If you visit a church and see the image of White Jesus, it is most likely symbolic of the whitewashed Christianity you have on your hands. If you choose to run like mad before church service begins, I can’t blame you.
A church building might not display pictures of White Jesus, but He might be “hidden in their hearts.”
Contemporary churches of different ethnic and racial makeups still teach and preach a whitewashed Christianity-one that is invested in maintaining institutional racism.
And churches filled with People of Color can be just as supportive of whitewashed religion as those with predominantly White people.
I have found that the common talk of love and family in Christ within the United States church can go as skin deep as the fictitious White Jesus.
In this post, I discuss this whitewashing phenomenon and contend that God and people are not just not light, white, and right, but both are also dark and beautiful.
Have We Forgotten?
Have much of the U.S. Church forgotten the Middle Eastern and African roots of Christianity?
Are we failing to realize there are Chaldeans who are at risk of deportation with a longer historical and cultural connection to Christianity than the ones who are hell-bent on whitewashing the religion?
On the other hand, when we regard a nation as the enemy, it makes it easy for churches, blind to their White supremacy, to ignore even Christians indigenous to Iraq. Various United States Christians perceive the Brown and Black people who set the stage and lineage for the Messiah as inferior.
Some churches act as if the sermon on the mount took place in the Caucasus mountains.
It is as if the Ghost of Slavery Past chose to conduct tent revivals.
It is as if generic mayonnaise decided to sponsor this year’s vacation bible school.
Can I get a witness and some hot sauce?
If God is the God of all, then we are overdue with a religious institution changed to better to reflect this truth.
Whitewashed and Colorblind
It appears that numerous church congregants and leaders spend more time trying to keep the church whitewashed than to change the way it has been an institution which has supported and maintained racism. Often different good White Christians hide their investment in White supremacy by using the language of colorblindness.
Colorblindness, where they pride themselves in transcending the discourse of race, for, like sweet baby Jesus himself, they do not see race or color.
The White Christians who suggest that we ignore race seem to think that if these Black and Brown mouths shut up and get with the program, the church would be unified.
Meanwhile they live race in their predominantly White churches,
predominantly White friendships,
predominantly White workspaces,
predominantly White communities, and
predominantly White recreational activities.
Looks like plenty of racial activity here.
This colorblindness “looks” like the denial of how one shapes life according to race.
Chiefly, this colorblindness is a tool to maintain a whitewashed religion.
Before anyone suggests stop bringing up the past, I invite them to consider how such racially involved practices in today’s de facto segregated world carried over from the historical de jure segregation.
Although the Christians invested in whitewashing think people should just love one another, there is nothing loving about the economic impact institutional racism to those who do not blend as easily.
Most churches teach about pride. Only select churches teach about the kind of White pride that keeps many Christians refusing to acknowledge how, even with all of their goodness, they still see and live out race.
Instead, many U.S. churches maintains a cultural narrative central to protecting the feelings of White people about their history concerning race and keeping a White heteropatriarchal structure.
I believe these churches can benefit from sending out letters like The Book of Revelation to inform good White Christians that the process of growing beyond this colorblind whitewashed lifestyle will not comfort their egos.
Closing: God is a Dark God
Did you know that God is of the darkness?
God is Dark.
I’ll never forget attending a women’s Bible class at predominantly White church where a White woman did something I had yet to witness in this congregation. Like any other day that I had attended, I was the only Person of Color in class.
I expected a lesson where there was the usual sanitized and acultural topic with several points supported with scriptures.
On this day, we had a different teacher and her lesson blew me away-even to this day. She troubled the dichotomous ways scriptures had been used for centuries.
She challenged the practice of emphasizing terms like “light” and “white” to represent good or association with God. On this day, she proclaimed that God is also “darkness.” She taught about how God’s goodness can be found in both the light and dark.
She understood the power of language and the widespread destructive or constructive force it brings when backed by institutions such as the church.
I marveled at the subversive move in this woman’s teachings. It has stayed with me for years as a reminder of people who dare to use their own voices.
God is in the darkness, too.
And it is good.
I am Black.
I am an Ascendant of Enslaved Persons.
We are a people residing under the shadow of God’s wing- in the darkness.
We were crafted out of Divine darkness.
We represent the secret place of the Most High God.
We are the deep that calls unto deep.
We are the colors of the sand and soil of the earth.
We are the night in which to number the stars.
God calls us, “Beautiful.”
Yes, God declares that “I am Black and beautiful.”
And certain parts of the U.S. Church have reinforced a morally bankrupt colorblind script, suggesting that we are otherwise. These individuals love to focus on what is light and white, ignoring the impact of the written word on the social imagination.
As a matter of fact, when a White pastor does a minimum of a twelve-part sermon series based on the verse, “I am Black and beautiful,” Jesus, out of pure shock, might return just to watch.
Given all of the self-hate that permeates the hearts of different Black people, it would be refreshing for the Black Churches to do the same.
A church committed more to God than White supremacy would expand our language, imagery, and practices beyond Jesus washing us “white as snow.”
I prefer to be washed as dark as the oceanic abyss.
A glorious baptism into waters that touch diverse nations.