Tag Archives: race and Christian identity

Good Skin

Bad skin.  Good skin.  A larger problem than pimples, blackheads and an oily T- zone, the social coloring of skin and the meanings we associate with it are important.  We talk about our flesh as if we expect it to behave or perform in a certain way, as if it represents our character and can somehow let us down.  Ah, but in America, it can and it does.

The social construct of race says that my skin defines me, tells you what my presence means not just in this present moment but for the rest of my life.  Much like how we look at fruit and inspect it for ripeness, I am expected to believe that solely by looking at my appearance one can determine if I am good or bad.  Worse still, persons can toss me aside based on their observations without ever having a personal experience with me.

Wanting the preferred “color,” many of us train our epidermis with bleaching creams and lighteners, change the skin around our eyes, nose and lips to look right and consequently, to be right.  We are then the right kind of person.  We are socially acceptable.  We can show our faces here.  Our bodies are safe and safe here.

And we have made the process of identification very simple.  We have color- coded good and bad people.  And all we have to do is look at persons to tell the difference.  Goodness also comes in degrees.  Consequently, the lighter the skin color, the better the person.

Still, the social construct of race is a troublesome invention.  It is a meddlesome creation that gets in the way of our humanity.  It restricts the way that we see God, ourselves and our neighbor.  This is why our declarations of the race-less gospel of Jesus Christ is so important.  This is why we must repeat again and again that we are not children of color but children of God.  Again, we are children of God not children of color.  Because there is a difference as race is not our creator; it is not the beginning of us.  Because there is life after the flesh, it’s salvation is limited.

The social construct of race offers salvation through the social coloring of skin.  However, this is not the gospel of Jesus Christ.  As Christians, it is his nail- scarred hands that save us– not the color of our own.  Because if whiteness is our salvation, then what does it atone for?  If all we have to do is be born in the right skin, what is socially colored “white” skin, then what salvation are we secure in?  If the social coloring of skin saves us from suffering and/or affords unearned privileges, then why believe in the work of Christ’s cross?

The fact is, our belief in race does not supplement our faith in Jesus Christ; instead, it supplants it.  The message of race does not affirm the good news of Jesus Christ.  Because who needs a good God if you have good skin?

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.

 

Unpacking the baggage of race

mood_tim-walker_iris-palmer-and-her-suitcases_italian-vogueThe American racial identity is baggage.  It is a bunch of small containers for our humanity that transport us to the destiny of history.  Race is a round trip backward.

There is so much to race, so much that we have to hold on to and positions that we cannot let go.  Race is cumbersome and gets in the way of who we really are.  It impedes our movement and slows our lives down.

The social construct of race is burdensome and too heavy to carry.  So, we should just put it down.  It is of no benefit and who packed these bags anyway?

Check the tag; where are we going with race?  How much is it going to cost?  Where is race taking us?  And do we really want to continue on this path?

Its history is heavy.  Its convictions are loaded.  Its summaries concerning human life are weighty.  We need to put race down. Being and identifying who we are is not this hard.  It does not take this much strength to be who God created us to be.

We are not what is in those bags?  We are not hatred or prejudice, anger or resentment, bitterness or jealousy, wrath or unforgiveness.  These are feelings not faces.  But, all of these things are folded neatly in the baggage of race, stored just in case we need to wear them.  And this is why our hearts are heavy and our souls are weighted down.  It is because race is a burden not a blessing.

These carry on items do not allow us to carry on with life as God intended but we have to stop and start again every day.  So, let’s unpack the baggage because where we are going, race is not needed.

 

We are predominately, majority

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We are predominately spirit, more spirit than flesh, more breath than earth. We are majority spirit, more than a number, made of a substance that cannot be counted.

We are predominately us; there really is no “them,” no human being outside of our shared humanity.  We are all strangers, all immigrants, all travelers passing through this world.  We are majority neighbor, relative, family, kindred, siblings– despite all of our many rivalries.

We are predominately God’s.  We don’t even belong to ourselves as we did not make ourselves; we are not co- creators, co- laborers in the field of humanity.  Who has planted us in the earth and who will root us up?  We do not actually take care of ourselves.  For who gives us breath, His Spirit?

God… is predominately, the majority of us.

You Can’t Fail

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I don’t like race.  I think that this is obvious by now.  But, what I cannot understand is why so many people do, why they choose to accept it despite all of its bad words and behavior, why we give it so much power and allow it to tell us who we and others are and how we are to interact with each other.  We act as if we do not have any other options, as if we are stuck with race.

But, we are not.  We don’t have to put up with race and its designations, its categories, its false prophecies that we have to make true.  That’s right.  We do the work of race.  It is nothing without us.

One of the things that I find troubling is the predictions of race, that according to race, persons can just look at you and tell you that you will fail.  But, our ability to perform and be successful is not determined by what is seen and not even what persons say.

We are not the words of people but the words of God.  People do not speak us into existence.  God does.  Race does not speak us into existence.  God does.

So, race says that based on the social coloring of your skin, because of your culture, your physical features, your geographical location, you will fail.  What a lie!  Race’s stereotypes are opinions, biased guesses, prejudicial hopes.

The truth is that you cannot fail because we are the spoken word of God.  It impossible for anything that God says to fail.  Everything that God creates, He creates to perform well and to be successful.  The fact is that you are the amazing, incredible, miraculous word of God.

You cannot return to God void, empty, unperformed (Isaiah 55.11).  You must do as He says because you are what He says.  You cannot fail because your Creator is not a failure.  You are God’s word, success-filled.  “Live, move and have your being” as God’s word not race’s stereotype (Acts 17.28).