Tag Archives: race- less anthropology

What should the Church do about race?

Print

“Of all the major institutions in our society, the church is still the most segregated.  Americans of different races work together, play together, study together and entertain eachother.  But seldom do they pray and worship together.”

~ David R. Williams

“A great many black Americans view their white fellow citizens with anger.  And a great many white Americans view their black fellow citizens with fear.”

~ Jacques Barzun, Race: A Study in Superstition

“Among large numbers of Christians, racism has been the other faith or one of the other faiths.”

George D. Kelsey, Racism and the Christian Understanding of Man

If there is one thing that I do not like about the Church, it is the fact that its members have incorporated the doctrine of race into the practice of our faith in Jesus Christ.  Though we claim to have experienced the freedom found in him and proclaim it from week to week, we are quite comfortable with the yoke of race.  We confess that we are all God’s creation, that we are all made in God’s image.  Yet, when we describe persons racially, we define them in ways that would attempt to erase the fingerprints of God.  We confine them to our eyes and we believe that we have put our finger on identity when we call her or him a color.

Being colored people imprisons us, unable to move beyond the flesh to the spirit.

How we ever agreed to use the flesh as a measurement of one’s acceptance to God while confessing a faith for which Jesus’s flesh and blood paid the price, I will never understand.  Nowhere in Scripture is the social coloring of flesh and to that end, our physical appearance ever used to determine our relationship with God or proximity to the presence of God.  See all heart references.  That hierarchy is purely a figment of the social imagination.  Our skin and our sins are two different things; they are synonymous or indicators of good and evil.

Being colored people and being Christians are mutually exclusive.

But, we did not stop there.  We subjected God to our belief in race.  Consequently, God was now socially colored beige, black, brown, red, yellow and white.  Either all at the same time or perhaps separately as there have been books written to that end with the suggestion of a “Black Jesus” and a “White Christ.”  We have allowed race not only to pull us apart but to pull Christ apart, crucified afresh (Hebrews 6.6).

Supremely spiritual, the Invisible, Immortal and Eternal, we called God a white and a black man, put God on our side and against those we were opposed to.  But, there are not enough crayons, markers, pens or paints to color God in.  God’s presence is endless.  Our colors will run out before God does.

Being colored people binds us to our flesh.  Perhaps, we are actually afraid of becoming spirit.  Maybe this is an attempt to keep the Spirit in and to keep us out.  Separated again.

So, what should the Church do about race?  Get rid of it.  Crush this idol.  Flee from it and don’t look back so that we can look at each other again and see the face of God.

Building the New

newbuild“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

~ Socrates

Well- said, Socrates.  I had been searching for the words to explain my emphasis on ridding myself of race while not exerting any new energy on old fights.  I have been asked time and again to revisit and review the multi- faceted effects of American slavery, systemic unfairness, the malpractices of the American justice system and one death after another involving European American police officers and African American men and women.  Thanks to you, Mr. Socrates, my search is over.

But, seriously, Socrates makes a great point– and not just because his name is Socrates.  My goal is not to forget history or to ignore the pain that our belief in race has caused to our identity and relationships with each other.  Instead, my plan is to get ahead of it in order to lead us out of it.  We have got to get ahead of race or we will remain behind in who we should be.

Samuel Miller wrote in The Life of the Soul, “The only way in which we can grow into something better than we are now is to do things we are not strictly able to do.”  While he was talking about the life of discipleship, the struggle between the two natures and the work of spiritual formation, the same is true of those who would dare to say the word post- racial.  It is enough to get me into a serious debate as the possibility of such is absurd.  I have been told on more than a few occasions that it will never happen, that we cannot be this kind of society, that “they” won’t let this happen.  Instead of working on what could be, we fight.

But, how much time do we spend trying to change the present by fighting with history?  That time has past and no matter the strength exerted, we cannot change what has happened.  It seems, at least to me, that hard hats are in order, that I need to see if steel- toed boots and a clergy robe go well together.  Because it’s time to build the new.

Beyond Stereotypes

label-319x400There is more to be seen of you and me than what has been thought visible and thereby obvious.  There is more to who we are.  In fact, we are quite literally scratching and picking on the surface of our humanity when we only look at the social coloring of skin.  We can’t move past race because we can’t see beyond popular, passed down and thereby treasured stereotypes.  Yes, if the truth be told, we have favorites.  But, I sense that there will be no oversharing there.

What is a stereotype?  It is “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.”  It is comparable to having tunnel vision.  Only in this case, the only thing you can see is how persons and cultural groups have been historically viewed.  If persons have only been seen as expendable, ignorant, hateful, criminal, an economic threat or cheap labor. And if this is how we introduce and interact with each other, then there will be no relational change.  That is, until we choose to see them differently, to decline the recommendations of race and the references of stereotypes.

However, this can only happen when we choose to see ourselves from a different angle.  This will require that we not only change positions or shoes in order to walk in someone else’s but that we discard the roles of oppressor and oppressed.  The racial relationship is the most oppressive of them all.  There is no broadening of view or perspective without these changes within us.  We cannot see beyond stereotypes if we continue to gloss over our own.

Look Different

imagesA couple of days ago, I posted a documentary on whiteness created by MTV. However brief, it demonstrated whiteness as a socially constructed reality as there is no white country or place of origin for white people.  Even the designation of a Caucasian is a misnomer and so is Caucasoid thought it sounds more scientific.  Both are rooted in the pseudo- science of race, created in hopes of attaching social privilege and status to physical appearance.

But, those who identify as white are not alone in their delusion as there are no black, brown, beige, red or yellow people.  Nope.  We are all apart of the masquerade of race.

But, let’s not stop there.  It’s not enough to identify the mask.  It’s time we take it off and see who is really beneath the layers of prejudice and stereotypes.

Let’s not just talk more about race but about reality– not as it is given to us but as we see it.  Take a moment and look at your skin color.  Recognize that is not the color that it has been assigned and then reflect on what that means.

How do you look now?  How does your neighbor, your neighborhood, your society and the world look now?  It is my prayer that documentaries like this one allow us to look again and again until we see ourselves apart from race, until we see each other without the lens of race, until we all stop looking alike but begin to look different.  Amen.