Tag Archives: pre- racial theology

A Theology of Race-lessness

Aracial theology. Pre- racial theology. Post- racial (liberation) theology. A raceless gospel of Jesus Christ.  I have referred to my writings under all of these terms.  They did not come to me all at once and neither did this idea of racelessness.  It all started with a strong dislike for race.  I just couldn’t accept race, its terms and conditions for living in American society despite all of my attempts to.

I wasn’t trying to create something new or different.  My writings were not an attempt to challenge the theologies that had been created in response to American slavery/ race/ racism/ white power/ black power/ prejudice/ stereotyping/ segregation though they, too, did not satisfy me.  I tried to talk to persons about how I was feeling about race but the conversations were all the same.  No one could offer me a way out of race; for them, it just wasn’t possible or feasible.  It didn’t make sense to them what I was proposing.  So, I began to write.

I filled journal after journal with my questions and ruminations, articles and newspaper clippings on the origin and history of race.  I wanted to know race intimately and deeply.  I wanted to know race for myself apart from the experiences of others though this is where I found myself initially.  I read countless books on American slavery, lynching, abolitionism, Jim Crow segregation, eugenics, white privilege, genocide/ ethnic cleansing and the like.  I then needed to discover my story with race.  How had I met race?  How had this social construct been introduced to me?  How did I come to be known as black and did I want to continue my relationship with this social identity?

Due to these questions and so many others, I found myself in an unfamiliar place, in unknown territory.  I was already committed to writing the blog when I realized what I wanted to say, what I needed to say, what I had to say.  But, I was so afraid of what it would mean for me.  Was there life after race?  Did I have to be black or was there some other way of being in the world?

Praise God that I rediscovered this truth: “For in him, we live, move and have our being” (Acts 17.28, emphasis added).  I am in God.  I exist in God.  I happen, I occur in God.  There is not only a way of living (i.e. Christlike) but there is also a means by which I exist and it is not dependent upon race.  I had read this scripture many times but I had yet to be gripped by its truth.  When I could no longer hold onto race because I had come to realize what it really was, then and only then was I was able to grasp it.

A second scripture that contributed to my awakening to the reality of racelessness was Galatians 3.27-28: “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 or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (emphasis added).  If I am clothed with Christ, then my flesh, its power and powerlessness can no longer be seen/ used/ acted upon.

A third scripture is that of Second Corinthians 5.14-19: “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore, all have died.  And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.  From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way.  So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us” (emphasis added).  As Christians, we are to no longer relate to each other from a human perspective.These sacred scriptures and others have formed and informed what is now a theology of racelessness, which also influences my proclamation of the raceless gospel of Jesus Christ.

What is this theology of racelessness?  The theology of racelessness is a theology of a socially colorless God and in turn, Son of God and Spirit of God.  It asserts that God is not made in the social colors of race.  Thus, there is no black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige God and there is no black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige power but “all power belongs to God” (Psalm 62.11).  The theology of racelessness teaches us that God cannot be subjected to the power and authority of race save our imaginations, believing that the divine community that is God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, are not revealed in, through or by race.  It seeks to undermine the authority of race through the use of Christian theology and its sacred narrative that is the Holy Bible.  This theology is not born of social oppression or privilege but seeks to promote the regenerative work of God and God’s ministry of reconciliation through Christ’s redemptive work on the cross for all believers.

The theology of racelessness also asserts that race is purely an evil imagination, a social construct, an American idol that is not a product of the creative power of God neither is it apart of God’s redemptive plan for humanity.  Race is not an expression of Christian identity.  It should not define the Christian experience and it should not be employed in the practice of the Christian faith.  Consequently, there is no black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige church; there is only Christ’s Church.

Our theology needs to liberated fom race and its progeny.  This is one such attempt.

The Images We Create

We have images that we have created and that we seek to be created in.  For example, there is the celebrity or more specifically, the movie star.  In order to be considered one, there is not only a gift or talent that must be valued by others.  But once “discovered,” there is an image that she or he must adhere to.  There is a way to dress, to pose for cameras and to give an interview.  There are certain places that celebrities go and don’t go because they have an image to maintain.

The same can be said of race.  It is an image that we have created and with it, come rules much like that of the movie star.  If you are going to call yourself black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige, then you must avoid these people and not date those people.  Black people dress like this.  White people sound like that.  Red people eat this.  Yellow people believe that.  Brown people do this type of work.  Beige people live here.  However, if you do not adhere to these rules, which are more so social expectations, then you could be considered not black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige or not black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige enough.  This lack of obedience could cause one to be shunned from the group or made to feel out of place.  In this instance, it is not acceptable to be different.

Breaking the rules of race jeopardizes the stereotypes that have been put in place, which serve as a kind of description for each image.  It also distorts the images which include mammy, buck, pickaninny and Uncle Tom, which, in turn, change and/or challenge the prejudices that we must hold if we are to be a member of these socially colored groups. As is often said, “Image is everything.” So, whose or what image have you been created in?

