Crazy Faith Ministries
We have survived as a people by calling and leaning on God. Our God, the immanent God, the God who sent Jesus the Christ to us, has been our light, our life, our salvation and our hope. We have defined God as omnipotent [all-powerful] and omniscient [all-knowing.] Our God has been omnipresent [everywhere] and omnibenevolent [all-good.]
Holding onto that notion of God has saved us, has given us hope and the ability to withstand oppression – racial and otherwise. But in the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump as president of this country, many have come to a point of crisis.
“God might be omni-everything,” said one person to me, “But I tell you this, if God is omnipotent, his power is weak.” Since, my disturbed friend said, he was unwilling to say that God was not all-powerful, he had decided that God was simply unwilling to end the oppression of Black people. God, he said, “is unwilling to step in and end racism. And since God is all-powerful, God could do it if he wanted. He clearly does not want to. What’s up with that?” he asked me.
Of course, the question stumped me. I think many of us have wrestled about the place of God in the area of racism. White supremacy is not a unique and private American phenomenon. It originated in Europe and still bubbles there. Even people of color from other countries have bought into the lie of White supremacy – that there is something inherently inferior about Black people.
There is no peace where there is White supremacy – which means there is no peace anywhere. Christmas songs which talk about how Jesus came to bring peace are, frankly, irritating. Protesters shout as they march through streets, “No justice! No peace!” Well, there is no justice; there can be no peace.
My friend pressed me. “What does God want us to do?” he asked. “What do we have to do to make God willing to shut White supremacy down, once and for all?”
Again, I had no answer. In spite of rhetoric to the contrary, Black people in this country and all over the world have worked harder than the average White person to “prove” his or her worthiness of dignity and equality. Black people have volunteered to fight in armies for countries that have been willing to let them fight but have been unwilling to let them live the lives White people live. Black people have worked harder, for lower pay, suffering the worst inequities in the workplace, just so they might “fit in,” and show that they [we] were worthy of better treatment.
Nothing has ever worked. The scourge of White supremacy continues to infiltrate every aspect of the lives of African Americans, and God, who has the power to stop it, has not done so. My friend said that God is unwilling to help. God, he said, is the only one to end this craziness.
Only God can end this, he said, because the erasure of White supremacy would mean people’s hearts would change. Their perspectives would change because their hearts would change. My friend quoted words from scripture, where God said he would replace hearts of stone with hearts of flesh. “It’s the fleshy hearts that are missing,” he said. “People go to church every week with hearts of stone and leave with the same hearts of stone. They do not care for God or for God’s will. Many do not believe that it is God’s will that White supremacy end.”
The conversation got deeper and deeper, with my friend asking questions which I could not answer. I do find myself frustrated, though, with God. This God has never stopped oppression and violence. God has complained when people have acted unjustly and/or violent toward each other, according to scripture, but God has not stopped the madness.
If God is unwilling to stop, end, erase White supremacy, why is that? Who knows? At the end of the day, we are left with – or maybe I am left with – the words my mother said, “It’s not our place to question God.” The questions come, though, as White supremacy keeps trouncing on people, here in this country and all over the world. White supremacists – in the name of God, yet – lower the hammer on people of color and do not think anything of it. Worse, they are pretty clear that they can do what they want to and against Black people and get away with it. God says nothing. God does nothing.
At the end of the conversation I had with my friend, I felt like I had been wrestling with God, like Jacob. I had no limp, though, not like Jacob did. Jacob wrested and said to God that he would not let go unless God blessed him. Presumably, that happened, because the wrestling match stopped and Jacob walked away, limping. In getting his answer, God took something away from him.
Maybe it was his desire to question God. Maybe in the wrestling, Jacob lost his sense of righteous indignation and confusion, but with that, he was at peace.
That peace has not come to enough of us. Our “God-is-good-all-the-time” Presence is with us, but just tending the field, letting things go on as they always have, save a few changes that our struggling against White supremacy have wrought over hundreds of years. It is daunting to think that perhaps White supremacy could be wiped out, but that it will take … thousands of years.
God, unwilling. It is a troubling thought.
Rev. Dr. Susan K Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries, and is also communications consultant for the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference Inc. She is available for preaching and teaching. Contact her at revs