Tag Archives: racial identity and Christian faith

Sunday morning segregation

It’s almost 11 a.m., that holy hour that is concentrated with our hubris, when the worship services are but a reflection of our preferences, when the pews are filled with the people we are most comfortable with.  It’s almost 11 a.m. on this fine Sunday morning where people dress up or down and then sit down and get up unchanged and unchallenged to go out and subvert the kingdom of this world.  Instead, we fall in line and when told, we will skip to the front of the line.  I know that Jesus has an order, “The last will be first,” but this is the way they do things down here.  We act as if Jesus didn’t come down here and show us the way.

Called to turn the world upside down, we don’t feel comfortable touching anything (Acts 17.6).  Just leave it the way that it is.  Just go to work and come home.  Just live according to society’s schedule and its election cycles.  America will change in its own time.  We’ve got plenty of time.  Now is never the right time.

What time is it now?  Oh, we’ve got to hurry up and get to church now.  But, the Church is so late, so behind the times when it comes to race and its progeny.  Jesus came and stood side by side with us.  The miracle of divinity became human just to be close to us.  And yet, we human beings are still not close enough. Not wanting to live on earth together, we divide up dirt.

Human beings have convinced themselves that we come in colors and daily attempt to create distance between each other.  And Sunday morning doesn’t bring us any closer.  The Church in North America offers segregated services. “If you don’t want to worship with those people, you don’t have to.  Hallelujah and Amen.”

Instead, I suggest that the Church in North America close its doors until Christian leaders work up the courage and the nerve to point persons to the narrow way, to preach the life of Christ that is a tight squeeze, that would not allow our racialized, hyper- politicized, capitalized prejudices in.  If not, it makes no difference as a generation has closed its ears to what the Church would have to say.  The Church isn’t getting any younger as the members are all turning gray.  They were turned off by pastors turned entrepreneurs and worship spaces that became little kingdoms unto themselves.  Or, they took note of the Church when it did not chime in or hold her hand when she told stories of sexual predation, harassment, abuse and rape.  Or, they circled their absence when the bodies of unarmed African American children, women and men were being outlined with chalk.  Despite testimonies and video surveillance, they managed to preach a manacled gospel that suggested God was with some of us.

Let’s hurry along now.  Get in the car and pray that no one is parked in your spot or sitting in your seat when you arrive at church.  Pray that the choir sings songs that you like and that the pastor’s sermon is one you like, that it is one that is sweet and polite, that she not say anything to upset you or cause you to sweat.  Pray that the service doesn’t go more than an hour because that would be ridiculous and you might have to change your plans.

It’s 11 a.m. and time for a nap, time to stretch out in our pew- cribs, time for songs that sing our soul’s passions to sleep, time for sermons that redirect our callings to the marketplace.  Don’t start any trouble.  Don’t say anything that might trouble our conscious or renew our conviction that we are sisters and brothers.  Just leave well enough alone as if this society has ever been well, like all of us have ever had enough.  Let’s just say our prayers but then sit on our hands and in effect hold back the answer to them.

It’s that time again, that special time when Christian believers go into our color- coded corners for worship and come out swinging.  We all have an understanding, a memorandum of understanding regarding race though most Christians don’t have an informed understanding of race.  Our meanings for the social construct vary and are more than a little shaky.

But, we don’t need to know what it means.  We know what it means for us.  We have experienced racism, prejudice and privilege.  No need to question the impetus behind the biased or preferential treatment as if our skin explains this treatment.

We do not challenge our belief in the differences associated with our skin’s pigmentation.  No, we will confess that God is the Creator of all, that Jesus is our kinsmen redeemer, that the Holy Spirit blows upon all flesh and then hate the person standing right next to us for no reason at all.  All buttoned up, clothes, lips and all, we think that we can worship God and hate our siblings.  But, this is not love at all (First John 4.20).  It’s a lie and all who would live it are liars.  It should be illegal, this Sunday morning segregation.

Race does not have the last word

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” ~The Revelation 22.13, NRSV

Of the many things that I dislike about race, one is its use in the predeterminations of a person’s life. Before the plot begins, race has already finished the story.  It is the same for everyone.  You will hate this social color and you will love your own.  You will live here and they will live there. You will believe this or that about those people.  Year after year, the script remains the same.

No matter her or his accomplishments, abilities or desires, they are no different or better able to change the course of race.  If race says it, that settles it.  If you are black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige, this or that will happen.  It’s just the way it is so you might as well get used to it.

Well, what if I don’t want to?  What if I don’t believe in race or its social colors?  What if I was tired of being identified by race and wanted to change the means by which I came to be known and how I know myself?  Why don’t we ever question race?  Why don’t we ever ask ourselves why this continues to be our truth?  Why do we allow race to talk so much about us?

I think that race needs to be interrupted.  We should ask race, “How do you know this about that person or people/ cultural group?  Are they really all the same?  And if so, then what is the point of living?  If we have no say in the outcome of our lives, if we are all headed toward the same racialized end, then what is the aim of our existence?  Why comb our hair or brush our teeth or wear clean clothing if only one socially colored group will be seen as beautiful?  Why attend school or excel academically if only one socially colored group is intelligent?  Why dream if it will only come to pass for one socially colored group?  Why explore if there are boundaries?  Why love if there are limits and restrictions as to who I can love?  What is the purpose of being born if there is nothing new about one’s life, if it is all predetermined by race?

We need to be reminded that race does not have the last word, the final say in our lives.  There is life after race and a language beyond race.  So, when race begins to talk to us, we need to say, “Shut up!”  It’s not polite but it is effective.  We have heard enough from race and about race.  Truly, only God knows us and only God knows our end.  Race is out of place and out of order.  God is the Alpha and the Omega so race does not have the last word.