Tag Archives: race-less Christianity

I am a race atheist

Before you wave me off, dismiss my faith system or the lack thereof, hear me out.  Give me a chance, an opportunity to make my case.  I assure you: This is not what I thought that I would be saying.

I used to believe in race, with all my heart, from my head down to my toes with natural hair and African- inspired clothing.  No specific country to call my own, I claimed the entire continent.  (Note of clarification: Black is a color– not a country or continent, though we have made the two synonymous.  Black people are from… Africa?  White people are from?  Yellow people are from?  Red people are from?  It breaks down very quickly.)  I tried to make it work and to work it out.  I wanted it to make sense for me and I had no reason to suspect that it would not.  Because we have always been colored people or so I thought.

I believed in blackness and being black, in whiteness and its privileges and so on for every so- called color of the human “rainbow.”  I believed that my experiences were color- coded, that my skin was the beginning and end of me, that my epidermis was all that mattered, that it made the most sense and brought the most meaning to my life.  But, I was wrong.  Still, I need you to know that I thought this was right, that learning that I was black and how to live with it was the meaning of life.  But, I was wrong.

I was wrong about race because race was wrong about me.  Race has our humanity all wrong.  We are not colored beings but human beings.  Race, a capitalist sociopolitical construct, is an excuse, a scapegoat in a long line of excuses and scapegoats for the unjust ways that we choose to live with and relate to each other.  It is the means by which we get the blood off of our hands.

We say, “Race made me do it.”  But, we can also say, “Money made me do it.”  “My faith made me do it.”  “My gender made me do it.”  “The devil made me do it.”  But, really it is our flesh and its cravings for power and dominance that makes us do it.

Our humanity is what we make it.

***

I’ve been called a n—-.  Born in the South, I heard it first at home.  I heard family members being called a n— at home.  Hatred begins at home.  Our self- hatred starts in the mouths of our parents.

I cannot be sure as to the reason for this name- calling.  Said both in anger and in fun, I cannot attest to whether it was used solely to inoculate as it was also used as a term of endearment.  “My n—.”  A strange expression then and now.

It is a word that my family was given and they had no interest in questioning it.  They didn’t think to give it back, to reject it.  It is a primary way of relating in the world and understanding ourselves.  We were n—, then Negro, then colored, then black, then Afro- American, then African American, then black, then black and brown people, people of color again.  We still call ourselves n—.  Race offers nothing new, no rebirth, no regeneration.

Unclear of its value but certain that they needed it and that I could not live without it, they passed it down.  There was no new name and no way to see myself differently.  My relationship with self was an expression of those created in American slavery.  Changing the words, ridding myself of racialized language would be the start of changing my way of relating, of forming community, of reconciling past and present.

To be sure, there is no motivation for changing it.  It is the way of the world, the way things are.  We are on this color wheel but I wanted to get off.  Still, most surmise that we cannot change it, that race knows us better than we know ourselves, that race knows us before we know ourselves.  But, then my faith in Christ did something I did not expect; my new identity in Christ began to challenge my racial identity.  They were not one in the same and I was being asked to choose between being a person of color and a child of God.  Two creators, two gospels, two heavens and hells (one segregated), they are two different belief systems.

The two are not complementary, synonymous or serving in supporting roles in this grand narrative. No, we must choose between the ways of this world and the ways of the kingdom coming.  There is a Person coming that will not identify with us based on the social coloring of skin and it is time that we come to see that.

Today, I am a race atheist.  I don’t believe it.  I don’t buy it.  I do not see as race sees.  I believe that there is so much more to our humanity and race doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface.

Books can take you places

Image result for ruth haley barton life together in christAs many of us gear up for summer vacations with flip flops, sunglasses and sunscreen, I want to remind us of the journey offered in books.  Words can take us places.  Within their pages are invitations to journey not just to distant and magical lands but to places closer to home, to undiscovered holy sites within us.  Dependent upon our imagination, openness and receptivity to the Spirit, books offer more than an escape but a way in to the deeper places.

