It’s been a crazy ride over the past 12 days. It’s been a crazy ride since before that if you belong to certain groups, to be honest. This country has always been the land of the free for some and our current administration seems to be tightening those terms and conditions on what “free” feels like hourly.
It’s been a particular predicament to be a Christian, in my opinion. It’s been a particular predicament to be a Black Christian. I have watched people that I genuinely have loved and respected say some of the most tone-deaf things regarding race and faith. It’s been maddening but it’s not new.
The one thing I have struggled with for a long time with my Christian journey is how much it is described as freedom for all but how nuanced that freedom is. The nuances of that freedom always reveal themselves in times like this, where what “God” is saying and what “God” is doing is based largely and pretty sharply along racial lines…along socioeconomic lines…along “multicultural church” and Black church lines (there are always exceptions, of course). Maybe I’m new to having my eyes this wide open but I don’t remember a time in my life where I “heard” “God” say so many different and polarizing things about the same events.
Beyond the picky and convenient theology, I think it is important on this first day of Black History Month in the year of our Lord 2017 to remind folks about a few things. There has been a succumbing to the temptation to wash everyone under the “we are one” banner. We are one sounds much tidier than what it actually is. We are one doesn’t take into consideration the real-life implications of differences in race, class, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. We are one doesn’t take into consideration people’s comfort in privilege and how that drives more decisions than “Christ in your heart” will ever drive. The drive many who call themselves Christians have to support many of the policies of the current administration is less about the persecution that they experience; there is no such thing as persecution for American Christians. It is more about protecting a privileged status and while that may make you think you’re being persecuted, it does not make it real.
The Church says we want to talk racial reconciliation but in the same breath, you are telling me that my skin color doesn’t matter to Jesus…or that it matters but his red blood covers all of that difference. This is also the same Jesus that has modern day American Evangelical Christians defending and advocating a certain people – a culture – because they are favored by God. So if I understand correctly, God cared about the Jewish people, chose that culture to be the bearer of God’s likeness in the flesh, and that God will bless those who bless [Israel] and curse those who curse her…but God sees us all as one. I take issue with that. There are people who based their choice for the presidency a good amount on the current president’s promise to side with Israel. Don’t tell me that we are all one.
The basis of this stems from Galatians 3:27-29, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” As I perceive it, this is the way that maybe things should be. However, things are a lot different. There’s no male nor female but just look at how many churches still don’t allow women to preach and how many women are subjected to various types of abuse because “The Bible says…”. There’s no slave nor free but look at how many Christians justified slavery. Also, see how the Christians in your life reacted to the recent actions of the current president to further stereotype and vilify a whole group of people based on their faith and country of origin.
I am a Black woman. I did not choose this identity for myself and I have no intention of changing my identity as such. I chose to be a Christian; therefore, I will not lose my God-given identity for the one I chose by free will. There is no reason they cannot co-exist and asking people to choose one over the other, I believe, flies in the face of the God who created those nuances.
To be clear, I’m not questioning God’s intent. I’m questioning our ability to live it out. I’m questioning the ways we do not hold ourselves accountable to those who are trying to explain how our lived expressions are hurtful and oppressive, and not just because they want to “justify” their sins. American Christians have so much blood on their hands and the blood is crying out from the ground.
We are not one. Perhaps that is the goal that we should be working toward. And I don’t believe for one moment that God, the great Creator, intended for oneness to mean carbon copies all over the place. That’s not how this works.
As it stands, American Christianity is a fractured unit, spotted and wrinkled and torn. As much as we preach about God not caring about our comfort but God caring more about our holiness, our actions prove over and over again that God is used as a comfortable facade for our love of ourselves and our comfort. May God help us all.