God, religion and oppression in America

Around the State
Around the State – Graphic by Robyn H. Jimenez/The Dallas Examiner

Crazy Faith Ministries

We have a lot of religion in this country and in this world, but in spite of religion, the world is a holy mess.

While members of all religions claim their allegiance to God, I as a Christian wrestle with the disconnect between our profession of Jesus as our personal savior and our nearly universal refusal to practice Biblical Christianity – i.e., doing what Jesus commanded us to do. Many Christians boldly dismiss the commands given by the Christ to love our enemies, to forgive those who have done us wrong, and to turn the other cheek when we are attacked or oppressed.

The Rev. Dr. James Cone, who only recently died, talked about how he could not reconcile the God he studied in seminary with the presence of evil in general and racism in particular. The religion of both White and Black people was silent on the subject of white supremacy, and he wrote in The Cross and the Lynching Tree that the silence made him “angry with a fiery rage that had to find expression.”

Cone said he had to develop a theology that could make room for one to be both Black and Christian, because everywhere, including the Black community, “the public meaning of Christianity was White.”

The truth is, Black and Brown people, women, people who are physically, emotionally and developmentally challenged, and so many others, have had to try to find meaning in a world which has – in the name of and in spite of their profession of Jesus – ignored them.

All of us – White and Black – were taught the same theology, created by men – not women – who believed in their innate superiority. All who were not White, male and wealthy were expected to just accept our lot in life. Religion has allowed White supremacy to reign unfettered, controlling people with the threat of a possible seat in hell if we didn’t all just shut up and play the game as the rules dictated the game should be played.

This aggressive and oppressive theology is still pervasive; those who believe in the rightness and the sacredness of white supremacy are fighting with everything they’ve got to hold onto it. White supremacy apparently believes in authoritarianism and despises efforts to democratize and equalize the lives of God’s people. White supremacists believe in following “the law” if “the law” increases or at least protects their supremacy, but if a law threatens that power, they are the first to encourage the disobedience of that law. A case in point was the refusal of schools in the South to integrate after Brown vs. Board of Education ruled that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional. School officials refused to abide by “the law,” and it might be safely assumed that many of the protesters were church-going Christians, as they lived in the Bible Belt.

But their passion for following “the law” decreases when it is others who are protesting what they consider to be unjust laws or policies. The recent spate of protest against the National Rifle Association being conducted by teens has drawn all kinds of criticism by disapproving adults who again would probably consider themselves to be devout Christians. Just recently, Oliver North, newly elected as president of the NRA, said that the students who have been protesting since the tragic shooting at Parkland High School in Florida are “civil terrorists,” and vowed to “counterpunch” their efforts to get common-sense gun laws passed.

What is it about white supremacists that makes them think their cultural beliefs are superior to the will of God as stated in the Bible? How is it that they can think that their refusal to dismantle oppression is no problem, and that their cultural belief – i.e., that those who protest the laws of the Empire are out of line with their conception of God – is in fact all right with God?

The God of the Hebrew scriptures and the message of the Gospels is that all people matter to God. The message of both parts of the Christian Bible is that God, the creator of us all, wants us all to be treated with dignity.

God did not make any mistakes. If God had wanted this world to be all White and male, it is safe to assume that God would have made everyone White and male. We who experience oppression understand that. The White supremacists do not.

And so this world, in spite of religion and a stated belief in God in general and for some, a belief in Jesus, is a hot and holy mess. And it doesn’t look like things will change any time soon.

Rev Dr. Susan K Smith is available to preach, and give workshops or hold seminars on the issue of how religion and politics have been ineffective in destroying racism. She is working on a book on the subject at this time. To book her, visit revsuekim@sbcglobal.net, or visit http://www.crazyfaithministries.org.

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