There is a damaging idea out there that many of us in the faith community have been taught to believe. It is disguised as a virtuous, just, and inclusive idea, but beneath the surface it eats away at the fabric of culture. It’s a pathogen masquerading as a cure for what ails humanity. We’ve been served heavy doses of this ideology in recent years as politicians and predominantly, faith based communities have tried to heal the wounds of a divided Nation. The idea that we’ve bought into is that we are all ONE RACE.
Let me very clear here. Priscilla Shirer is a brilliant communicator and by all accounts an extraordinary woman. Her messages have had profound impact around the world. I’ve been laboring over whether or not I would share this video as an example of the rhetoric that I believe is unhealthy because it’s not my intent to be divisive. I’ve now had a couple people ask for my thoughts on this particular video, so I felt it would be appropriate to share what I believe about what Shirer said in this clip.
I was also recently on a panel at an event where Dr John Perkins was speaking. He shared some disparaging remarks about the Black Lives Matter movement that drew some uneasy and awkward responses from people of color in the crowd.
I was then asked about my views regarding the movement. Needless to say, I disagreed with him. Dr Perkins is a remarkable man and true advocate for unity. That doesn’t mean we are not allowed to disagree with him or any other leader within the faith community who hold ideologies we believe to be damaging to culture such as the One Race theology that Shirer and Perkins have preached.
It’s true that regardless of our individual ethnic origin, we are all part of the human race. It’s also true that the idea of race has been used as a tool to subjugate black people to whites, and in an effort to walk back the damage done by racism, some faith based leaders of color have been the primary carriers of the message that race/ethnicity doesn’t matter. I know that race and ethnicity aren’t the same thing, but to speak in common language and meet the conversation where it is, I will use the terms interchangeably. Allow me to share a few of the reasons I’m disturbed by the One Race idea.
God never asked us to choose.
If you’ve ever heard a talk or read Christian material on racial reconciliation, you’ve likely read or heard famous quote from the Apostle Paul about there being neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female… in the Christian faith. It’s been quoted to advance the idea that the Bible, and therefore God, doesn’t place any value on ethnicity. Or, at the very least, that when a person takes on the Christian faith, they are laying down their ethnicity. Interestingly enough, I’ve not seen the same principle applied to gender.
The writers of the Bible were Jewish men who were keenly aware of their own ethnicity and what that meant in society. None of them were color blind. If you were to sit down and read the totality of the writings of Paul, you’d find him consistently wrestling with what it meant for Gentiles (non-Jews) to be welcomed into what had traditionally been a Jewish only religion. Paul himself never claimed that Gentiles were no longer Gentiles or that Jews were no longer Jews. He fought for Gentiles to be welcomed into the Jewish religion in the face of violent opposition, but never ignored the fact that there were different ethnicities in the world. He recognized that the debate of his day came down to ethnicity. Jewish people believed Gentiles to be impure. They believed contact with Gentiles would delay God redeeming the world. It would have been ignorant and evasive of Paul to behave as if there wasn’t an issue to be resolved that centered around race.
Statements such as the ones Shirer made in the above video create a false dichotomy that says I have to choose my ethnicity or my religion. It implies that true piety is the absence of color awareness. Somehow if I’m striving to be exercise my faith well, I’m doing so blind to the color of my skin or the color of others. It’s plain and simply unnecessary to cast one’s race against their religion. We are never asked to choose one, so why manufacture that issue as a moral quandary?
Society recognizes race.
As I stated above, the authors of the Bible included race in their conversations because it was an issue in the society they lived in. Then, as now, people were treated differently depending on their race. Jewish people dealt with discrimination in the greater Roman world, and Gentiles suffered the same in Jerusalem. Today POC are discriminated against, looked down upon, and even violently harmed because of their race. Those are facts. We don’t get to ignore realities that make us uncomfortable if we are committed to making the world better. Race is an issue that is discussed, and no amount of white washing of the issue will change that. People care deeply about their heritage, and they should. It’s a part of what makes us beautiful.
Unity is broken without diversity.
If God wanted all people to be one shade, one heritage or one culture, why aren’t we born that way? We are created both in the image of God AND in the context of heritage and culture. Religion doesn’t cancel out ethnicity in the same way that it doesn’t cancel out gender. Even Priscilla Shirer’s own remarks reveal that being a woman is part of her identity that she is willing to retain. Our heritage, customs, culture and skin tone are all part of the mosaic God has created to show divine creativity. We shouldn’t dispose of that creativity because tensions exist over it.
Ironically enough, I can’t personally remember seeing any White Evangelicals denouncing their whiteness in an effort to reconcile. Why is it that the burden of denouncing race is carried almost exclusively by people of color? Sometimes the idea that’s presented is that if people of color would accept the dominance of whiteness within American religion and culture, things would be fine. We would have peace. We would have unity. That idea boiled down to its essential truth is that whiteness is the One Race that we should all accept as the culture of faith. I hope you can see the problem with that.
We encourage sharing by clicking on any of the sharable tabs below. Feel free to leave a comment below as well. Thanks for reading.