Brothers In Conversation About Race (Part 8)

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.

My Theological Necessity for the Black Church- I wrestle

I am not sure from a theological perspective or from a biblical perspective that I can justify what I am about to say-not that it is right or wrong but that it is plausible to consider. I value diversity as much as the next man but I deplore pastors who hide within theological doctrines. As Derrick Bell quotes in Faces at the Bottom of the Well : The Permanence of Racism,

“People looking to escape are not worried about solutions.”

Theology when practiced with skill and a global sense of humanity provides answers to the toughest issues we face. It provides solace or engenders the need to reform. So it saddens me that the church at large had decided to ignore this tension.

By now we have all heard the verdict of the George Zimmerman Trial but I am saddened that many in the evangelical world preach about a Jesus that does not involve a Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. I now without a doubt that it is a hard subject matter to tackle but it is the very thing that people of faith were developed to handle. Maybe I am over-sensitized to the plight of black men but if you as a pastor did not mention anything about Trayvon Martin then I perceive you as being wrong. It would be impossible for you to preach a Jesus that does not include the dichotomy of two lives that hung in the balance- Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. It would be impossible for you not to wrestle through the pain of two mothers who believed with all their hearts that the voice on the call was their son; For you not to consider how 6 jurors lives will be forever changed (whether you agree with the verdict or not). How this trial will forever impact the lives of those lawyers-for good or bad purposes. For you not to witness the mother of a slain child take the stand with grace and composure never defaming the character of the  very man that killed her son; A mother that just called for justice (whatever that looked like). A mother that proclaimed then very name that you preach about Sunday after Sunday.

I am sorry if you did not mention this case on Sunday you were by and large out of touch with your God and I am sorry we just do not serve the same God.

I can assure you of this one thing that the black pastors I know spoke about this. They have considered the implications of this trial since February of last year. They have toiled through many nights of mothers crying because their black sons were profiled. They have wrestle through the nights that their own sons were profiled. They have been to the jailhouse visiting innocent boys that were arrested for being black. Yes, I declare definitively there is a need for a black church.

It is within the walls of the black church where the very blood of Trayvon Martin continues to speak. The black church where we find godly solutions for situations that presents themselves as viable reasons for ungodly actions.  It is the black church where we search James Cone and see that there was a precise reason he wrote Black Liberation Theology, God of the Oppressed, and The Cross and the Lynching Treethis is out lives lived out in an everyday context. The black church is where you can come and see a million other young black males who look like Trayvon.

If we are a “nation of laws” that has described some as being greater than others then the only place for me to find refuge is in the black church.