Listen To Article
Here’s what he said: “It was a very, very religious town, but a very, very racist town at the same time. And so, ergo, my life: trying to understand how something can be so profoundly, deeply committed to Christianity and so profoundly, deeply committed to racism at the same time.”
Since I heard that, I’ve thought about it a lot. Profoundly, deeply committed to Christianity. Profoundly, deeply committed to racism.
I have had to learn to see the ways that this describes… me. There is no other way to account for the longstanding disparities in the community where I live, but for the active participation of white Christians. Like me.
For centuries, white American Christians have had to shift our theologies to reconcile the Jesus we love with the inequality we enjoy. We have had to shape a faith that could accommodate a commitment to the racist status quo. James Cone gives an example, “The White Christ gave blacks slavery, segregation, and lynching and told them to turn the other cheek and to look for their reward in heaven. Be patient, they were told, and your suffering will be rewarded, for it is the source of your spiritual redemption.” A theology of redemptive suffering arises in a church which can no longer ignore human pain, but also does not wish it to be challenged.
It makes me wonder how much of what I call my faith is actually a reflection of racism. How has racism shaped what I have learned to believe about gratitude, about forgiveness, about salvation, about generosity, about providence. How has racism shaped what I believe about sin, about redemption, about evil, about justice, about prayer. How much has racism shaped what I believe about Jesus. About God. About me.
One part of Cone’s The Cross and the Lynching Tree that angered me deeply was the silence of white theologians, white pastors, white Christians in the midst of the lynchings of Black bodies during the Jim Crow era. The parallels Cone draws – calling them modern-day crucifixions – seem so obvious from my place in history. How could they stay silent?
On Tuesday, not an hour after the three guilty verdicts in the Chauvin trial were announced, a new headline emerged: the death of 15-year old Ma’Khia Bryant at the hands of Columbus police.
I’m beginning to understand what it sounds like to be profoundly, deeply committed to Christianity while also being profoundly, deeply committed to racism.
Let’s pray for peace.
But she was holding a knife.
It was one bad apple.
Everybody makes mistakes.
The church should stick to preaching the gospel.