What I write here, I first shared with the precious souls of our church Reach Fellowship on Sunday, the morning after the El Paso Shooting. Our congregation is multi-ethnic & multi-linguistic yet, the majority of our membership is made up of Latinas & Latinos. Many of us don't feel safe, myself included. I pray these words provide comfort and clarity so healing, progress, and repentance can take place. Much of this statement is from my forthcoming book #Intensional👑 in which you can a FREE sample here.
A change of heart has to accompany a change of mind, which changes a person’s lifestyle. Now what I’m about to say is not politically motivated. It's not a rant. It is the heartfelt, careful assessment of the day we live in, & how we, Jesus followers must apply Ephesians 4:17-18. We're seeing a rise in planned mass shootings. The belief system embraced by more than a few of the murderers is known as White Supremacy, which is commonly understood as the belief that the white 'race' is superior to all others. Often, when this term is tossed into a conversation, it causes an explosion of emotions. But if we as the people of God desire to show what Ethnic Conciliation looks like, then we must be willing to first recognize the realities of the world around us.
Records from our nation’s history—from the founding documents through our current era—show that men of European descent have always held power and therefore provide us all with the freedom to name White Supremacy. This is where the pastor in me will speak tenderly. In America, we are encouraged to think individualistically. In my personal experience, when I speak on White Supremacy, my brothers & sisters of European descent feel the need to exonerate themselves from its collective reality. While at the same time, generally speaking, people of color, who often think communally, can go to the extreme and say every “white person” is a white supremacist. Neither of these extremes represents my motive for naming White Supremacy.
My goal is not to indict every person of European descent as a White Supremacist and neither is it to place them in a position of blame for this construction of power in our nation’s history. No one should feel guilty for their ethnicity, God has created each of us to be who we regarding ethnicity. This includes those of European descent, some of whom have approached me to apologize for being “white.” Which they need not do.
Instead, my goal here is to call us to recognize the power systems in place, both in society & the church, that work against #EthnicConciliation. This power structure was the reason Bishop Richard Allen planted the historic Mother Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia. The idea of “different races” is something man-made, not God designed. Genesis 1-2 says every male & female equally bears God’s image. I believe life begins at conception, so from the beginning of every physical life that God forms in the womb (Psalm 139:13), through the time a child is born, lives, and dies, that person bears God’s image.
The imago dei provides every human with God-given dignity & distinction from every other kind of creation. Even after the fall of man, every human has inherited sin equally. This was passed from Adam to the entire human race, not to one or a few select people groups (Romans 5:12). The one human race traces back to one common set of parents, Adam and Eve. Acts 17:26 says, “He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.” This one man is Adam, who heads the family tree of every ethnicity on the planet. What’s important to understand here is that Paul was proclaiming this truth to a group of Greeks, who believed they were superior to all other ethnic people groups!
In Malachi 2:10, the prophet of God says, “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us?” Malachi makes a distinction based not on race but on a relationship with God. God is the creator of every human being; we all bear His image. Yet God is Father only to those He has adopted into His family. This is reinforced in 1 Peter 2:9-10; Peter speaks to Christians as God’s “chosen race,” “royal priesthood,” “holy nation,” and “people for [God’s] own possession.” Again our "race" is not what separates us, whether we're God’s possession is what sets us apart. If we follow Christ, we're to share God’s story with those who know Him only as Creator and not as Father. The Good News of the #esperanza we preach is anyone can be reconciled to God.
Acts 2 is a foretaste of God redeeming people, through Jesus from different cultures, ethnicities, geographic locations, and languages. In our day, there is a racial caste system that has been in place for hundreds of years. Terms such as “White” and “Black” are evidence. Anibal Quijano boldly declares that the Spanish creation of racial categories was mere code language between the conquerors and those they conquered. At its inception, racial categories were a way to declare who was superior and who was inferior. Quijano says, “The idea of race, in its modern meaning, does not have a known history before the colonization of America” and “it was constructed to refer to the supposed differential biological structures between those groups [conquerors and conquered].”
In his book Working toward Whiteness: How America’s Immigrants Became White, David R. Roediger traces how immigrants from Europe exchanged their ethnic identity for the created term white to secure employment, housing, and other social benefits. The idea behind this term was to create an American identity. Today in America, it’s nearly impossible to speak clearly on the issues of ethnicity without having to use the socially embraced terms white and black. These terms were not normally used prior to colonization.
This socially constructed idea of race that is normal in America today doesn’t find its beginnings in Scripture. In fact, Paul rebuked this foolishness in Acts 17. The church must work to not only renounce this social construct but also tear it down, b/c it does not reflect Kingdom ethics or human flourishing. For far too long, God’s people have normalized the sin of partiality (which is what "racism" truly is), the false belief of different races, and the practice of segregation.
We must learn to stop using color-coded language and replace it with new language that expresses the reality of imago dei in every human being. We must also affirm the richness of different ethnicities and keep ourselves from either idolizing or ignoring ethnicity altogether. A new identity in Christ, calls every Jesus follower to shed the futile ways of their old lifestyle.
This often means turning away from comfort, in order to be the prophetic voice our world needs to hear. Specifically, only Jesus can change the hearts of people. We must have compassion on every sinner, from every ethnicity - because they can be saved by Jesus!