The Theft of White Supremacy | Sojourners

The Theft of White Supremacy

As we have seen throughout time and in the light of an afternoon in Virginia in 2017, white supremacists showing their faces can march through a city and steal the safety of the people all around them with guns and baseball bats. When supremacy is used as a tool against others, it comes in the form of theft — livelihoods and worth stolen from those that are called unworthy of respect.

Supremacy has been stealing from a good world since the beginning, and it begins with fear.

When fear takes over a body, mind, and spirit, that fear feeds the idea that to make things right again, something should be taken, and one must do whatever is necessary to get it.

Theft happened when Adam and Eve stole an apple and the hidden knowledge of God.

David stole Bathsheba.

Judas stole a kiss.

Europeans on expedition stole land for profit and lives from indigenous peoples.

Nazis and Nazi sympathizers stole Jews’ lives during the Holocaust.

The theft of Africans at the hands of European colonizers happened on slave ships coming across the ocean to America.

Supremacy steals everyday joy from the people it targets. It steals their livelihood and their pride, sometimes their very lives.

We watched Charlottesville unfold before us in live feeds and through news outlets. We watched a battle between protestors and counter-protestors. We watched white supremacists, who have committed theft after theft against people of color, rage against the people who are considered lesser than their white, straight, Christian lifestyle.

We heard them cry out “blood and soil,” a call to regain back this land that, ironically, wasn’t theirs in the first place.

We watched counter-protestors standing up. We watched clergy kneel down to pray. We watched people march, and every moment was a question for the world. Will supremacy continue to steal from us? Will history continue to repeat itself? Will supremacy win?

Christians from one side called out that their churches should respond, or they are complicit.

Other evangelicals called out praise for a president that sees the problem from all sides, and praise for past presidents who were just as complicit in such atrocities.

Supremacy has stolen good from the world, and has created the current climate we find in America today. To deny that or to be surprised by that is to miss the truth of the United States’ history.

Theft has happened since the beginning.

It’s stolen from the gospel.

It’s taken truth from the church, it’s taken a sense of worth from the people who feel they don’t belong. So we lament and we pray and we ask if it’s possible to fix what is broken.

But remember, supremacy doesn’t win.

Because the gospel cannot be stolen from those it’s been given to, and it’s been given to the least of these. To the children, the broken, the meek, the humble, the peacemakers.

Truth cannot be bankrupt, because it is always full.

Shalom will never be stripped away.

This is how people of color, the poor, and those who have been cast out cling to Jesus. They cling to Jesus because Jesus cannot become bankrupt. The church may abandon and abuse them, but the truth of Jesus cannot be stolen from those it’s been given to in gracious love.

So slave spirituals are still sung and songs remembering those coming out of Egypt, songs they might have been singing, because even though supremacy ruled the land, God was present. God saw them, just as God sees today.

While the church searches for what it believes, while many will speak against hate, white privilege, racism, and bigotry, many will condone it with either their words or their silence. Our next step is to restore, for everyone, what is never fully stolen from us: our image-bearing gift and likeness to God.

Inside of ourselves, we must choose to see clearly our own complicit attitudes, choose to listen, choose to step out into uncomfortable places and have uncomfortable conversations. Then we can engage our communities and learn what injustices sit outside our door. We write letters or make phone calls or have conversations with our children. We challenge school systems to teach history in a better way, and we challenge our church leaders to speak out in the face of such injustice. And we do not give up, because the gospel can never be taken.

The things supremacy steals will not be stolen forever.

Our chance now, to keep history from repeating and in the midst of history repeating before our eyes, is to know that the love of God is never bankrupt.

And our best chance at fighting supremacy on a daily basis is to know who we are, to know the truth of what we are called to be in the name of Jesus — based on his peace, his shalom, his justice, and based on the fact that all people are equally valuable in their own skin and own cultures. This forces us to take a look at our missionary ideologies, at the way we view light and darkness and what we teach from our pulpits and in our bible studies. It forces us to recognize that people who are outside the institutional church are doing the good work of Jesus, too, and we learn from them.

Jesus was the one who turned everything upside down, who was the very opposite of supremacy — who, being God, was humble, a servant. Jesus, who washed his friends’ feet and fed them, who sat with sinners, is the same Jesus who calls us to do what is right today.

So we cling to communion. We cling to the stories of Jesus and the truth and power of the gospel. We gather and we resist and we believe that the kingdom is for the least of these, and they are the ones who will lead the way forward.

Because Jesus turned everything upside down, died and lives again, supremacy does not win, and we walk in that kind of light.

May we brave enough to take whatever next step is ready and waiting for us.

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