Recently, a book offered just that for me.  I was looking for a spiritual locale but not sure how to get there or if there was a guide.  The words of Ruth Haley Barton provided the transportation.  She writes in Life Together in Christ: Experiencing Transformation in Community, “Community is the most ‘overpromised and underdelivered’ aspect of the church today. … There is another overpromised, underdelivered aspect of the church today that is equally disillusioning, and that is the promise of spiritual transformation. … I made the disheartening discovery that it is possible to hang around other Christians a lot, meet regularly for worship, study our Bibles, join a church and even call ourselves a community but not change at all in ways that count.”

She was not putting words in my mouth.  She was speaking for me, repeating what I had been saying to myself.  The disappointment and disillusionment were palpable and I was not alone in this feeling.  What a relief!  Because the work of Christ must not be confused with Christ’s witness in us.  Church attendance should not be confused with Christ’s being present and tending to us.

The disconnect between Christ and transformation that causes me to groan most is that of the social construct of race.  That we, as Christians, continue to color in his body, that we allow the social construct of race to segregate his members brings deep grief and disappointment.  The power of Christ’s resurrection and our baptism into his new life is mocked here.

Still it must be said and said again, there is no community as ‘races.’  No one holy race.  No one human race.  For race cancels out community and gets in the way of our seeing all as humans.  The social construct of race says that there is no transformation.  We are only and always socially colored beige, brown, black, red, yellow and white people.  The stereotypes speak for us.

And to make believing harder, we have no faith that God can change us when it comes to the social construct of race.  The reach of Christ’s cross falls short here.  But, it is simply impossible to be God’s people and colored people.

***

I have a deep longing for transformation in community.  I want very much to experience life in Christ in ways previously unexplored and unexpressed.  I want to be a new creature, changed by my travels with Christ.  Returning home not with trinkets from my daily walk but testimonies of the difference that Christ has made in my life.  Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, I want my heart to burn when Christ speaks (c.f. Luke 24.32).

I carry a collection of what I refer to as journey words.  These are words that I have met along the way, that I have run into or have been introduced to, that speak to where I am supposed to be.  Not only are they a source of encouragement but they keep me on track.  These journey words remind me of my identity and place in the world.

Barton’s book has affirmed the aim of my life.  More than the trip of a lifetime, I believe that I will have arrived where I belong when I am in a community that is transformed, with me as its first member.

Now carrying journey books in addition to journey words, my bag will be much heavier but the load will be lighter.  Knowing that there are persons walking ahead of me, who have not only been there but remain has taken my spiritual life to new heights.  I will not return the same.

 

 

By God’s Name

Every Sunday, I lead our congregation in a time of intercession.  I create sacred space for persons to share their joys and concerns.  And I don’t take the task lightly.

I am certain that I am facilitating a dialogue, starting a conversation for which some cannot find the words, that I am helping persons open up and listen up.  Hands folded are the busiest.  Heads bowed work the hardest.  Knees bent are traveling at a speed not known to humanity.

I have been asked often how I came to this understanding of race.  How do I write with such conviction?  Why does the social construct have no power over me?  The answer is simple.  Prayer.  My release from the captivity of the social coloring of flesh was done in conversation. I shared my concerns about the meanings of flesh that had been attached to me and my neighbor with God.  I “took it to the Lord in prayer.”

Rather than wrestle with race, I gave it to God.  And God did not hand it back to me.  Instead, the words of Galatians 3.28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek” came to me.  They introduced themselves to me personally.  No longer some letter written to the church at Galatia, those words were addressed to me.

John Wesley said, “Prayer is where the action is” and I am a firm believer.  My best work, my hardest work, my deepest and truest convictions have come from prayer.

Here’s the prayer that I shared with our congregation yesterday.  It is proof that belief if not just walked out but talked out.  I am delivered from the social construct of race by God’s name.

***

God, we call on Your name because this is where the action is. “Author and Finisher of our faith,”[1] we need only say Your name and can consider the matter settled.  There is no doubt in the ability of Your name or the agility of Your presence.  Needing no approval rating, Your name satisfies our deepest needs.  We are met in places unseen and at times not suited to regular business hours.

You are not a nine to five God.

