There is absolutely no protection from racism in the church. As much as I would like to say that the church is a true embodiment of Christ, I am displeased to admit that it may be the most embarrassing part of Christ. The subtle notion that we are all children of God gets swallowed up in the evil construct of race. The thought of compromising how worship is conducted in order to best serve the community is overlooked in order to keep with a dying tradition.
Honestly, it is a lie to speak about inclusion but never present oneself as inclusive. The church has managed to promote such a lie on a continuous basis. The church has made proclamations of being inviting only to rescind those invitations when folks are unwilling to assimilate into a prison of pseudo-joy –the Sunday experience of worship.
When the imago dei (image of God) is structured to represent those in places of perceived power, atheism appears to be a viable institution.
Inevitably, racism becomes a prime component of what it means to be Christian in a space where black bodies are weaponized. When this happens, no longer is grace a bilateral covenantal gift from God but a right reserved for those who assimilate properly. Racism shapes itself to this form of identity where only those who are willing to conform to dominate culture are seen as Christ-like and worthy to be humanized.
Racism thus changes the Gospel from liberation into church propaganda where grace is earn by simply being white.
I struggle to write many times the very feelings that plague me mentally and spiritually. It is at the expense of being labeled that oftentimes I ruminate instead of write. The constant juxtaposing through worldviews can lead to intense levels of ambiguity for others but a since of clarity for me.
Let me try to explain.
My burgeoning Pan-African worldview is reshaping my perspective through a theological lens. My warped reformed theology is locked in a cage with my real life connection with Black Theology of Liberation (BTL). I not only study BTL, I must live it in thess yet to be United States of (a)merica . It is mildly impossible for a black male not to readily identify with BTL because it is their lives being played out in stereo.
I wrestle with the premise that the very natures of white men are evil. (That is the product of 39 years of racism.) I know that the actions of a few do not equal the sum-total of the whole but therein lays the place of tension-reconciling racism to be dead. Racism has shaped my theology more than I realize most of the time. The construct of racism has such blooming possibilities of evil that never lie dormant. It takes the beautification of God to reconstruct the image of those who have oppressed and have been oppressed to re-activate in such a racial climate.
But my theological lens-though warped by my reformed theology-places me at the feet of a God who extends grace. So I am forced through my understanding of BTL to redirect my angst toward the plight of “the least of these”-regardless of race. It is within those spaces where I find that my warped reformed theology finds the most solace and purpose. It is within this context that the expansion of God’s sovereignty begins to trump the very essence of “big problems/issues.” Those big problems/issues become small miracles in the hand of a sovereign God who predestined a graceful finish within my life as well as others. But it is BTL that highlights those ills with a robust sense of urgency that my reformed theology would overlook.
What the Pan-African worldview does in to bring a glocal perspective that makes me view people through a global lens but act locally. The plight of Africa for the Pan African sits as the centerpiece of success- as Africa goes so goes the world. The struggle is not to isolate one people group above another but show the importance and inter-working of all. This inter-working concept unlocks the presence of Hip Hop in my perspective. The subculture of Hip Hop has the ability to transcend racial barriers by connecting people through the flavor of the music. This calculated amalgamation is phenomenon that has mystified many scholars and theologians. This connection with the funk is a communal effort that reconnects back to a Pan African worldview. The very essence of music is interlocked with the presence of community in the African worldview. Through music the community expresses its emotional response to situations- death, birth, war, etc.
My point with this self examination is to try to define the very notion of how race, religion and rhetoric come into play into one person. This appearance of ambiguity to others but acute clarity to self is an unrelenting force to reckon with. They would appear to be irreconcilable differences housed in one mind but in a pragmatic fashion they work together in community. That which would appear to be disjointed is actually different parts working as a whole.
We live in a world where entertainment is priority and service is an anomaly. When your world rewards entertainment with greater value than educational and medical services: shallow, hedonistic people are produced in mass. You develop a culture that is disconnected from reality and lives life in world of fantasy. It is this connection with fantasy that makes the market for video games so profitable.
Take an average athlete who is a supreme student that loves the game of football. He does not have the talent to play football past high school but he loves the game. Thus he takes his passion for the game and places it in Madden Football. This allows him to fictitiously be the best quarterback in the NFL without the training or without the large salary that accompanies being a professional athlete.
