Tag Archives: raceless theology

Asking for a generation

What could the Church in North America do if it put its hands together across cultures, if it desegregated its pews and pulpits, if it reflected the changing community outside its doors?  Who would we become and what witness could we offer the world if we chose our baptismal identity in Christ over and against racialized identities, if we adamantly rejected this superficial categorization of flesh?  What would we be saying if we lived within the counter- narrative of belonging in spite of class, gender and cultural lines, if we did not remake Jesus as a politician or political party leader?  Where could the Church in North America’s leadership go if it did not masculinize leadership, if we really believed that God was in control?

These are genuine questions because I don’t understand the color- coded scenarios of our relationships, these skin- incentivized experiences in North America and specifically its Church.  Segregation is illegal.  But churches break this law every Sunday at 11 a.m. and in some places three times on Sunday.

We sit in so- called white churches and black churches, segregated while identifying as the body of Christ.  We sit in so- called white churches and black churches, worshipping God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4.24).  We sit in so- called white churches and black churches, claiming to be siblings in Christ and all apart of God’s family.  Then why the continued separation?

Oh, I know.  It’s the worship style.  We like our music this way.  It is about control.  Because Christianity in America has a paternalistic bend with persons who feel the need to oversee the movement of other Christians.  “Don’t clap.  Don’t respond to the preaching.  That’s not what we do here.”

The question of why the Church in North America remains segregated is fully answered by Henry Mitchell in his work Black Church Beginnings, where he offers priceless intel.  The “Black Church” was started under the surveillance of so- called white people.  Their time for worship was managed, no longer than two hours.  Their messengers were predetermined and approved by European American spiritual overseers, as it were, to ensure that the narrative of their conditional belonging in America was not questioned or challenged.  Their churches were funded by these spiritual overseers, another means of control and manipulation.  Dependent upon their financial support, African American people in “leadership” did not stray from the scripted responses of race, which brought the plantation into the Church.

Things haven’t changed.  There remains the mindset that African American bodies need to be controlled, evident in the continued murder of unarmed African American people who are “living while black.”  There is a continued devaluation and judgement of their worship practices, style and length of their spiritual services.  There is also a financial dependency in some denominations for their survival that maintain the roles of American slavery.  In my opinion, the Church in North America has yet to be started.

The colonizers did not seek to bring God’s kingdom near with chattel slavery as its foundation.  Those persons called “founding fathers” gave birth to nothing new but reproduced the slavery of their homeland, though far worse.  And while there are those who would shake their heads in agreement with me, their mouths tells a different story.  They continue to accept the answers that race gives them while what I hear is largely questionable.

Why do Christians believe in race?

Image result for questioning“Calls are essentially questions.  They aren’t questions you necessarily need to answer outright; they are questions to which you need to respond, expose yourself and kneel before.   You don’t want an answer you can put in a box and set on a shelf.  You want a question that will become a chariot to carry you across the breadth of your life.”

{Gregg Levoy, Callings}

I believe that I have been called to question the validity of the social construct of race in the practice of faith.  In my head, I had been questioning the social construct of race for years.  In conversation, I would correct persons in my mind when they colored people in.   My perspective was changing and I wasn’t sure of how to express what I was beginning to see.   Then, the question came, “Do I have to be black?”  I answered, “No” and the race-less gospel of Jesus Christ was born.

This question revealed my calling and will carry me the breadth of my life.  I will spend the rest of my life repeating the answer to this question and the impact of this truth on our faith in Jesus Christ.  The truth is that God did not create colored people; American society did.  As Christians, we are ex- colored people, no longer known by the names of race.  There is no longer socially colored beige, black, brown, red, yellow and white people (cf. Colossians 3.11; Galatians 3.28).  But, this is not to suggest that we are not persecuted and privileged according to the social construct of race.  But, to suggest that God does the same and that the Church is called to embody it is a gross theological misstep.

The truth that the gospel of Jesus Christ is race-less, that God is not a Colored Person (socially colored white included), that the hope of my existence is not tied to my flesh seems obvious to me.  It also seems obviously contrary to the faith that we espouse.  Created as new creatures in Christ Jesus and the judgments of our sins removed, how then does God bless and curse us as believers based on the social construct of race?  How do the power and oppressions of the social construct of race remain in play for members of Christ’s body?  The answer is that we simply add the social identity to our confessions, doctrines, hymns, preaching, theologies.

Called to be a new community, we abide by the same rules as society and section off the body of Christ according to the pretenses, privileges and prejudices of race.  Gathered in as the family of God, race says that we are not related. The Church is called to challenge the systems of the world; instead, we incorporated it.  We justified hatred in exchange for pseudo- supremacy and excluded ourselves from other cultures with the self- generated blessing of Holy Scripture.  We don’t question the social construct of race because the answer is too hard to hear, too challenging to accept, too true to believe, too authentic to experience, too time- consuming to live in to.  We would rather be in the Church but of the world.

It is only recently that I have mustered up the courage to challenge our faith in it.  Why do Christians believe in the social construct of race?  Though science doesn’t support it, why do we believe in colored people and in turn, a god created in our image and subject to the rules and roles of race?  If we would all answer this question, the body of Christ would hear its calling.

