Tag Archives: post- racial humanity

Race and our humanity– not even close

I am not searching for myself.  I certainly will not find her in a crayon box.  I did not wait my entire life to discover that I am a color.  The creation narrative recorded in Genesis is much more meaningful, spiritual and tells me that God breathed into the first human being and he became a living soul (Genesis 2.7; First Corinthians 15.45, emphasis added).  Besides that, the gospel says Jesus came to save sinners, to save souls– not my skin.

So, if you and I are still talking about our skin and its social coloring, then we have quite literally only scratched at the surface of what it means to be a human being.  Johannes Baptist Metz is a great teacher of human being.  He writes of the work of becoming one in Poverty of Spirit.  Metz says,

“Becoming a human being involves more than conception and birth.  It is a mandate and a mission, a command and a decision.  We each have an open- ended relationship to ourselves.  We do not possess our being unchallenged; we cannot take our being for granted as God does.  … Being is entrusted to us as a summons, which we are each to accept and consciously acknowledge.”

Consequently, when we talk about our humanity racially, I wonder what we are really talking about.  Do we even know what we are saying?  Not fully understanding the real task as outlined by Metz, we instead engage in this busy work of the flesh.  It comes to nothing and in the end, we will not be graded on our skin.

The words of race are useless, empty, adding nothing to our humanity.  It is not the test for true humanity, the answer to our lingering questions on identity or the way to becoming human.  Instead,  we must look to Christ’s teachings, his journey and hands for that.  Hands on a cross, we have to pick up our own and deny ourself in order to follow him(Matthew 16.24-26).   Talking about race does not even get us remotely close to him or our selves.

Believing Race

Racism+the+belief+that+all+members+of+each+race+possess+_5e464c48b7e2ff36b66cbfd88287ecf1Recently, I have been considering the meaning of belief as it relates to the Christian faith.  My readings and writings have been led by this desire to understand more fully what I mean and in turn, what others are saying when we confess, “I believe.”  For the past couple of months, I have led a small group study of Kyle Idleman Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus, which left me with this pressing question: “How do we know the difference between a screaming fan of Christ and a follower of Jesus?”

This past Sunday, I delivered a sermon concerning the nature of belief and the various interpretations of belief.  I began the sermon with statements that I had heard Christians say concerning their faith like “I’m a Christian but I don’t go to church.”  “I am Christian but I’m not religious.”  “I am a Christian but nobody’s perfect.”  Frankly, they sounded more like disclaimers and they, too, leave me with questions.

On Tuesday, I led a workshop titled “Shoes Required: Walking out the Gospel of Peace” and the group discussion quickly revealed that there are several layers to our meanings, that peace practiced is very different from peace talked about.  So, what do we mean when we say that we believe in peace?  I know.  More questions.

However, questioning is a natural part of belief.  So, it seems only natural to question my belief in race.  What do we mean when we identify ourselves by socially constructed races?  What are we saying when we call ourselves colors and why do we believe?

What is the nature of this faith and our commitment?  How is that God gives us free will to confess Christ or not but we have no choice as it relates to this social construct?  And if our skin is really not beige/ black/ brown/ red/ yellow/ white, then what are we really saying about ourselves, our neighbor and our God?

Do we believe in race or in the natural inferiority and superiority of people?  Do we believe in race or the sovereignty of societies and cultures?  Do we believe in race or natural privileges and disadvantages?  Proven not to be a biological reality but a social invention, what do we believe and does it really have anything to do with race?

I believe that race is nothing more than a concoction, a cover up, which prevents us from truly seeing and consequently, believing who we really are: all God’s children.  So, for that  reason, I don’t believe race at all.

Identity Forward

forward-logoThere are those we describe as fashion- forward.  They don’t wear what is popular but determine the trend and set the tone for a season or years to come.  They are ahead of their time, wearing what will become fashionable.  They open our eyes to the possibility to what we can wear and look like.  They change our appearance.

They don’t stick to what is comfortable or predictable, easy and acceptable.  They don’t choose what is accessible.  But, they look at the choices and decide to create what they want to wear.  They create a wardrobe for one and fit the style for themselves.

Well, I would describe myself as identity- forward.  The term does not exist; I made it up.  And this is what persons who create must do.  We have to create what is not, what will be if someone would have the courage to think, believe and say it.

Like designers who create from what is not, who pull from their imaginations, I have looked at what society has to offer and decided against being cut from the same cloth.  I am choosing to not get behind the color line and not even to get ahead of it.

