The Sickness of Racism (pt. 3) "Christian Colonization"
Updated: Jan 15, 2019
I'm tired of racist Christians.
Especially the ones who don't think they're racist and still claim to represent my faith. But why would we expect anything less? No matter what branch or flavor of Christianity you identify with, our entire church story is a tangled web of authentic, spiritual social movements being co-opted by racist systems and structures.
While we know from scripture that God cares about the human spirit and the body, Christianity took on Greek and Roman ideologies early in the third century that forsook the body and the physical, suggesting that spiritual “salvation” is all that really matters. This emphasis on the afterlife, and the devaluation of the physical world, led to a list of Christian atrocities like the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the colonization and genocide of Native Americans, the enslavement of Africans, to name a few.
These wars and genocides essentially fall under the umbrella of what early American settlers called "Manifest Destiny," which is when nationalism merges with religious dogma. It suggests that God has blessed a nation of people and it is their spiritual destiny to invade other territories, take their land, extract their resources, evangelize or "civilize" the inhabitants with force until they assimilate with the dominant culture/religion, or face death and/or enslavement as a consequence.
To summarize: "God has sent us. Join us or die. Oh, and this stuff is ours now."
It's important to provide some of this historical context because Christian history is often white-washed and romanticized. Sure, there are examples of past Christian leaders who fought the sickness of systemic racism, like William Wilberforce, who started a social movement to end the slave trade in Britain in the early 1800s; or Harriet Tubman, the U.S. abolitionist who rescued slaves via the Underground Railroad in the mid 1800s; or, of course, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who led the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. However, these Christian leaders were the faith minority of their time.
The Christian majority back then not only persecuted these leaders and others for their stances against racism and colonization, but they even used scripture to support slavery! Verses like Leviticus 25:44-46 in the Old Testament justified buying male and female slaves and treating them as "property". In the New Testament, they used versus like Ephesians 6:5-9 to make slaves submit to their "earthly masters".
They must have forgotten this passage:
"For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. S/he executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His/Her love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt (Deuteronomy 10:17-19).
Or this one:
"For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him/Her; for 'Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved'"(Romans 10:12).
The passage in Deuteronomy reveals God’s true nature; S/he shows no partiality toward any people group. And here is the cool part: S/he defends the orphans, the widows, and foreigners/aliens. Why is this important? Because during this time period, these were the outcasts of society—the lowest of the lows—who were rejected by religious leaders and communities alike.
Today, we have Christians who want to bar Syrian refugees from entering the U.S., all because of their xenophobia and anti-Muslim philosophies that are disguised as "border protection" arguments. There are Christians who split LatinX families apart by calling ICE on their kid's fellow classmates, or advocate for rolling back the Dream Act. Oh, and what about the Christian churches that cater their programs to rich, white families for tithing benefits, but then eschew poor families of color when they come asking for financial help?
If there is any truth to the scripture passages above, it's this: we serve a God who loves everyone, no matter their skin color or nationality and we are meant to do the same.
In summary, there are literally thousands of years of Church history and flawed ideologies to sift through and unlearn, but more importantly, there is some deep introspection and repentance that needs to occur. Christians can no longer sit by and believe racism was solved by Dr. King in the 60s, or that Christ will come back and save us from the evils we have created for ourselves. We have to be Christ to all people and restore all that has been broken and taken from communities of color, because in reality, we were the ones who broke or took most of it.