I often find myself disheveled by the Black church, yet not surprised. An institution with such collective power but chooses to yield itself to antiquated ideologies that serve the oppressors. Yes, the Black church has become one the biggest purveyors of capitalism, but, attempts to shield itself with spiritual jargon. In the words of the Otis Moss III, “The church has become capitalism in drag.” It has lost its will and vision to produce a liberative theology for the captive, and, opted, for a seat at the table of capital gain. In the particular structure: truth, honesty, and integrity fails in comparison to popularity and maintenance of the status quo.
Salvation is a mere focus upon redemption of the soul with no concern for the freedom of the body. Therefore, preaching resembles messages that believe its God’s will to get your head beat in, by police, as long as you fervently pray for your enemies. But, there is nothing remotely sacred or Godly about protesting bodily harm. The church that we have inherited “is so damaged that at the moment it does not provide an effective rallying point.” Those parenthetical words are the words spoken Howard Thurman in 1965 but still speaks, vividly, today.
The threat of white evangelical theology is one of eminent danger. It introduces a god, a jesus that is pimping Black and brown people in these yet to be United States. (By pimping, I mean leading in a way that is unproductive for our systemic and structural growth.) It is not the Black Messiah, the revolutionary, Palestinian Jew who stood tall for his people. The one that stood for injustice in the face of death and held strong to his culture while disrupting the empire.
The Black Messiah is not what most Black churches represent today.
There is always the thought: when is something going to change.
I have been toiling the roads of theology, ministry and church for over 20 years: I have been through 5 church plants/church renewals, I have been a part of a pastoral staff at an all-white Lutheran church, endured a racist candidacy process with people whom claim to love the same God as me, I have sat in rooms with Bishops/prophets/apostles/elders, I have had conversations with some of the greatest theologians in the country, I have interviewed at more churches than I care to admit and applied to more than I remember, and I am entering my second semester of a PhD. in Theology and Ethics. And, I ask myself, “What am I missing?”
I am not sure but I keep plugging until something changes. I have been told that maybe that is God’s way of telling you that you should be doing something else. All these doors keep getting slammed in your face; when will you get the message, that God does not want you in the church. God keeps closing the doors so that you will move on to something else. My reply, “Maybe you are right but I’m going to walk this out a little while longer.”
I felt like writing today because I needed to express where I am in my soul. This, is where I am in my soul. It is that moment when you have made all the moves you can make, now you wait for God to make the next move. Having done all the stand…stand. (Ephesians 6:13)
The church and the academy are tricky places to understand even when they, supposedly, represent God.
Religion is a space where the boundaries of God are fortified through tension and reified through reformation. It avails itself to a strong critique while offering solutions that are filled with active love. Oftentimes, this is not the picture that is painted by the Christian church. Walter, in part 7, introduced the notion of a space where Black people are given the freedom to be, inextricably, themselves. One of the few spaces where black people can relive their liberation is the black church. The black church has provided black folks with a liberating space where their visibility and presence is honored. Racism loses its power within the midst of this fictive kinship.
Racism is a retardant that hinders sound judgement from processing. The oppress are influenced to look past their oppression and reinterpret it as security, instead of seeking freedom. Racism discourages freedom because freedom fuels intellect. Consequently, it is hard to keep intelligent people oppressed. No longer can the plight of white power and white privilege be held as doctrines of a constructed god, who dehumanizes and beguiles black people into believing that oppression is acceptable and godly. When the oppressed start to rebel against the oppressor, their words against oppression are labeled as radicalized hatred. James Baldwin declares this is when
“white power is broken.”
Baldwin also proclaims that when this white power is broken:
“an English man can’t tell an African what it means to be African and he believes it; a white man can’t tell a negro what it means to be a negro and he believes it, anymore.”
The black church has been the space where our humanity is unquestionable. It has been the sacred site of resistance where beauty emerges in spite of pain and trauma. The black church, constantly reconstructing herself as the avant-guard against this constructed, neo-liberal god that sanctions racism. The black church is a complex institution, constantly on the front-lines fighting against racism. It is a creative space where black genius reclaims the identity of Jesus. A Jesus that racism refuses to accept or serve.
I am Nicholas Wright. I am a heterosexual male, single with no children. I am a black male who grew up in a traditional rural Baptist church. I grew up in Darlington, SC. I was raised in a single parent home, where my father was non-existence, but the community around me stepped in to make sure there was a sure foundation. I understand that the world is controlled by whites and know that in some circles I am seen as an object and not an equal person. I have fought to obtain a master’s degree, but I know that means nothing in some minds. I was raised to love everybody, but those of other faiths, or sexual preferences, but the scales have fallen from my eyes.
