Tag Archives: race and God

Before God Was White: The Rumblings of a Race-less Theology

Image result for Jesus White House“God is spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

~ John 4.24, NRSV

Halloween is over and yet, it seems nearly impossible to remove the mask of whiteness from the face of God.  Now a spooky, to be avoided, death- wielding deity, this socially colored white God has it in for all oppressed people.  But, this is a trick of race.  God is not a white man.

The social construct of race remakes God in the image of whiteness.

Instead of the Church placing race under the scrutiny of sacred Scripture, she allowed Scripture to be scrutinized by and rewritten from the perspective of race.  Bad Church.  In most if not all cases, our personal theology does not inform our understanding of race but race determines our understanding of theology.  In our minds, the eternal, immortal and invisible God can be colored in.  In our minds, the omnipotent God can be told who to love and to hate according to our prejudices.  In our minds, the omnipresent God can be segregated, partitioned off, cornered by one community of “color.”

But, when did color become all- powerful?  Greater than God?  Greater than us?  Greater than God could ever be?

When did “the future of our race” become the historical narrative and present aim of the Church?   And what of our faith in a past filled with putrid, hateful relationships with ourselves, members of our family and those we would define as “the enemy” reflects the nature of our fellowship? When did the will of race become the will of God?  Why do we color- code our theology?  Why must God be socially colored beige, brown, black, red, yellow or white in order for us to believe that God is with us and for us?  And in turn, that God is with them and those people too?  When did we begin to worship race and to identify God as a colored human being?

I know that this may be hard to believe but there was  time when God was not socially colored white.  God existed (and still does) outside of the segregated categories of race.  God was (and still is) omnipresent and thus, unable to be confined to a community or culture of people.  “God so loved the world…” (John 3.16).  To color- code power, that is white power, black power and so on, is to limit God’s supremacy.  It implies that the Spirit of God can be restricted and somehow harnessed by human hands.  God’s identity wasn’t, isn’t and never will be the sum total of racial attributes.  To racialize God is an attempt to stereotype Mystery.

A theology that is racialized, that describes God as a beige, brown, black, red, yellow or white man, is not talking about the God of the Christian faith but the God of the American faith.  It is faith in skin, white skin mostly and not in the salvific work of Jesus Christ achieved on a cross more than 2,000 years ago.  God is not involved in a race war but is fighting for our salvation.  God is after souls not the social coloring of skin.

 

Reflect on the statements below and consider where you may have painted God white.  May they cause a rumbling in your theology as well.

God is not a white Person.

God’s goodness is not whiteness.

God’s power is not white supremacy.

God’s blessing is not expressed in white privilege.

God’s love is not based on the social coloring of skin or any other real or imagined physical attribute.

God is Spirit and consequently, cannot be segregated, redlined and thereby, captured by one socially colored group, particular community or culture.

God is not a member of a race.  It is a social construct and God is self- existent.

I’ve heard it all before

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Race frustrates me for many reasons but one that I can’t seem to make sense of is the repetition.  Race has not said anything new about any human being to date.  And I’m tired of hearing the same old story of us versus them, the same old fears: they are going to get you or they want you, the same old prejudices: they are not good people, not to be trusted, mixed up with, hung around, the same old stereotypes: you can only be master or slave, in or out, up or down.  I’m tired of having conversations and marches and prayer vigils and elections only to come to the same conclusions: hate and separate.

And I am supposed to believe that EVERYONE from this culture is bad, up to no good and on the earth to be the representatives of evil?  I am also to believe that EVERYONE from that culture is good, the poster culture of righteousness and dwells in the earth to make it good.  Please forgive me but I can’t.

To suggest that there is no new person under the sun, that every member of the world is just more of the same does not say much about our Creator.  How is it that there is great diversity in insects and reptiles, trees and flowers, variations in the size of bodies of water and the shape of mountains, clear distinctions between animals, birds and fish?  But, all human beings are the same?

It only works if you believe in the category of race.  And I don’t so… please forgive me if I cannot sit for another conversation on race and “you people” and the ominous they.  I cannot pretend that I am interested, that I don’t know the ending to this conversation, the latest, old story.  So, please forgive me if I excuse myself in order to entertain something new because I’ve heard it all before.

I’m now listening for the sound of me.  Shhhh.