How does race bring glory to God?

“It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death.”

~ Philippians 1.20

“The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” ~ Westminster Shorter Catechism

Paul writes these words to the saints at Philippi while in prison.  Earlier in the letter, he says to them, “What has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear” (1.12-14).  What an amazing testimony!  He has gotten into trouble for spreading the gospel and continues, while in chains, to spread  the good news to those around him and to the believers at Philippi.  Paul has not allowed his present condition to dissuade him to stop speaking.  Instead, it has only changed his audience.  Not only that but it has encouraged others to speak in Christ’s name with the fear of imprisonment because he is in prison and remains faithful to the message.

Paul continues to speak boldly, believing that either in life or by death, Christ will be exalted in his body.  He has given his body as an instrument to be used for God’s glory if not in the way that he lives then in the manner in which he dies.  Paul wants God to be recognized through the actions of his body.

How does race assist us in glorifying God in and through our bodies?  How does race and the racialized body spread the good news of Jesus Christ?  How does it encourage us to proclaim the message of a new life in Christ brazenly and courageously? If race is used to engender hatred and bring division, if race seeks to exalt itself above the knowledge of Christ and the position of God as Creator, how then can our being black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige Christians assist us in our chief end, which is to bring glory to God?  The answer is quite simple.  It can’t and because it cannot, we should not keep it.  We must shed our bodies, our identities, our lives of race and pursue the raceless life, proclaiming the raceless gospel of Jesus Christ so that we might bring glory to God.

Race does not have the last word

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” ~The Revelation 22.13, NRSV

Of the many things that I dislike about race, one is its use in the predeterminations of a person’s life. Before the plot begins, race has already finished the story.  It is the same for everyone.  You will hate this social color and you will love your own.  You will live here and they will live there. You will believe this or that about those people.  Year after year, the script remains the same.

No matter her or his accomplishments, abilities or desires, they are no different or better able to change the course of race.  If race says it, that settles it.  If you are black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige, this or that will happen.  It’s just the way it is so you might as well get used to it.

Well, what if I don’t want to?  What if I don’t believe in race or its social colors?  What if I was tired of being identified by race and wanted to change the means by which I came to be known and how I know myself?  Why don’t we ever question race?  Why don’t we ever ask ourselves why this continues to be our truth?  Why do we allow race to talk so much about us?

I think that race needs to be interrupted.  We should ask race, “How do you know this about that person or people/ cultural group?  Are they really all the same?  And if so, then what is the point of living?  If we have no say in the outcome of our lives, if we are all headed toward the same racialized end, then what is the aim of our existence?  Why comb our hair or brush our teeth or wear clean clothing if only one socially colored group will be seen as beautiful?  Why attend school or excel academically if only one socially colored group is intelligent?  Why dream if it will only come to pass for one socially colored group?  Why explore if there are boundaries?  Why love if there are limits and restrictions as to who I can love?  What is the purpose of being born if there is nothing new about one’s life, if it is all predetermined by race?

We need to be reminded that race does not have the last word, the final say in our lives.  There is life after race and a language beyond race.  So, when race begins to talk to us, we need to say, “Shut up!”  It’s not polite but it is effective.  We have heard enough from race and about race.  Truly, only God knows us and only God knows our end.  Race is out of place and out of order.  God is the Alpha and the Omega so race does not have the last word.

To Be Known

“There is no deep knowing of God without a deep knowing of self and no deep knowing of self without a deep knowing of God.” ~ John Calvin

“Observe all men; thy self most.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

“And you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father…” ~ First Chronicles 28.9, NRSV

How do we wish to be known and how do we come to discover ourselves?  Stumbled upon or inherited, our identity can be something we work for or that works against us.  Who we are determines who others will be to us.  How we see ourselves influences the manner in which we view others.  But, who or what knows us best and how is our identity determined by it?  Is it our gender, our parents, our race, our God?

Race makes the knowing of ourselves too easy, too predictable.  Simply to be seen is to be known.  Our physicality is inventoried and conclusions drawn: You are black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige.  But, do we really know ourselves if what we have learned has been repeated for hundreds of years to every person of the same social coloring or cultural background?  If it has been used to maintain social hierarchy, cultural divisions, faulty notions of beauty and power, can it be trusted as a reliable source of our identity?  If that identity does more to conceal our true nature and its purpose?  If it is an identity lived in and for and through our flesh and its appendages?

No. I want to be known and I want to know myself beyond the social coloring of my skin, the size of my lips, the texture of my hair and the shape of my nose.  I want to be known for more than my socioeconomic ranking, educational background, geographical location and workplace title.  And I want to know myself as God knows me, spiritually, deeply and truly– without all of the lusts and lies that get in the way.  If not, then I will die a stranger to myself.  Oh God, help me to know myself and to be known without race and apart from stereotypes.  Amen.