Because when we call on You, we are not asked to take a number or to take a seat. There is no time delay in prayer.  You never say, “I’ll get back to you on that.”

But, from our mouth to Your hand, each prayer is stamped urgent.  Holding galaxies in place and our hands, cupping the borders of oceans and collecting our tears, directing angels and speaking to our fears. “[You’ve] got the whole world in Your hands,” but, You still hold us individually, specifically and uniquely.

Not held too tight, we are not crushed by the calendar of Eternity. You do not have to fit us in but there is always room for us.  Never consumed by Your work, You have gathered with us to hear about our week, to mourn and rejoice with us.  You want to hear our story just as much as we want to hear Yours.

With elbows on pew, You have come to participate in our lives, to see what this worship service is about. And to answer those who call on Your name.

We are so grateful that we can mark You present, God.

You have heard our prayers; now give us the faith to mark You present in our homes and in hospital rooms, in war- torn countries and in divided nations, on playgrounds and at cafeteria lunch tables, in the halls of government and in our schools, in hopeless corners of the world and in hearts battered and bruised by addiction, depression, rejection and abandonment. Let us be marked present.  Encourage us to use Your name as an action word and not an excuse.

In Your name, we pray, act, help, love, protect, defend and serve all You have created. Amen.

__________________

[1] Hebrews 12.2

Happy 6th anniversary!

Image result for happy anniversary

Today, my blog turns six and she remains my baby.  While I have been graced to write for several other outlets and to even become a published author, this blog is my greatest accomplishment.  It was here that I took the risk to share the race-less gospel of Jesus Christ and I remain committed to this message.  To celebrate, I will work harder to spread this truth that God is not socially colored beige, brown, black, red, white or yellow– and neither are we.

Happy anniversary to me and to you.  Thanks for reading, writing, sharing, supporting, recruiting and following me along this race-less journey.  Let’s go another year!

Your god might be race if…

Image result for false idol christianityWhat motivates and inspires me in this sacred work is the unconscious idolatry practiced, the investment of belief, the gut- level faithfulness exhibited toward race in the practice of the Christian faith.  I have been called to separate race from God, to erase the color line in our churches and to do the groundwork for the ministry of reconciliation.  I don’t like that we have allowed the social construct of race such access into our spiritual lives and the practice of Christ’s life and ministry in the world.

I realize that there is a lot invested and there is quite a bit of history and tradition associated with the partnership between race and Christianity.  We might think that there is too much to lose, that we won’t recover or come back from this.  But, I would remind us that we are the resurrection people and the promise of being a new creation far outweighs the comforts of the old way of being the body of Christ.

I am tired of the same old stereotypes and prejudices.  I want something more than a racial identity.  I want to be like Christ.

Along with our pride and sinful inclinations, our allegiances could hold you and I back.  This carnal, self- centered and in the case of race, social attachment could prevent this spiritual transformation.  And if you are having trouble letting go of who race says that you are and they are, then maybe the image of God is not what you see at all.

Maybe there is an competing image.  Maybe you have another god.  If you’re not sure, consider these descriptors.

Your god might be race if…

You believe that race was in the beginning with God, an honorary member of the Trinity, offering counsel and techniques during the creative process;

You believe that race is a part of God’s plan, that God created us based on the stereotypes of race and categorized us according to races;

You believe that God sees, loves, cares for, blesses/ curses, chooses us according to the social coloring of skin;

You believe that God’s will is prejudicial and therefore, no mystery, choosing based on physical appearance and not the condition of the heart (First Samuel 16.7);

You  believe that the social construct of race is used by God to “separate the sheep from the goats” and not our confession of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (Matthew 25.32), that salvation is based on the social coloring of skin (i.e. appearance);

God must be on your side (versus you being on God’s side) and fulfilling your will;

God must be a member of your race and in effect, made in your image;

You cannot accept the gospel of Jesus Christ without the inclusion of the social construct of race;

Any and/or all members of the Trinity must come in your social color and must come in a social color; and,

The social coloring of your skin is more important than your identity in Christ Jesus.  Please note that the two cannot be combined.