It’s been 13 months since I’ve written here… I’ve been doing a bit of writing elsewhere, and haven’t wanted to be diverted from that. However, a topic has come up that I should address, and it would be useful to be able to share this with people down the road.
I am sometimes suspected of being anti-white, anti-Christian, or both. The suggestions are a bit ridiculous, as I am both white and Christian–but then, social media is full of ridiculous claims. But, I understand where these ideas come from, as I am not shy about pointing out deficiencies in Christian White America. Recently someone commented on one of my posts about white oppression essentially saying, “but what about the blacks in Africa who sold the captives into slavery?”
Aside from the fact that “whataboutism” is not a defense to a claim, this actually touches on a valid point: why do I talk about white sin to the exclusion of non-white sin?
The answer is “because their sin is not my story.”
In one of the Chronicles of Narnia books, two of the characters are discussing why the Christ-figure lion, Aslan, didn’t tell one character what was happening with the other character. The explanation was that “Aslan never tells someone a story but his own.”
Those of us who are Christians know the famous verse in Romans, “All have sinned…” I mean, seriously, that’s a given. The entire book of Romans deals with Jewish prejudice against non-Jews. At the start of Chapter 2, Paul lays it on the line, telling the Jewish Christians not to judge the Gentiles, as the Jews are no better.
What happened in Africa is not my story, although I try to understand as much as I can. And while I do not have any blood ties to any slaveowners that I know of, I am a part of the white Christian majority that has benefitted from oppression and privilege; this is my story. And while I do not believe in inherited guilt of the past, I am guilty to the extent that I have participated in a system built on white privilege, and I have a responsibility to confront and oppose racism to the extent that I can.
“Everyone I know has a big but…”
Lately a few people have been pointing out that white Evangelicals, as a rule, have no problem accepting that they are sinners because of the fall of Adam, if not “totally depraved,” they refuse to accept that they are racists because they participate in a racist society.
I think there may be a theological reason, although a very bad theological reason. Evangelicals–again, as a rule–believe that once they have “accepted Jesus,” they are forgiven for Adam’s sin (I said it was bad theology). However, any hints of being racist is like being called a pervert… it’s a personal failing that they don’t know how to process. It is an ugly blemish in their “good Christian” or “white savior” façade. Yes, it’s all screwed-up theology, but such is evangelicalism.
Then, of course, there are those (as much as 40%) Americans who are just simply racists.
For the most part, I stick to telling my story. I criticized Trump for the very reason that he was my President. I criticize or praise our leaders because I’m an American. I criticize American Christianity because I am one. I don’t comment on Islam, for the most part, or Rastafarianism, I just love the music. I appreciate Native American culture, African culture, Jewish theology, etc., but I try for better or worse not to criticize what isn’t my story.