Making God in the Image of Whiteness

Image result for god as a white man imageHow did the invisible, immortal and eternal God become a blonde haired, blue eyed socially colored white man?  Who approved of this gross social reduction and theological diminishing of the Divine?  And why do we continue to go along with it?

Why do we worship whiteness as if the God of the Christian faith?  Why do we look to those we have made socially colored white as saviors and deliverers?  Why do we place our hope in them?  Why do we celebrate this image above all others– even God’s?  And why does the Church cherish, celebrate, form its doctrines, write hymns, start churches, do missions based on this idea?

I have so many questions as to why whiteness became the answer to the human condition.  Why do we believe that whiteness is the solution to all of our problems?  That whiteness is the cure and our saving grace?

Surely, if our hands are too short to box with God, they are not long enough to paint God white.  So, it is our imagination.  In our minds, God is ‘a white man.’  But, what does this private confession mean for the practice of our faith, the nature of fellowship, the command to love and live as Christ did?  How does our belief in whiteness impede our conversations about God and with God?  How has the social construct of race gotten in the way of our relationship with God?

Now, if we think that God is just fine with this arrangement, then our assumption is false.  God is self- existent; consequently, our attempt to paint God in, to hold paint brushes, crayons and markers as if we can not only see God face- to- face but know exactly how it looks (or perhaps, should look), goes against this truth.  Because God is self- existent, God can and does live without human needs, especially the human and acutely American one to identify with a race.

God is not made in the image of whiteness because God is not made with human hands, that would be a reversal of the creation narrative.  This attempt to describe God in colors suggests that we have a kind of insider knowledge about the Divine, that God is really one of us.  But, this is simply not true.

God is not white because we are made in God’s image; God is not made in ours.  So, God is not coming back for a “race” of people, a particular culture, only one country or continent.  Color may dictate our will but not God’s.  It may be a part of our imagination but that has no bearing on the image of God, where God can be seen and who God walks with in the world.

Making God in the image of whiteness blinds us from seeing God altogether.

Race and Misrepresentation

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mis·rep·re·sen·ta·tion/ˌmisreprəzenˈtāSH(ə)n/, Noun
1.  the action or offense of giving a false or misleading account of the nature of something

When we call ourselves racial beings, socially colored black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige people, we misrepresent our Creator.  God is not a racial being or a Racial Being, a supreme among supremes, defined or confined to physical, external, carnal clues, bound to the temporality of flesh. God is not a racial being, ruling and being ruled by what is seen.  God is Spirit, unseen and yet known, too often unexperienced but in every instance needed.

When we prejudge and hate, we misrepresent God’s love.  God’s love is not conditional, based on the social coloring of skin, given only to those who “look like Him.”  We are all made in God’s image because He has no favorites, no stepchildren, no distant relatives  (cp. Romans 2.11).  There is no chance that He would ever deny us.

When we stereotype and segregate, we misrepresent God’s unity, God’s community- kingdom, God’s togetherness.  God has it all together and has us all together in the palm of His hand (John 10.28).  God’s connectedness to all that He has created is never questionable. God touches and is in touch with every human being.  No member of His Body can be disconnected.

It does not matter what race says; race does not speak for God.  So, when it stands up in our lives, when it rises to speak on behalf of Scripture, it is always a misrepresentation.

If we are to be post- racial

“For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.”

~ Ephesians 2.14, NRSV

There are those who say that it is impossible to put race behind us, that there is “No Such Place as ‘Post- Racial’ America”, that we cannot live with each other without pre-judging, discriminating and showing preference to those whose physical appearance we like.  Such a simplistic explanation of our practice of racism points to how simple, superficial and silly it really is.  Race has nothing to do with how we look but it an excuse for treating persons the way that we feel that they deserve to be treated and we will employ anything, human and/ or divine, to make our point.

And so long has the idea been with us that we have made it our identity.  We have become racialized human beings.  We have empowered our skin to rule over us and to be ruled over by others.  Race is apart of who we are and how we live.  It is no wonder why we believe that we cannot live without it, that we cannot imagine a life after race.  But, what about life before it?

As Christians, we are not a people without hope.  We have a Savior, whose power extends to that of race and any other social construct and can even move us beyond it.  Jesus Christ is unique, not only in that he is the image of the invisible God and that he rose from the dead but that he is the embodiment of our peace.  He is also the great Mediator, bringing people who were opposed to each other together.  But, this should come as no surprise because he called us friends though we were once his enemies (Colossians 1.21).

Despite the ways of American society, we are a post- racial people, post- racial Christians because we serve a pre- racial God.  We bear the image of God and it’s not colored (in).  I suppose that this post should have been titled when as opposed to if we are to be post- racial because it is only a matter of time.  Race will not be with us forever.

So, when we become post- racial, we will:

1.  Stop believing in race and start believing in God.

2.  Choose the image of God over the image(s) of race.

3.  Stop practicing/ justifying/ legalizing/ teaching racism.  Don’t pass it on or pass it down.

4.  Take responsibility for our racist beliefs and actively rid ourselves of them.

5. Not be led by stereotypes and instead, be led by the Holy Spirit.

6. Not be counseled by prejudice.  Allow the word of God to be your counselor.

7. End restrictive covenants.  Choose people over profits.

8.  Have more than one socially colored white/ black/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige friend.

9. Stop talking about colors and start talking about people and their cultures.

10.  Stop having more faith in history and begin trusting in the newness and possibility of the future.