Tag Archives: racism

Where the Devil Sits

A few weeks ago I went for a routine blood test. As normally happens, the phlebotomist looked at the long list of tests ordered by my physician and whistled. I suppose it was to distract myself from counting the number of tubes she was extracting from the drawer that I asked how she was “surviving the Age of Trump.” She is African-American; I’m white. Over the past year and a half we’ve had a few good heart-to-heart conversations about what is happening to our country. Like me, she’s in her late fifties, a committed Christian, active in her church body. I shared with her some of the struggles we’ve had, as parents of a biracial child, finding a church here in the Bible Belt.  I told her a few stories of the subtle racism that we’ve encountered. She had grown up in the South, had attended church all her life, so I knew what I shared wouldn’t surprise her, as it has me. She just nodded her head sympathetically. Then, when I was done, she looked at me, sighed, put her hand on mine and said something succinctly profound: “Honey, when it comes to racism, the church is where the devil sits.”

I’ve just endured my daily scanning of the headlines, read the transcript of another creepy press conference from hell in which Sarah Huckabee Sanders (à la Jeff Sessions) defended the separation of immigrant children from their parents, citing the Bible. I can only feel pity for someone who is clearly a shipwrecked soul. One could say, when you mix religion and politics, you get politics. Yet the twisted sophistries that come from her mouth have an old and familiar ring.

The racist policies of this administration, which seem daily to out-Herod Herod, are deeply rooted in a cruel and cultic brand of white-European Protestant Christianity that centuries ago allied itself with colonialism (which was also an outgrowth of capitalism). It has had various manifestations, justifying genocide, slavery, manifest destiny, Jim Crow, white supremacy, the re-education of Native American children. We thought it was dead, or at least dying. In reality, it was just waiting in the corner doing push-ups, getting ready for the last battle, waiting for a champion.

Let’s face it. When it comes to racism, the church (55 years after Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech) is still where the devil has his seat. We thought we had evolved beyond this, that we could solve this through education alone. But racism is also a demonic principality that must be pulled down, through repentance, prayer, and the word of God. Racism is not powerful merely because of what it is, but also because of where it sits, cockily ruling over the hearts and minds of those who call themselves “God’s people.” Unless pastors wake up and start attacking this dragon from the pulpit, unless we repent, disenthrall ourselves, and start praying, we will still be fighting this battle a century from now.

 

 

 

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Why African-American Christians Are Leaving White Churches

Check out this New York Times article on the “quiet exodus” of African-Americans from white churches.

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America’s Original Sin

Great article by Maj. Danny Sjursen, former history prof. at West Point. It deals with slavery and the “devil’s bargain” made by wealthy Virginia landowners in the 17th century. In order to keep their unequal share of wealth and quench growing class unrest, they ‘racialized’ class in America. And we’ve been stuck with this ever since.

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American Christianity’s Dark Colonial Past (L’histoire sombre de la chrétienté aux É.-U.)

At its annual meeting this week, the Southern Baptist Convention faltered in its condemnation of racism. This Guardian article explains why the failure is more the rule than the exception.  (Lors de sa réunion cette semaine, la Convention baptiste du Sud a été presque incapable de condamner le racisme. Cet article explique pourquoi cet échec est plus souvent la règle que l’exception.)

“It would be a mistake to interpret this fiasco simply as a misstep. The Southern Baptist Convention’s reluctance to condemn racism is not only true to its history but it reflects how white supremacy is built into the very DNA of American Christianity.”

“…Christianity came into America enslaving black people, dispossessing indigenous people of their lands, and committing sexual violence. In doctrine and practice, it justified all of this. Christian faith consolidated itself around the bodies of white, propertied men while dehumanizing others. Trump’s platform might not be a grotesque distortion of American Christianity as much as it is its sins come home to roost”

“At some point, it becomes naïve to see the white supremacy in American Christianity as an exception when it has been the rule. What is needed is more than reform and more than the correction of bad actions attached to otherwise innocent beliefs. Instead, the only alternative is a revolutionary Christianity that becomes something it has never been in the Americas; what is needed is the blossoming of a new kind of faith.”

Read full article here.

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The Great Dictator

In 1940 Charlie Chaplin released his first all-talking picture, The Great chaplinDictator (13 years after The Jazz Singer had broken the sound barrier). In the early 30s many had remarked how much he looked like Adolph Hitler, particularly around the upper lip. Der Führer apparently never thought the comparison was funny. His propaganda machine targeted Chaplin as a “Jewish acrobat,” part of that Jewish conspiracy that he believed controlled the world. That’s when the silent comic thought of capitalizing on the likeness by making a film lampooning the fascist leader. He knew one thing dictators cannot stand is being laughed at, although Chaplin later admitted that he never would have attempted such a film if he had known the true depth of the atrocities of the concentration camps.

