listen for the ways in which race and its progeny are used in society.  Seek to understand what it means in and to your community.  And then ask yourself why again and again.  How would a change in the definition impact our relationships?

Step 4.  Acknowledge your prejudices and the ways in which you stereotype persons of other cultural groups.  Think of her as Jesus would and ask “How does Jesus see her?  How does Jesus know her?”

Step 5.  Allow the false perceptions of race to die.  Don’t breathe life into them by making excuses for our use or continued acceptance of associations that alienate, bully and depersonalize other human beings.

Step 6.  Form intentional cross- cultural relationships.  No counting.  No quota.  No limit.

Step 7.  Invite her and him to worship with you.  This is how the church is desegregated, with one friendship at a time.  Becoming race-less Christians will lead to a race-less church.

Let me know where these steps take you.

 

This may sound absurd

Sprout_Lightbulb“If at first an idea does not sound absurd, then there is no hope for it.”

~ Albert Einstein

I am not sharing the most popular message.  It has certainly been perceived as naive, misinformed and premature.  I seem to have missed a few steps, be lacking in experience or unable to see the full picture.

But what if I haven’t?  What if I saw the steps and tackled them two by two?  What if I didn’t want any more experience with race, racism, prejudice and stereotypes?  What if I have heard this story before and I know where this is going?  So, let me stop it.

The race-less gospel does not seek to ignore the crimes committed in the name of race.  No, I know that persons believe in race and feel a sense of duty to serve and protect their group based on the social theories of race.   The race-less gospel does not question the accounts of history.  I am informed as to how race came into being and what we have done in devotion to race.  I am aware that persons believe that they are colors, that the social coloring of their skin is the best indicator of their worth and how persons will value them.  But, I don’t.

The race-less gospel is the message of Jesus the Christ, the hope that those who have been baptized with Christ might die to flesh and its social meanings daily.  “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3.27-28, NRSV).  There is no longer socially colored beige/ black/ brown/ red/ yellow/ white.  Our categories do not fit into Christ and once we have put on Christ, everything is covered.  We are one body in Christ and it is category-less.

I know that it sounds absurd but I like the way that it sounds.