I want to erase it.  I see another way of being and it fits me better.  Post- racial comes in all sizes and for all shapes.  Orders are welcome.

 

Bigger Words

4485212670_692de0d90a“…as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’)– in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.” ~ Romans 4.17, NRSV

Paul is writing about Abraham, the father of our faith and likewise, the ability of our Father, God who “calls into existence the things that do not exist.”  As a child of God, I do believe that I have this same ability.

***

There are days when I feel trapped in the ordinary, stuck chasing persons who talk, think and travel in circles and packs of the predictable, who have the same problems and resolve at the same conclusions every single time.  I point to a new path; they point to the crowd.  “Every one is going this way.  Why can’t you just follow history?  Why can’t you be who we have always been.”

It is because I have a vision of a race-less humanity.  I can feel the potential of our extraordinary being.  We are more than flesh; we are spirit.

I recognize that I am caught in the mundane but the mysterious is in sight.  I am inching closer to my true self with every declaration of race-lessness.  A race- less life is a Christ- filled life.

And in the same manner, I am moving close to the Eternal God though time often interjects.  The clock’s hands get in the way of this timeless, boundary-free existence.  They point to the past too, making connections that string me along until I see the pattern, the cycle… the circles.

I can’t walk that way.  Though my flesh attempts to ground me, my spirit soars.

And I have better words than race for my humanity, my being and belonging.  I have bigger words than its systems of hatred and rejection, of lawlessness and fear.  I have the omnipresent Word that cannot be segregated or divided, colored in or categorized.

God is the Word unspoken, self- existent and self- evident.  Made in God’s image, I cannot be what race suggests.  The word is simply too small.  There is not enough room for me there; I cannot conform.

So, I build the place my soul can inhabit.  Sight unseen, I call it into existence now.  Post- racial.

Why Race Remains Relevant

relevance-rises1

I’ve  done a lot of reading on race and its progeny, on the effects of our hatreds, on the traditions of prejudice.  As a child, it began as an interest, a hobby.  I was naturally drawn to things that were race- related.  Not dolls, miniature kitchen sets or even sports but books, movies, pictures that told the story of race- relations.

And it only intensified while in college and after graduate school.  Just a couple of weeks ago, I was in a bookstore, looking for more books on race.  I can’t seem to satisfy the need; it always asks for more.

Now more than twenty years later, I am still interested in race and there are no signs of dissipation.  But, the focus is different.

I am now concerned about the lifespan of race.  As much as I love to read about it, I now write about its end.  For me, race is not relevant.  But it remains so for many others.

Race remains relevant because:

1.  We make it current.  We make it new and give it new life.  We tell the story of race and pass its segregationist traditions on to one generation after the generation.  We tell them that things will never change and so they, this generation, doesn’t.

2.  We are afraid to see persons differently.  We are afraid to remove the lens of stereotypes.  We don’t trust God’s vision more than race’s sight.

3.  We are afraid to speak of persons without race.  We are afraid not to repeat after race and its prejudices.  Our vocabulary is strangely reduced when we cannot color code human beings.

4.  We are afraid to move beyond the flesh.  We are afraid to live in the Spirit.  We are fearful because it is out of our control.  We don’t make the rules there and we can’t change them.  We are not in authority and everyone is really equal.

5.  We think that race gives us a sense of power and control over others and the outcomes of life.  Race offers to us a sort of peace through the abandonment of our will to a life that is preplanned and stereotyped.

6.  We have not invested in any other language or way of being.  We think that it would be too costly to leave race and we do not have the words to describe it.  Or, we think that the new words are not enough in number or in impact.  We don’t believe that there is a stronger or truer word than race. But, I have one: GOD.

7.  We are afraid of what we might learn in the absence of race.  The race-less life calls for a new mind, new thoughts and this might be frightening for those who have become accustomed to thinking one way.  We don’t want to change our minds for fear that we might have been wrong all along about everything and every one.

8.  We don’t want to be new.  We would rather remain old creatures and not the new creation that God desires to make us (Second Corinthians 5.17).

9.  We don’t have anything new to say about human beings.  The sad fact is, we keep talking about race because we have not invested in seeing ourselves a part from it.  We have been calling ourselves racial beings for more than four hundred years and don’t know how to say anything else.  Our imagination has been captured and with it, the possibility of God’s vision for us to escape.

10.  We are fighting hard to make God irrelevant.  We want to believe that we can “live, move and have our being” apart from God (Acts 17.28).  Race is one such attempt but it will never work.