I can still smell it.
The smell of wooden pews, old Bibles and stale coffee. It was the smell of my tiny childhood church. Pictures of a very white, blue eyed, brown haired Jesus hung in various places. Those pictures gave me such comfort. Especially one in which he is in a field surrounded by sheep. Oh, how I loved that place and the people in it.
It never dawned on me that Jesus would have been brown skinned or that he lived in the Middle East. I’m pretty sure that it didn’t dawn on many of the adults there either. We lived in a white centered society then and we still do. That little country church was no exception.
It served as a lovely echo chamber.
Sermons centered around two main ideas: The love of God and the wiles of Satan. My fate was the fiery depths of Hell if I didn’t straighten up and fly right. You know, get baptized, dress modestly (don’t want to give the boys the wrong idea), and no premarital sex. Pray, give and serve. Wash, rinse and repeat.
I wanted and needed to be a good Christian, whatever that means. I absolutely thrived on the praise and approval. Something I later found that I would be addicted to.
As I grew up, I was told I was going to Hell because I wasn’t Catholic (5th grade) and that Satan was controlling my life. (on several occasions) Satan was blamed for everything. From something as simple as cursing to believing that Homosexuality isn’t a sin.
For reasons still unknown to me, Satan has become a celebrity and Hell is a destination reserved for anyone that does not assimilate to a certain code of behavior and thought processes.
If I didn’t know any better, I would swear that being a good Christian meant I kept Satan on speed dial and automatically abdicated any self-responsibility and free will.
What I have lived and found, is that humans are super good at finding scapegoats to explain bad behavior. Our biases are perfectly set up to prove how right we are and anyone that gets in the way of our rightness will get a finger wagging and tongue thrashing of the social media variety.
Now, I won’t argue that there are some evil forces at work in the world, I just refuse to give Satan more power than God.
It’s so easy, especially for white Christians, to claim current events are a result of a spiritual problem and not a race problem.
To that I will draw your attention to the graphic. Most slaveholders were Christian and could point out in the Bible where slavery was rationalized. Racism was constructed the second slavery was accepted. If there ever was a spiritual issue, it was with the wealthy white landowners who decided to dehumanize, own, rape and murder black human beings.
For 450 years there has been a race issue. It’s systemic and the only way to deconstruct it is to stop blaming another person or thing and start examining our collective white hearts.
“Racism is a white problem. It was constructed and created by white people and the ultimate responsibility lies with white people. For too long we’ve looked at it as if it were someone else’s problem, as if it was created in a vacuum.” Robin DiAngelo
You know what? Maybe it is a spiritual issue, but not with the folks protesting. We’ve got some listening and learning to do, not finger pointing.