This is the penultimate essay in my series on white supremacy that has expanded for almost three months. In this brief post, I would like to review what I am arguing and why I do so. This is just not another bemoaning of individuals who have racial biases. I have eschewed such an approach as unhelpful and relegated to that of the abstract, and something that benefits the status quo.
As I understand it, my position is from that of the margins, not as a Person of Color, but as a POC who is doing an examination of the white supremacist machine from a thorough religious studies perspective. My undergrad training in the field of religious studies was that of the World Religions Paradigm. I recall my senior year, we were required to read a book by Christian religious pluralist Diane Eck. Back then, as I do now, I disagreed with Eck’s approach, but I could not put my finger on it. Something did not sit well with me, there was something about the claims to universal truth, that the image of fire had the same meaning in all religions. It was not until years later that I had realized a critique that we did not have access to: the World Religions Paradigm approach was problematic because what undergirded it was a white liberal commitment to Western norms as defining religions out of their unique contexts.
I am much in agreement with Philip L. Tite’s contribution to the Religion Bulletin Blog, Teaching Beyond The World Religions Paradigm; the post resonated with me and my personal experience in the academy. I would go further and ask, not only what are the beginnings of the “Judeo-Christian” framework, but also where and what are the beginnings of the injuction of “Judeo-Christianity” and how really “Judeo” it is?!?!?
Like the World Religions Approach to Religious studies, White Supremacy as a Religion starts with a totalizing perspective of what it sees as Other. The WRP investigates religious subjects as essentially the same; White Supremacy observes persons of different races and skin pigmentations (one constructed, one biological) as stereotypes, and not persons with valuable, particular stories. That is why anti-racist challenges to songs such as Asian Girlz are important. People are wedded to their belief systems (dogma) about persons. Anti-racism is ultimately about theological anthropology, and who persons believe have sacred worth. Sentiments shared by Sharon Osbourne, as “open minded” as she might be, still reveals that it’s normal for whites to believe that blacks are immoral by nature. Comments like “Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus must realize they are white, and not black” connote a passive acceptance of one group of people’s superiority over the other.
In a world where our governing bodies, say, the state of Texas, has racist and sexist microgressions as THE NORM, while jokingly dismissed as just “the good ole boys club,” their decisions have life and death consequences for the people whom they rule over and oppress (primarily the economically disadvantaged). No microagression, no racist slip of the tongue, no wearing of the Confederate flag on a tee shirt, or any other instance of “personal racism” is “accidental.” There is a history and a colonial context behind these actions. Like all institutions, institutional racism is lifted up by and carried on by a mythology.
Chauncey DeVega put it this way,
“Sunday is the most racially segregated day of the week. Is there anything that can be done to change that fact?
There are three elements in how religion intersects with the colorline that are of particular importance.
Faith involves a belief in such things that cannot be proven by ordinary means.
Theodicy involves trying to reconcile an all loving, good, and omniscient God with the problem of evil. Where was God during the Holocaust? Where was God on the slave ship and at the plantation? Where is God when children are held captive as sex slaves? Would a “good” God allows such wickedness to occur?
Racism is a political, philosophical, religious, economic, and scientific system of thought and belief that privileges one group of people, marked by their “color” and “phenotype” as naturally and preordained to be “less than” relative to another group of people and types of bodies, marked in a similarly arbitrary way–but normalized by Power–as being naturally dominant and empowered.
Racism is a true lie and fiction made real. Racism is a response to existing social and political questions. Racism is evolving and changing; it is one of humankind’s greatest inventions.
White Supremacy as a power is a depraved perversion of humanity’s call to be stewards of the Earth, to take care of creation. As a Christian, I believe that all systems are answerable to the Lord Christ Jesus. In the same vein as theologians such as John Howard Yoder and Walter Wink, I view the Principalities as broken entities in need of relationships righted. As Wink put it, “no matter how greedy or idolatrous [I would add racist and sexist] an institution becomes, it cannot escape the encompassing care and judgment of the One in and through and for whom it was created (Colossians 1:16). In that One “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17–literally, “receive their systemic place”–sunistemi is the Greek source of our word system). The Powers are inextricably locked into God’s system, whose human face is revealed by Jesus. They are answerable to God. And that means that ever subsystem in the world is, in principle, redeemable.” (from The Powers That Be, Chapter 1)
I choose to go two steps further than Wink, in both identifying the current ruling principality as white supremacy, and then point to Jesus’ offices as Judge and Redeemer. I contend that Jesus as the source of decolonization can liberate humanity from institutional racism, that in Christ’s death, the Triune God exposed the world’s domination system, and Jesus triumphed over it (Colossians 2:15). In my concluding post, I discuss the ways that people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds can combat institutional racism.