Grace Shake UP

Let’s talk about representation and diversity today, shall we?

To hear many Christians talk, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with being homosexual. For a smaller amount, one can maybe even be both homosexual and Christian. You’d also think listening to how they talk that some black people are Christians. Or some dirt poor “working class” folks. A single mother, struggling with her English, someone crazily suggests, can be reached by grace. Even some indigenous people, say the missional crew. Now, here me out. Hell, there’s even some gay dirt poor indigenous Mexicans who are Christians. I mean, probably, right? God is just that intense he’ll save people that are very different from normalized White American Middle Class Straight Christians.

This is what passes for diversity in elements of the White US Christian Church. See how diverse we are? See our magnanimousness? We *allow* these elements to represent us like the handful of students from the Asian/Asian-American/Pacific Islander and the La Raza clubs represent Midsize University on their brochures.

And so Church in the White contextual experience still largely centers the world upon itself and still considers itself the best hope for humanity. But its nominal head don’t want no part. Jesus:

I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.

-          Matthew 25:42-43

If Jesus identifies directly with the oppressed, why do we consider the Christian experience to be primarily the bodies and minds of white, male, cis-, straight, Anglo, wealthy, educated, able-bodied, housed, normalized people?

But Jesus is a homeless Cuban man we call Carlos. He’s got schizophrenia and a drinking problem, cast out in the cold by a shunning community and a family that can’t deal no more. And he may die of hypothermia tonight. Jesus is a black transwoman who is violently ostracized, threatened, and feared by a people that fail to grasp the mere fact of her humanity and beauty. Jesus has been diagnosed with learning disorders and behavioral problems since he first jumped out of his seat out of boredom, a Hot Cheetos diet, and way too much stress for a five year old. At three in the morning, Jesus rolls out of bed and unwraps five dozen corn husks for tamales she sells this morning and every morning on California Avenue. She hopes to sell them all today just in case her oldest son doesn’t find work today. Jesus is hoping no one will bother him from his spot under the Kennedy by-pass at Logan tonight. Jesus got beat up in high school to the point where he attempted suicide.

"Jesus on Wheels" - Holly Northrup via Flickr

“Jesus on Wheels” – Holly Northrup via Flickr

Jesus’ default setting isn’t White. He’s extremely unlikely to be found in a middle class setting. He probably doesn’t know how to set a proper table and he likely doesn’t speak Proper English.

This isn’t metaphorical. This isn’t some white liberal fairy-tale to make us feel all fuzzy wuzzy for Christmas and then go back home and repeat the same patterns of meaningless, benign exploitation. Let us once and forever replace the false White Middle Class Jesus with Black Prisoner Jesus and reorder our lives accordingly. This colonial, exploitative world is hell and needs heaven.

I don’t think White Christians should be asking in the reaches of the imagination if it is possible that people of color can truly come to grace.

I think White Christians need to ask if it’s possible for grace to break in to a Christianity so limited, so fragile, so cruel.

It’s a miracle that God gives White Christians grace. Because God don’t look like us.

10 thoughts on “Grace Shake UP

  1. I’m sorry, I can’t get much more than snark out of this. Its not that I don’t think that we’ve sanitized Jesus, imagined him to be white, and taken him as the one who blesses our middle class lives. Point taken. But even with that realization, long ago, my life doesn’t fully display the Gospel’s values. Most of us will deny that we spend any time worried about whether black people can be Christian — give us something we can’t so easily defend ourselves from.

    If this is an intellectual construct — Jesus as a homeless mentally ill person with a drinking problem, — do you think we reject this merely because it threatens us by forcing us to take suffering seriously? I’d say that most of us share a theological idea that Jesus helps us, and he can’t help me if he’s even more desperate than I am. That may be truly misguided theologically, but I suspect that’s an issue here. In other words, show us what our defenses really look like. Unpack them, and maybe we’ll get somewhere.

    • Being desperate doesn’t mean being worthless. In actuality Jesus WAS in a much more desperate place than you or I will ever be, he was up on the cross with the burdens of all our sins on him. Not much could be considered more desperate than that. But in our current time period, it’s telling that you express that YOU can’t be helped by anyone worse off than you. That shows what value you place on those less well,off than you. You don’t think they can be of any value to you. In my own darkest hours it was those less fortunate than me that actually stepped up and provided more than platitudes.

      I’m not sure if that was the view you intended to express, and I think that was the entire point of this article.

  2. Wonderful. Beautifully said. Those that represent “Christianity” have been doing so for more than 2,000 years and look at the state of the world more division and intolerance of each other than ever. They’ve basically failed to instill any of the true teachings of Jesus which were based on lifting up the marginalized and Love of one another beyond caste, creed, color or sex. Women have no place at the top in Christianity because a few men decided it that way it has nothing to do with Jesus.
    Christianity is the interpretation of Jesus’ teachings through the divided egoic mind of man even as Jesus only saw and taught Unity and therefore we have only division in religion. But the time is ripe for a revolution in Consciousness. God Bless.

  3. “Let us once and forever replace the false White Middle Class Jesus with Black Prisoner Jesus and reorder our lives accordingly.”

    Can you give me some idea what this means to ‘reorder our lives accordingly’? If it is too much for a single reply, can you point me to resources to explore it further? Thanks

    • Maybe “reorder our lives” isn’t the best choice of words. Maybe, “reconsider how we approaches and interactions” – particularly in the face of an institutional Church that serves Empire over People, money over matters.

      Does that make sense? Sorry, I’m in a bit of a rush out the door.

  4. I actually like the first words – I am currently thinking about how I need to reorder my life to reflect what I believe. I am currently unchurched and harbor deep skepticism of church as institution so the second doesn’t resonate with me as much. I guess my question was more what do you think this looks like on a practical basis? I appreciate your reply. I am just returning to the faith after a 20+ yr hiatus and I am trying to figure out how to think about things in a new paradigm. Although I am drawn to some of the elements of Progressive Christianity, there are obvious pitfalls that I am hoping to avoid. One is the institutions obsession over itself. Either this faith is relevant in the world, and by relevant I mean stands on the side of the oppressed and marginalized, or it is not. I am happy to disregard it if it is not. But being exposed to the thoughts of people like Bonhoeffer and Stringfellow I think there is something here worth exploring.

    • Either this faith is relevant in the world, and by relevant I mean stands on the side of the oppressed and marginalized, or it is not.

      Yes. Here and elsewhere I tend to focus on Liberation Theology – that God stands among and with the oppressed and my work as a Christian and a person in the world is to do the same where and when I can (obviously, I’m speaking my own limited experience in being a Christian as well as being part of the oppressive classes in many intersections as well).

      I do find your use of the term “relevant” ironic, though. I tend to hear that phrase used about churches from those who are concerned about trying to make church more hip and consumer-friendly, particularly for wealthier white people. You’re taking it in quite the opposite direction and I love that juxtaposition.

  5. trying to make church more hip and consumer-friendly

    Yeah, I’m too old for that!. ;p I’m not really interested in faith as a product for consumption. They have football for that. It is one of the reasons I am as skeptical of institutions as I am. Once you have a building and paid staff and grounds and hierarchy, how do you avoid having your focus dilluted by the need to maintain it all? I don’t know the answer. But after spending the better part of a year trying to find a church in the vast cultural wasteland we call the suburbs, it occurred to me that if this is it, I have more productive things I could be doing with my time. I am interested in people who are putting this radical view of faith into action. I have enjoyed what I have read in your blog so far.

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