This might be a hard pill to swallow, let alone a difficult question to approach. When we beckon forth spirituality and faith, we may not consider discriminatory implications ingrained within fabric. what better way to ponder if Christianity is racist than talk about it?
Now more than ever, we’re called to discuss uncomfortable topics. As many anti-racist protest signs have likely said, silence is violence. We do more harm not asking these questions than if we try and stumble through it.
For full honesty, I’m white, female, middle-class, and quite privileged. I have a disability, sure, but I can pass by well enough. It’s my responsibility then to serve as an ally for the Black and BIPOC (Black indigenous people of color) community. I must use this unfair privilege I was born with to its fullest advantage.
Christianity (and most religions) ask for tolerance, compassion, and love. Every neighbor deserves respect. It’s quite simple when you look at it. However, the question stands, Is Christianity racist? Let’s dive into the deep end and really discern that.
the very beginning.
At first glance, I can easily tell you that Christianity is racist. Perhaps not in specific instances, or when people actually practice what they preach. The brand of Christianity I specifically grew up with was not BIPOC-friendly.
For context, I grew up in the rural Midwest. My Lutheran church exudes fairly conservative views of the world, as do the congregants. That meant that I only knew Bible stories with white characters. My education completely disregarded the true origins of Abrahamic religion (in the Middle East, with ethnically Arab people).
Reflecting upon the historical origins of Christianity and its spread across the world, you can again find plenty of rampant racism. The very concept of evangelism and missionary trips exudes a superiority complex that aims to erase entire indigenous cultures and traditions. How privileged it is to walk into a room or country from a “high horse” to tell others what to believe.
You’ll also find that people turn to the Bible to justify blatant racism. Readings from Old Testament texts such as Genesis 9:18-27, in which Noah curses his son Ham and Ham’s son Canaan, supported Christian racists who made the connection that Ham, forced into slavery, was “obviously” Black. Yes, these conclusions were all made from broad, obviously racist assumptions.
more recently…white supremacy.
Here we arrive on our journey to a more familiar setting, one that again demonstrates that Christianity is racist. More specifically, evangelical Christianity bred white supremacy as we know it.
Rather than intervening during the Jim Crow days (and what can be considered present Jim Crow days), white Christians were the mob members inflicting violence and hatred toward darker-skinned individuals. One may consider this asserting dominance as the “right” religion and culture. Or even so far as to say that skin color and ethnic differences are “sinful.”
At its core, white supremacy originates from fear and insecurity. It’s a desperate cling to what feels safe through disgusting means. And, for the Christians who remained inactive amid racial violence, consider how much easier it is for a white American to prioritize their own salvation than involve themselves in social upheaval. If you have the privilege to put on your blinders and ignore injustice, most people will.
Let’s not forget other members of the BIPOC community. Any form of colonization, the remnants of which still clearly exist today, are racist. The countless years spent ridiculing and demonizing Native American culture and religion are racist. Any portrayal of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, or any “foreign” tradition is racist.
Although I only touched a mere fraction of evidence illustrating how Christianity is racist, now we must discern how to bear this heavy burden and improve. All of which will be much easier said than effectively done.
We must educate ourselves, individually and collectively, about Christian history and white supremacy. Again, there’s so much more history to unpack and conversations to have. The responsibility doesn’t fall on the BIPOC community: it’s up to white privileged people now to seek out the information and see (and change) the error in our ways.
Spiritual leaders within the Christian community must speak out and condemn racism every chance they get. Given that religion has its own political implications, many pastors and ministers have remained silent over the years in fear of congregational retaliation or lost funding. However, not appearing racist doesn’t designate you as anti-racist.
We must champion resources and places of refuge serving BIPOC communities. Throughout history, faith has been a safe space for people of color to congregate amid racial turmoil. Just as Black slaves sang to uplift their spirits, Black churches have served the same purposes amid mass injustice and oppression. As much as possible, we should support spiritual places and other organizations doing important anti-racist work.
We must truly live by Jesus’s example to act and speak up for the oppressed. If you actually dig back into the Gospels, you’ll find that Jesus, an Arab Jewish carpenter, exuded socialist ideals far before we could name them as such. He exemplified how we all must acknowledge those forced into the outskirts of society and gave them the dignity they deserved. Just as He taught, we must look into others’ eyes and see ourselves, see God, see the Kingdom of Heaven.
Christian and spiritual anti-racism.
I wholeheartedly believe that God’s timing has great intention and purpose. The Black Lives Matter movement further demonstrates that, calling us to seek God’s love in truly loving ways. This all needed to happen now. And when I say all, I especially mean the work going on behind the scenes: the petitions, donations, conversations, policy changes, education, and everything in between.
If you designate yourself as Christian and haven’t been vocal about anti-racism, I fall to the cliche question of “What would Jesus do?” If you distrust police brutality’s racial implications, I point you toward all the discriminated peoples that Jesus chose to dine with, heal, and advocate for. And, if you fail to see your own privilege and how racism has inherently benefited you, I challenge you to question, in our complicated societal dynamics, whether you are the crucified, or the crucifier.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie
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