Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
stop doing wrong.
Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.[a]
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.
Isaiah 1: 16-18
Have you ever noticed how we speak about darkness and light?
Darkness is bad, evil, and dangerous.
Lightness is good, righteous, and safe.
We sing songs, pray prayers, and read scripture about being “washed white as snow.”
I understand where this came from to some extent. Terrible things can happen to human beings in the dark. With our sight compromised, we are more susceptible to all kinds of real and imagined dangers. Darkness causes fear.
Not many people would be willing, or even would want, to say that my skin color makes me evil, but when I was growing up, it was made clear to me that I would never be that cute innocent heroine-princess of the story. I would always have to play the evil witch, or if I was the lucky, the dragon. (Dragons are cool, ok?)
As a child, when I would play games with all of my White, blonde-haired, blue-eyed friends I was always assigned to role of the bad guy. If we were playing house, then I would have to play the next door neighbor, or even sometimes the dog, because even as young children my friends knew that I didn’t match them in some exclusionary way.
It did not take me long to pray to God to wash me as White as snow. Sure, I was young, I didn’t understand what that really meant, but on some level, I really think that I did.
Right now, as the United States and many other countries are caught up in racial tensions that can longer be ignored, I think we Church people have to be more careful about our language.
Am I beyond the scope of goodness, beauty, or even salvation because of the color of my skin?
That may seem like a silly question, but it is one that some Christian sects throughout history have had to wrestle with, and the language hasn’t left us yet. So, as we move through to the season of Lent, and the Church brings up all the images of moving from darkness to light, remember to be mindful of those people who will always remain wrapped in literal darkness. Use care in your words, for we are all children of God.