A summer of racial unrest throughout the country has led to calls in the presidential campaign to “restore law and order.” It’s the same line used by Richard Nixon in 1968 to appeal to white nationalist fears of black criminality after the “long hot summer of 1967.” Racialized wars on drugs emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries—directed against Chinese people for opium use, African Americans in the South for charges of cocaine use, and Mexicans and Mexican Americans surrounding allegations of marijuana use. Then there is peyote, a sacred medicine and religious adjunct in Native American worship.
“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.
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.
The whole church needs to encounter the courage and truthfulness of the fact that God created us good, to love and be loved.
Far from being meaningless slights with minimal harm, microagressions intrude on the spiritual lives of those who are already marginalized and oppressed.
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.
I used to lead activities like the "Privilege Walk" and "Cross the Line." I couldn't shake the feeling that they were not taking us very far.
Many will look at the tribal and ethnic tensions that exist all around the world as a problem as old as human civilization. Isn’t this a strong argument for the reality that the racism that was practiced by white/western Europe is indeed just a reflection of what has always been?
The question of American identity has historically been both complex and contested. What’s more, it often yields mythic notions rooted in exceptionalist dogmas like election, commission, moral regeneracy, sacred land, and innocent past. Embedded in religious American exceptionalism is the American Dream: if an individual works hard, perseveres, and is a good citizen, there is no limit to how far she can advance.
The Spirit’s loving, life-giving, transformative power—Divine Eros—connects us, moves within us, and can heal the wounds of our division.
Why does the church participate in modern-day lynching, or at most turn a blind eye, rather than protesting as our faith would dictate?
Join me in June for Duke Divinity's 'Summer Institute for Reconciliation' to learn together how we can subvert the currents of racial hierarchy and racism that permeate our lives.