The film was a hit, two hours of slapstick gags and political satire, all poking fun at the most hated man in America. But at the end of the film, Chaplin did something shocking and risky. He got serious. He had spent almost 30 years building capital in the hearts of Americans, Britons, and people the world over. Now he was going to spend it. He was going to use the end of the film to speak his mind. And that’s exactly what he did– for 8 minutes, he appeals to all peoples to stop the madness. Though still essentially in the character of the Jewish barber who is mistaken for Der Fooey (Der Führer), Chaplin skewers everything from fascism and capitalism to modernism and technology run amok

“I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone – if possible – Jew, Gentile – black man – white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness – not by each other’s misery…

“To those who can hear me, I say – do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed – the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.

“Soldiers! don’t give yourselves to brutes – men who despise you – enslave you – who regiment your lives – tell you what to do – what to think and what to feel! Who drill you – diet you – treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate – the unloved and the unnatural! Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!

“Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfill that promise! Let us fight to free the world – to do away with national barriers – to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers! in the name of democracy, let us all unite!”

With the world at war, few could find fault with Chaplin’s sentiment at the time. But 7 years later, in the war’s aftermath, in a new Cold War, the filmmaker came under new scrutiny. Funny, there’s nothing like spouting off about freedom, peace, unity, and democracy to make people suspect you of communism. (Jesus would have fared no better.)

Listening to this speech today, in the context of the insanity that now passes for American politics, Chaplin’s words can give us both hope and courage.

(To read or watch the speech in its entirety, click here.)

 

 

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“Let the Record Show”

A worthwhile read from an honest pastor here in NC. Wish there were more like him.

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Stick a Fork in Me, I’m Done!

As more than half of this country is still reeling from the blow of last week’s election, I wonder just what the church has become. Trump could not have won without the help of white evangelicals, 80% of whom voted for him. All I can ask is, “Who are these people, really, and what do they want with us?”

One thing I keep hearing lately, from white people, is “Thank God it’s over!” What a selfish thing to say, but oh so revealing! Sure. It’s over for you. You’re white, and you probably voted for that guy, which means you really don’t give a tinker’s damn about the people of color in this country, or the immigrants, who are scared right now, really very scared. It’s not over for them, not by a long shot. In fact, the nightmare is just beginning. You have no idea what you have done.

No, you voted for a candidate who hates just about everything Jesus loves. You cast your vote for a guy who is openly racist, who was endorsed by the freaking KKK, for goodness sake (which, incidentally, held a victory celebration in Raleigh this past weekend)! What does that say about him? Moreover, what does that say about you and what you value? You voted for an unabashed racist, so what does that make you?

Yes, it sickened me that, living in a battleground state, I was forced to vote for someone like her just to keep someone like him out of the White House. But no matter how poor and corrupt a candidate Hillary Clinton was, and I agree she had major flaws, huuuuuge, please don’t set up that false equivalency, comparing her with that man. And please don’t use any religious language or the Lord’s name to cover up what you’ve done, stabbing your African-American and Latino and Muslim brothers and sisters in the back. A massive betrayal of everything Jesus has taught us, to love the poor, the oppressed, the stranger.

Abortion, Roe v. Wade? If you really cared about the unborn, you would see clearly that abortion rates have never declined under Republican administrations: they rose under Reagan and Bush 1, declined under Clinton, sort of flatlined under Bush 2, and resumed their decline under Obama. That’s not an endorsement of the Democratic party (I’m not a member of either), but it shows us that if we really want to curtail abortion, we need to strengthen programs that address the underlying issues, like poverty, education, and health care, not gut them. But in the end, it’s never really been about abortion, has it? All along, it’s been about white power: you’re losing it and you’re mad.

I’m sorry, there is just no excuse for this, ever. No, at the end of the day it was that old American racism that won the day. That and the promise of power. Although if you’d read your history, you’d know that outcome is never good. The church should never seek political power. It ought to content itself with having influence, a voice. Seeking power only makes us more hated (if that were now possible).

It’s been happening gradually, O white evangelicalism, this parting of the ways between you and me. Now here is the final rupture. Like many Americans, I spent 30 minutes last Wednesday morning vomiting the remains of my breakfast into the sink. Perhaps I was eliminating the last vestiges of you in my system. The mask has fallen and the world can now see your true face. You have chosen your path; I have chosen mine. May God forgive you and grant you repentance and peace. No, none of us is perfect, and yes, we’re all hypocrites in some way, but I cannot worship nor raise my biracial child in a church that is so apostate, one that worships power and cruelty, war and wealth, selfishness and…well… whiteness.

No, I’m not abandoning Jesus Christ or Christianity or the church as a whole, just one expression of it, one that I find painfully, inexpressibly horrid. So I am embarking on a journey to find something of real Christianity and real Christians, if they exist. Who knows what I may find.

But as for now, stick a fork in me, I’m done.

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