“Christianity is the white man’s religion”. Some thoughts on blackness and faith.

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“You know, I’ve given her her due. Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change,” Kelly said. “Jesus was a white man, too. It’s like we have proof, he’s a historical figure that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa, I just want kids to know that. How do you revise it in the middle of the legacy in the story and change Santa from white to black?”

No, that was not a spoof comment – American news anchor Megyn Kelly actually said this on national news earlier this week. Jesus and Santa are both white apparently. I mean, you really have to be admirably committed to white supremacy to convince children that a fictional character that rides a sleigh with reindeers HAS to be white. The tooth fairy was white too. That’s why I never got any money for my teeth when they dropped out. Racist tooth fairy. I can prove it. So are leprechauns, they are Irish. Don’t you dare do a theatre production of Rapunzel with an black actress, she MUST be white otherwise we are being ahistorical, and if you don’t teach children that honesty is always the best policy, what will they become? We all know black women can’t have long hair without weave anyway.

It’s scary that Megyn Kelly, instead of primarily espousing that all human beings were made in the image of God, is adamant in insuring that God was made in her image. And no one else’s. And before someone mentions that Jesus is also a fictional character, no, he may not have been the Son of God, but like Buddha, there’s enough historical evidence for his existence as a religious teacher. Oh, and also like Buddha, he wasn’t white. Google ‘men from bethlehem’ – they look Arab. Or Muslim. Or terrorist. It’s ironic that a modern Jesus would have probably been strip searched at airports.

I’ve recently joined a facebook group that debates political and racial issues. Most of the members are black, and apparently most of them aren’t Christian. That’s unsurprising – there does appear to be a some sort of correlation between the ‘conscious’ black community and rejecting Christianity. In the past 20 plus years there’s been a noticeable efflux of young black men into Islam both here in the UK, and America, and I’m beginning more and more to understand why.

Personally, I find myself being increasingly frustrated with the inability of white Christians to address their own racism, as well as the passivity of many black Christians.  Let’s be real, for West Africans and West Indians (and many Asians), Christianity came with a Bible in one hand and a whip or a gun in the other. Christianity was definitely present in Africa prior to slavery and colonialism – the Egyptian Coptic and Ethiopian Orthodox churches are some of the oldest denominations in the world and there is even evidence of Christian groups in West Africa prior to slavery. Despite that, most people of African or Caribbean descent have been taught to view the Bible through a Eurocentric lens. Christianity has definitely been used as a tool to oppress and subjugate black and brown people across the world, and keep them in a state of passive non-resistance to white supremacy. It has taught them to associate whiteness with purity, European culture with enlightenment and progress, and African cultures and traditions with primitivity and regression. A primary example is the argument in some churches over styles of worship – styles that are linked to the African tradition – often more vocal and physically involved, are derided due to their ‘voodoo’ origins. This is not to say that I believe all styles of worship are acceptable, just that I understand there is often an underlying fear of ‘Africanness’ that clouds these discussions.

I cannot dispute these facts, and I think black and white Christians have to agree collectively that white Christians as a group have failed to represent Christ in their dealings with black and other non-white people. Their image of Christ that has been portrayed by them historically has almost been devilish. Additionally, as black people, we have failed to adequately interrogate the version of Christianity that has been given to us by our slave and colonial masters. We have failed to reclaim the image of God as a God for all peoples. We have given images of a white Jesus to our sons and daughters and wondered why they cannot reconcile this image with the world they see around them.

I don’t believe Christianity is the white man’s religion simply because historically, it’s simply inaccurate. Christianity came from the Middle East. When Jesus was taken to hide from Roman soldiers, he was taken to Egypt – an African country where racially, the population at the time would have been considered by many today to be black or brown or Arab at the very least.In a recent visit to Egypt there were some curly haired folk floating around who could easily pass for one of my mixed race cousins. Moses wife in the Bible, Zipporah was an Ethiopian, as was the Queen of Sheba. Simon of Cyrene was black. There are enough black people in the Bible for me to feel that I am represented in it’s pages. Most importantly, the God of the Bible who I pray to claims in the pages of the Bible that in him ‘there is no Jew or Gentile, for Christ in all and in all’.

I do know though, that I have been conditioned to imagine God in an image that is not my own, and that is wrong – but part of human experience is examining our own faulty thought patterns and changing them. If all humans are created in the image of God, we need to allow our children to believe that a Chinese Jesus, an Asian Jesus, a Barbadian Jesus and an English Jesus are all equally viable options. Why? Because essence of God is spirit, and  although that spirit cannot be reduced to any individual race, it can infuse the core of our beings, regardless of what colour we are.

How have you struggled with the idea of faith and race? Have you ever found it hard to reconcile the two? Do you imagine Jesus as a particular colour?

P.s. I’ve just started reading ‘God of the Oppressed’ by James Cone. Anyone else who has read it, hit me up, I’m interested in your thoughts. Also, this blog is no where near long enough to rake through what is essentially a very complicated issue. Just brief thoughts 🙂

 

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4 Comments

  1. Makeda Sylvester
    May 13, 2015 / 11:18 pm

    Hi there. I used to be an atheist but then I took a logic class and learned that you can’t prove the nonexistence of something so I became agnostic. I do believe that the religion—at least the Anglo Saxon version of it, white man blond, blue, was forced upon us for control and to subdue any thoughts of resistance. It has worked, largely…we can’t do anything without praying. Our kids are executed in the street and instead of revolt, we pray….some more. I want to learn more about Christianity in Africa—where slaves were taken from. How was it looked at there versus the version we were forced to accept once transplanted in North America.

    By the way, I am named after the Queen of Sheba.

    • June 1, 2015 / 4:06 pm

      I agree that faith without action is useless! We need to stop hoping that prayer alone without action will save us! Lovely name btw.

  2. Makeda Sylvester
    May 13, 2015 / 11:22 pm

    By the way I would imagine that since Jesus was oppressed, he was black.

  3. Michael
    January 1, 2016 / 2:50 pm

    I agree with much of what you’ve written. Sadly, Christianity (a perverted version of it) has been used to subjugate and oppress black people throughout the centuries.

    However, as you rightly mention, the faith was strong in Africa long before white people arrived on the continent and some of the most influential thinkers in the early church were all Africans (Cyprian, Origen, Athanasius and most famously of all, Saint Augustine). In addition, north Africa was one of the major centres of Christian learning a few decades after Christ’s death (see the Alexandrian school of theology). The faith we have TODAY was shaped and moulded in Africa.

    I wish more Christians were aware of this type of information.

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