Sitting on the anniversary of the massacre of the Emmanuel 9, and peeping over my shoulders,while staring and thinking about the mass murders of my brothers and sisters in Club Pulse four days ago: I am still in utter pain and disbelief that malicious acts such as these are still accruing in 2016. It is all the more heartbreaking that there are some who feel and use the platform of faith, to believe and promote the acceptance of the acts of these mass murders to grasp the attention of those of faith. I cannot explain the amount of ignorance it takes for one to believe that God would promote God’s message through a malicious genocide of a beloved people, –regardless of race, sex, gender, sexual orientation or creed. It is time out for playing god –judging those who so call sin differently than you, and start loving everybody as Christ has loved you.
I understand that the church catholic (the whole church) has been struggling and/or blatantly ignoring dialog with the LGBTQIA community, in order to understand and develop faith fellowship. While the church sits on the sidelines picking and pointing, the LGBTQIA community has taken the mantel of “love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34) and taken it to a new level. My life has been transformed by this community. I have seen a true love and worship for God that I have never witnessed from people who claim to be Christians. It is interesting to me that the LGBTQIA community has a burning desire for Christ, while those who are said to represent Christ are trying to oppress and transform them. Who is the true example of Christ?
How many places of worship addressed the attack in Orlando, FL? I am sure there where many churchgoers who wondered like me, why haven’t anyone said anything about this tragedy. What in the hell do we go to church for anymore? This is a question to all bodies of Christ across the world. Do we go just to say we have been, or do we go to actively engage in the matters of the world? It is so easy for everyone to say pray for this, or pray for that, but what happened to our call to be hands here on earth. I am tired of praying and nothing is happening. It is easy to pray because it does not call for us to be engaged with people or out in the struggle, but what good is prayer without human action. It is good to offer your prayers alongside your action. So we are left wondering, what are we called to do during this time? Will we continue to be The Church constantly sleeping during prayer, or an active agent of God here on earth?
The constant rehearsing of the trauma of racism has placed an indelible chasm in the soul of black folks. As we wrestle to understand, and, ultimately, try to reconcile: how other (so called) Christians can stand around as such heinous crimes were/are being done to black and brown folks. How can Christians care so little about the poor and alienated while condoning the evil rhetoric of a Donald Trump? Yes, I applaud Donald Trump for at least being honest about his politics but he is an evil man. How do Christians even justify that black and brown lives are not vehemently abused by society? If you call yourself a believer in Jesus and live out the tenants of the Christian faith, how do you reconcile with such evil?
Racism kills the very essence of love and confines perspectives; there is no growth or progression. You can’t say you’re not racist but sit idly by and not combat racism. You can’t say you’re not racist and think that it is ok, to allow poor education, and poor healthcare to ravage through black and brown communities.
Racism sucks the life out of organization. It demeans in order to tear down. There is no redeemable quality within racism. Racisms presents a subtle approach, but it comes with obvious and intentional outcomes –keep black and brown people in poverty. There is nothing accidental about racism. It is an intentional weapon used when the majority finds its status sleeping away.
The mere thought of racial reconciliation is laughable at best. What exactly would this reconciliation mean? Here the words of James Cone,
Reconciliation does not transcend color, thus making us all white. The problem of values is not that white people need to instill values in the ghetto; but white society itself needs values so that it will no longer need a ghetto. Black values did not create a ghetto; white values did. Therefore God’s Word of reconciliation makes us all black. Through this radical change, we become identified totally with the suffering of the black masses. It is this fact that makes all white churches anti-Christian churches in their essence. To be Christian is to be one of those whom God has chosen. God has chosen black people.
Now these words can be easily misconstrued if read through the eyes of racism. But Cone is very simply stating that God is on the side of the” least of these.” Black is not a color but a place where “your heart, your soul, your mind, and your body are where the dispossessed are.” To be Christian is to know what the underside looks like and to feel the pain of the margins. Reconciliation is not just a pathological response of forgiveness but it is a deep intrinsic reframing of one’s authentic God-self.
I love the words that introduce Dr. Yolanda Pierce’s website,
“I am not interested in most conversations about equality. To whom would you like to be equal, given a broken and morally bankrupt system? Do you want to be equal to the persons, forces, and systems which generate the very terms of your oppression? I am, however, interested in the weightier matters of law: justice and freedom. How can we act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly?”
These words echo the sentiments of a generation that’s been disproportionately jailed, harassed, overlooked and abused because of the color of their skin. Honestly, the system is not broken, it is working exactly how it was programed to work. When corrupt people build a system, you can rest assured that the system is corrupt. America was established through corruption, theft and racism and those sins continue to wreak havoc on all people locked “in these yet to be united states.” Maybe KRS-One was right when he rapped,
“There can never be justice on stolen land.”
There is no simple strategy or words that can make things better overnight. But a collective sorry that is entrenched in justice is a good place to start.
“How can we act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly?- Pierce