Tag Archives: race and the American Church

Saved Together

I am often discouraged by the nature of our fellowship, by the obvious hypocrisy of the Church in North America.  We claim to be the body of Christ while socially coloring in his hands and feet so that he is one of us– and not them.  Black Jesus.  White Christ.  Emmanuel, God is with us– and not them.

I am left to wonder if we will ever be known by God’s unconditional love when we have divinized the segregation of holy space.  Black Church.  White Church.  And before we begin the finger- pointing to say who started it all, I am looking for hands raised to end the reality that some churches are “for white people only” and others are “for colored people only.”

How the Church can claim to represent the spiritual reality of “God with us” when we have allowed race to come between us is dumbfounding.  How can we be siblings according to our faith, one family under God and base our fellowship on the social coloring of flesh– instead of Christ’s cross?  No need to make the claim of being an alternative community because there is more of the same behind church doors.  “This church is my church.  This church is your church.”  We do not worship well together.

I lament the theologies that support the doctrine of race and its progeny.  I am saddened by the calculated and polite distance between churches of different cultures and ethnicities.  I am surprised by our level of acceptance and comfort with this social arrangement.   Because this is not what God wanted.  This is not God’s kingdom on earth but our own racial empire.  Made in America.

And where is the authentic conversation about the social construct of race and its progeny?  Where is the vulnerability and the willingness to show our wounds, to share what we have witnessed and to wonder aloud, “Why are we so divided as Christians?  Why can’t we come together?  Why aren’t we in this faith together?”  These questions bear repeating until we have answered them with transformed lives.

This afternoon, I was rereading the words of Eugene Peterson in his book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society.  He writes,

“Our membership in the church is a corollary of our faith in Christ.  We can no more be a Christian and have nothing to do with the church than we can be a person and not be in a family.

… There are Christians, of course, who never put their names down on a membership list; there are Christians who refuse to respond to a call to worship each Sunday; there are Christians, who say, ‘I love God but I hate the Church.’  But, they are members all the same, whether they like it or not, whether they acknowledge it or not.  For God never makes private, secret salvation deals with people.  His relationships with us are personal, true, intimate, yes; but private, no.  We are a family in Christ.  When we become Christians, we are among brothers and sisters in faith.  No Christian is an only child.”

Peterson reminds me that we have been saved together, that one culture does not have an inside track on salvation, that God made no back room deal that allowed one people group to be more or less saved, less loved, less blessed than the other.  Because there is but one cross, one Christ, one blessed sacrifice, one reunion around one throne, one banquet table with seats for us all.

God undivided but shared with us all so that we could be saved together.

Remember to Dream

MLK-600More than remembering his name or his birthdate, each year I am challenged to remember the dream of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  To be sure, it is God’s dream for humanity (Second Corinthians 5.11-21). Prophet and pastor, Dr. King is unmatched in his challenge to America’s citizens to be reconciled to one another.  Echoing God, it is a call to sit down at a table, to look into each other’s eyes, to share in what sustains us.  A minister of reconciliation, it is a dream that must come to fruition or our daily living will remain a nightmare.

There is no end to the number of wounds that we inflict upon each other.  The nightly news is to be avoided if you want to have a good night’s rest as we would certainly toss and turn after reports of police brutality, community unrest, political bickering, acts of terrorism and hate speech after hate speech.

We need to dream for the days are dark and life has become antagonistic.  It is indeed a fight to believe in all that is good and pure and true.  It can prove difficult to think on things that are praiseworthy (Philippians 4.8).  But, remember to dream.

This is a call for eyes open, out of bed, no pajamas or pillow dreaming.  This is not to be confused with the recitation of King’s dream but it should come from our minds and our mouths. While we are watching and praying, we must remember to dream for to dream is to hope and to believe.

Dear Body of Christ

Lords-Supper-Church-Stock-Photos-300x200

Dear Body of Christ,

We are the Body of Christ, not the race or races of Christ.  We are not colors but the children of God, not stereotypes but the saints of God, not prejudicial guesses but members of a royal priesthood.  I thought that we were called to walk in the spirit not after the flesh, that we had been called to worship in the spirit not according to our flesh, that we had been commanded to love as Christ does not as our culture requires.

We are the Body of Christ, the Church of the living Christ of which he is the chief cornerstone.  But, Christ did not lay the foundation of race.  Racism was not a part of the blueprint for our being.  Prejudice is not an architect of our humanity. None of this was ever a part of God’s plan for us.

We are the Body of Christ, the bride of Christ, married to one groom.  There has been but one joining, one wedding ceremony, one covenant shared, one vow made.  Christ does not have multiple wives: a Black Church, a White Church, a Red Church, a Brown Church, a Yellow Church, a Beige Church. We are called to be one Body, members of one another. It’s impossible to be a body if we are not.

Sincerely,

A concerned member

God’s people

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all of the people’s on earth to be his people, his treasured possession.”

~ Deuteronomy 7.6, NRSV

The scriptures that accompany this verse have been used for all of the wrong reasons: American slavery, Jim Crow segregation, rules against “interracial” marriage also known as miscegenation or exogamy.  Persons have used it to justify their belief in human superiority and inferiority, separating persons according to the social coloring of skin.  According to race, persons are chosen according to physical characteristics– by other human beings.  Who are we to judge?  We don’t even like everything about ourselves.  How can we possibly talk of perfection as it relates to entire cultural group?  This ridiculous reduction does not begin to compare to what it means to be chosen by God, which is what the passage speaks to.

The nations that the Lord removes so that the children of Israel can occupy the land are described as stronger and more numerous (Deuteronomy 7.1).  They defeat them not because they have a larger army or better equipped soldiers.  They win because the Lord is on their side.  Persons don’t like to talk much about the God of the Old Testament but He is the same God in the New Testament.

Jesus, much like the children of Israel, was chosen to be the Messiah not based on looks or social pedigree.  In fact, he was not the king that the Jews were expecting.  He did not meet their “messianic expectations” so to speak.  But, this did not matter.  God was with him and because of him, God is with us.

Why God chooses us has nothing to do with how we look.  We are made in His image so if this were the standard, then doesn’t that suggest that God would choose everyone?  It does unless you believe in socially colored gods, that there is a god made in our image.  But, there is no god of socially colored white people and god of socially colored black people and god of socially colored red people and god of socially colored yellow people and god of socially colored beige people.  To be such is to live in a racialized reality, to live in the world that race has created.

We are chosen not based upon the fluctuating feelings, doubts and opinions of others.  We are not socially colored black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige people.  We are not race men and women as we can not be children of race and of God.  We cannot be chosen by race and  by God.  We are either a racial nation or a holy nation.  The two are not synonymous.

As Christians, we are God’s people, holy, a treasured possession, race-less.