“White privilege is your history being taught as a core class and mine being taught as an elective,” wrote a tumblr user in February of 2014. This claim illustrates how education sins in its ignorance. Latin American liberation theologians taught that sin consists not only of personal misdeeds—it is also embedded in social structures that promote harm and inequity.
Then & Now
Religious historians take on the present
Christianity isn’t inherently white supremacist. But Christian faith in America has been interpreted in a way that upholds the tenets of white supremacy, which is built on 18th and 19th century Western hegemonic values. These cultural values, which have been intertwined into mainline American Christianity, protect and uphold the system of white supremacy. “All men are created equal,” claims the Declaration of Independence.
I was born in California. One side of my family immigrated to the United States in the early 17th century. The other side of my family arrived on tightly packed ships filled with misery and tears. We have been American for a long time. Yet, it wasn’t until a cool night in November 2008 that I felt a sense of belonging.
There are so many horrific events in the news. What do we do with the tumult of feelings that rushes through us when we hear about them? How do we navigate this world of lightning-fast news and online echo chambers where we can block particular perspectives and opinions? In these charged, gut-wrenching times, how do we process information and determine what course of action might align with our values? In seminary a professor assigned “reaction/response papers.”
American Christianity has faced theological-political crises before. Repeatedly, visions of what is possible for the nation have fallen short of reality. In the past, periods of change pushed faithful people to reconsider what they believed, not only about the nation but also about the meaning of God’s call to justice. In each critical moment, for good or ill, Americans altered their religious views, and the horizon of what was possible expanded or contracted. In revolutionary America, disunity resulted from debates over whether faith required obedience to the king or a revolt.
Bathroom bills. The phrase’s bouncy, alliterative nature, plus just the word bathroom, makes it somehow seem light, frivolous . . . oh, it’s just about the bathroom. It’s not.
On Sunday, after a tragic week of race-related killings in Dallas, Minneapolis, and Baton Rouge, I took a seat in my white evangelical middle-class megachurch in central Pennsylvania. I didn’t know what to expect, but as the sermon began I found myself pleasantly surprised. My pastor used his scheduled sermon on the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37) to address the issue of race in America.
The concept of race headlines many discussions in America. If you are talking about education, then you must address the achievement gap between white and black students. If you are talking about poverty, then you must talk about the disproportionate number of people of color who consume social services. If the conversation is about crime, you are pressed to mention the high number of African American male inmates. It’s the fog of race: prejudice and discrimination applied to pigmentation-neutral topics.
We are living in a time of nativism around the globe. Britain just voted to leave the European Union based on Euroscepticism. The Alternative for Germany movement aims to do the same for the EU’s largest remaining nation, while France’s National Front Party and Italy’s Northern League have grown in power over the last decade. And in the U.S., the Republican Party has nominated a candidate whose platform includes building a giant wall on the border.
Is there a future for religious women in North America and Western Europe? Even heavily Catholic regions like Ireland and Quebec have populations of Catholic sisters who are overwhelmingly elderly.