Friday, June 19, 2015

The Christian's Confusion | Idolatry and White Privilege: The White Evangelical Church in America

"Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder." James 2:18-19

Facebook post made after announcement
Ferguson grand jury verdict

The responsibility to end racial oppression resides in white hearts, minds, actions, language, and institutions. 

The American institution with the most power to oppress that also has the most power to reshape white hearts, minds, actions, language, and institutions is the white Christian church. 

I am always encouraged by those white American evangelicals that, showing their faith by their deeds, call attention to the reality of white privilege and the continuing significance of and damage caused by racism.

One of many negative responses
to Hatmaker's Ferguson Post

Rev. Liz Mosbo Verhage, who recently penned an article "After Charleston: An Open Letter to White Christians from a White Female Pastor" and Jen Hatmaker, who constantly urges her followers to reflect critically upon their white privilege, stand in solidarity with the oppressed. Jen Hatmaker is continually persecuted by her followers for doing so.

One of many negative responses
to Hatmaker's Ferguson Post

11“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matthew 5:11-12

Women like Verhage and Hatmaker are at the forefront of actualizing the gospel in a way that humbly seeks to strip away the veil of white ignorance, fights against oppression, and recognizes that "Blessed are those who mourn."

It is important to recognize these voices that actively speak against white supremacist ideology, white privilege, and the racist systems and institutions that continue to protect and reproduce the economic, social, and psychological wages of whiteness.

If more white American evangelical Christians and their leaders would proactively engage in the fight to dismantle the system of white supremacy and racial oppression, this nation and this world would be much different. The words of the bible and a devout dedication to the principles of Jesus, should be powerful motivators to fight racial oppression. 

The American church needs to remember who Jesus promised the Kingdom of Heaven:

"3Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
6Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
10Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.  12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." Matthew 5:3-12

The white mainstream evangelical church today has been corrupted by white privilege, blind nationalism, and wealth. It is more concerned with dictating adherence to its narrow conception of morality, faith, and salvation than fulfilling the commandments of its savior. 

“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27

It worships the false prophets of Fox News - wolves of hate disguised as sheep of Christian morality.
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." Matthew 7:15-20

It bears strange fruit because it has neglected the poorest and sickest among us to protect the wealth of its white pharisees. 

It exalts ungodly and immoral business leaders to positions of leadership and collects taxes to build temples (with cool audio/visual systems) to itself.

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 
Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers." James 2:1-9

While it celebrates itself as a heroic communicator of the "good news" its actions and political ideology have celebrated profits over people. 
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." Matthew 6:24
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21

It has accepted extreme economic inequality, violence, unjust wars of imperialism, racism, homophobia, and the failing provision of health care for the most vulnerable populations throughout the world. It has denied its militant political history to justify its subjugation of other faiths. 

The white evangelical church (and white America in general) needs a come to Jesus moment. Recognize the pharisee in the mirror and fear the day that Jesus declares: depart from me, I never knew you.
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

I think a good place to start is with white self-examination, critical historical reflection, and simple confession.

Here is mine:

I, as a white American, can not, in good faith, profess outrage or disgust at the actions of Dylan Roof without recognizing that: I, by sake of the undeserved privileged position bestowed upon me because of my white skin, am a product and a producer of racial oppression in America and throughout the world.

The same system that grants Dylan Roof a bullet proof vest instead of a bullet in the back, is the same system that grants me the continual benefit of the doubt that my intentions are good, even when my intentions are bad.

I am a product of this American system of white supremacy and white privilege. Because I am white, I have benefited from the history of European enlightenment that created the classifications of race and ethnicity.

I have materially, spiritually, and socially benefited from the inheritance of resources that were generated through the socially constructed hierarchical classification of races that designated the white race as superior.

I have benefited from the systems of colonization, slavery, and Jim Crow that have been the foundation of the wealth generated by the United States of America.

I continue to benefit from the systematic exclusion of racialized "others" from full participation in the political and economic resources and opportunities on local, national, and global levels.

My silence is complicity and even my best efforts to fight against systemic racism and my personal racial prejudice work to reproduce systems and cultures of racial inequality.

The responsibility to defeat systemic racism, the privilege of my whiteness, and my personal racial prejudices falls directly upon me.

The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth,

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