What we have done is create a climate of superficial experts of nothing. They have become good at educational mediocrity with society constantly at their door for the next fad. Yes, they are redefining culture as we know it. They have taken the concept of liberty to heights that are unfamiliar with times past. They are developing and implementing processes of reconciliation that are unfamiliar to those who marched through life before them.
The term of reconciliation is really unnecessary because many of them have mutated into groups that sit outside of the margin; so their experiences with folks with differing opinions are real and not philosophical. Though it may differ in content, the experience has developed a respect of sorts that develops levels of sympathy and kindness.
This generation has done the very thing that many thought could not be done but they have failed to harness this reconciliation. They accomplished the task but forgot to record the details because they were focused upon entertaining more so than change- they fought for their right to party.
So now we must find the way to take life from the party to the rest of the world.
It is quite possible that the sovereignty of God has an element of cruelty attached if I had to analyze it from my personal perspective. Yes all things to work for my good but the road to that good is sometimes too heavy a price to pay-so we would assume.
It is with this type of regard that many of us enter into the body of Christ, hoping to have God reconstruct our perspective. We presume that connection brings with it amnesia. Our connection with God is not subject or predicated on our forgetting of the past but subjugated to his forgiveness of our past. What God brings to the table is more valuable than what we bring to the table, so it appears he would have more to lose. Herein lies the dynamic of the situation…he brought you to the table. The fact that he allowed us at the table speaks volumes to his perspective of us-his people.
If we could learn to see ourselves like he sees us our worldviews would be transformed completely. It is Karl Barth who denotes, “Man is not created to be the image of God…he is created in correspondence with the image of God.” There is much in that statement to agree and disagree with but Barth highlights the essential need for connection and communication with God. Through the relational capital with God we begin to take notice of others slightly different. The reason is that begin to see others through the eyes of God rather than through our own. We also begin to re-image ourselves in our own reflection because we have started the process of “putting on Christ.”
The chisel in the hand of a master artist is a slow process that may appear to be trash but as time elapse the wood begins to form into a masterpiece.
Do I reflect the image of God?
If I had to base by participation in Christendom on Christians, I would become an atheist.
The consistency of disunity plagues the body of Christ as a whole and disguises itself as friendly rebuke or being biblical. But it appears that the context of those statements only work when they are being spewed from one’s lips instead of being displayed in practical living. There is this misconception that if the doctrine is right then the behavior will model the doctrinal stance. Well, that sounds good and packaged but people are not as structured as they would have all to believe. What we get many times are folks who can communicate doctrine but have no relational capabilities whatsoever. They understand Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic but can not exegete the context where they serve.
It grieves me to see many Christians so eager to reprove without having relational authority of any kind. I have been guilty of this very thing many times in my life but I see the danger in such behavior. Relational capital allows me the leverage to understand your vocabulary before I label you as wrong. So through relationship, I have an opportunity to see you and learn your contextual essence before I say you are wrong. It is within these delicate rooms of theology that the Gospel becomes soiled in the lives of the believer. There is not animosity or discord because the relationship avails me to the understanding of your vocabulary.
Does this subvert the usage of the Gospel?-By no means. The Gospel is a relational narrative practiced in context with real, live characters. It is not the sum total of a rhetorical speech, laden with hermeneutical cosmetics to attract the unbelievers. Yes we preach, teach, rebuke and reprove but not just for the sake of displaying some pseudo-orthodoxy, we do it out of relational commitment that was first developed with Christ. If my relationship with him is solid, I re-image that relationship with others. I treat them with the same love and honor that was given to me when I did not deserve it from God.
The problem is that we have morphed our spiritual walk with God into a business plan that concludes with a success or fail agenda. Evangelical Christianity has become the spiritual prototype of the corporate world. There is more concern for numerical growth than growth in discipleship. Though I understand the reasoning for such actions the outcomes are tenuous. They have become priority for some with blatant disregard for the guidance of Holy Spirit. A plan has become fail proof and stacked upon equal footing with the will of God.
I conclude that a crooked/warp image of God leads to a dangerous pretext, context and post-text. The church has fallen prey to such a mishap where everyone anoints themselves as the epitome of truth and refuses to listen to others. This presents a disfigured-disjointed image of God- if we are truly the imago dei (image of God).