This country is exhausting.
Every day I put my son in the stroller for a walk around my neighborhood, a leafy suburb of the Georgia city where the Southern Baptist Convention was founded nearly 200 years ago. I can't help but notice that many of the houses I pass have three iconic objects gracing their well-tended lawns: a brown wooden cross, a silver flagpole bearing an American flag, and a large Donald Trump sign etched in blue and red. I don’t know why those who would believe themselves to be our brothers and sisters according to the body and the blood of Jesus would believe that such symbols of Christian nationalism and white supremacy are innocent. The desecration of the sacred dark body of Jesus and the sacred dark bodies walking up the hilly concrete bewilders me. How could they stand so solidly on the side of the oppressors when the one who was put on wooden crosses stood on the side of the oppressed?
In America, too many white Christians say the solution to racism is public acts of prayer and unity while they simultaneously deny the enduring power of white supremacy and their complicity in it. As recently as last month, a high-profile Southern Baptist seminary decided to offer $5 million of their $89.7 million endowment to scholarships for Black students while holding on to the racist narrative, legacy, and structure of their slaveholding founders. As Joseph Gerth in the Louisville Courier Journal points out, pollster Robert P. Jones calls this “the White Christian Shuffle” — white Christians publicly engage in acts of charity while simultaneously holding on to the white supremacist rot that lays at the foundation.
Somehow, this season created another moment of imagined redemption for both President Donald Trump and white Christians. They both are once again trying to get Black people to save them, to make themselves look better, either through political messages of solidarity with Black people or theater of reconciliation with Black churches, beckoning us to have an audacious amount of faith in their ability to finally love us.
From Trump’s attempts to solidify Black votes through the Platinum Plan with Black faces at his white rallies to white Christians’ reversal of supposed commitment to address racial injustice in the long, hot summer of 2020, they want us to believe that the best of our Black lives should be placed in their white hands. Neither Trump, nor white Christians, have done much to change the conditions of the Black lives they claim to care about.
Black Christians, hear me clear: Stop trying to save white Christians. Don't believe the lie: Our current political and religious situation is not the result of moral failures on "both sides." No. We are here because both the Religious Right and political Right have been bent on creating a world of white Christian male rule rather than an equal and just one. Their commitment has swayed even people of good faith to believe that those who want a more free, more loving, and more just society are the enemy. This has been a successful movement that has been years in the making. It will take all of us to undo it.
Let’s not forget: The neighborhood, the church, and the school are the heartbeat of our racial architecture. The religious, social, and political arrangements of white supremacy have always depended on pastors, politicians, and police as its oxygen. So when we hear political rhetoric talking about suburbs, religious promises, and attacks on social and racial justice curriculum, we are also hearing the politics of white supremacy. This is the Right’s platform and promise.
An administration or a church that has come from the legacy of upholding and sustaining a commitment to white Christian rule is not an administration or a church committed to Black liberation. They want us to hold onto Bible verses that talk about prayer and respect for authorities but never wanted us to be free to embody passages of liberation and justice.
To be committed to our liberation is to be committed to dismantling the racist social, political, and economic structures of white supremacy. It is about power and justice and the conditions of Black life in America and the value that is associated with the places where our Black bodies find themselves. It is about dealing with the terror and violence and history of American plunder baptized in messages of salvation, redeeming the country back to God, and white Christians’ own complicity in it all.
Black Christians, we can’t set ourselves free with the same teachings that enslaved us. We can’t love ourselves deeply in the same places that hated us. We can’t achieve our collective liberation with a politics that has depended more on our silence and complicity than it did on our power and agency. We can’t achieve a better America believing that Jesus cares more about white comfort than Black liberation. “The master’s tools,” Audre Lorde reminds us, “will never dismantle the master’s house.”
Those who benefit from oppression can’t set the agenda for liberation because they will always choose their comfort over justice for others. A Christianity that needs to be saved by white supremacy shows itself not to be the religion of Jesus but the religion of the oppressors. There is no war on Christianity, but there is a war on white supremacy. And we intend to win.
The good news we bring is not domination. The good news we bring is liberation. That is the Jesus way.
We deserve better this year and all the years to come.
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