Saturday, August 30, 2008

God I Know, Paul I know, but Who Are You? II

In his book, Dusk of Dawn: And Essay Toward an Autobiography of a Race Concept, WEB Du Bois lists of "white American code of ethics" that follows something like this:

Christian: peace, good will, Golden Rule, liberty, poverty
Gentleman: justice, manners, exclusiveness, police, wealth
American: defense, caste, propaganda, patriotism, power
White Men: war, hate, suspicion, exploitation, empire

This list was published in 1940. Does that ring true to you even today?

Du Bois also attempts to recount innumerable conversations he's had with white American men into a single imaginary dialogue. They were discussing the contradictions between what it means to a Christian and what it means to be an American. A white friend explained, "We've go to be American even if we give up being Christians and Gentlemen."

And I think that's the problem with what's known as American Christianity today. It's not that white Christians, and I say white as opposed to black Christians, are picking and choosing which commandments to follow or which verses are literal and which are figurative. It's that they're choose between being Christian, being gentle(wo)men, being American, and being white. The problem is they choose which most benefits their sense of morality and self-acceptance.

For example. We all recall what Rev. Jeremiah Wright said about the US of "KKK-A." Was anything he said a lie? No. Was anything he said racist? No. So what was the hoopla about? The fact that he criticized the US. Even Michael Pfleger said nothing sexist or racist; he only pointed out the sense of entitlement white Americans seem to have. This entitlement never displays itself more than when white Americans are called out for it, as it displayed itself in the immediate and extreme punishment Pfleger received from his archbishop.

Let me share more of the Du Bois's conversation:

"Suppose we continue to neglect discipline for the mod and stop teaching thick and thin patriotism? I admit it isn't exactly honest business; America isn't so wonderful as nations go, but must we not make Americans believe it wonderful?"
So what's my point? First of all, it's to show that white Christianity is not Christianity at its purest. I've been in many an online argument about the "fiasco and deception" of Christianity. What bothers me most about these discussions is not the intellectual dismissal of Christianity. What bothers me is the intellectual dishonesty when discussing Christianity and history.

Let me just first say as a knowing descendant of slaves and a historian, the God the slaves worshipped and the God white people worshipped wasn't always the same God. For far too many white Americans at the time, god was just a heavenly body to whom you sacrifice your Sunday and did pretty whatever you wanted during the week. Now, this wasn't the God of abolitionists and temperance women and some suffragist; but, this was, and for some still is, the god of the majority of white American Christians. The troubling thing is that the Bible makes plain that God does not accept sacrifices and prayers from people who turn right around and disobey him.

On the other hand, the God of the slaves was personal. S/He was close by and a comforter, a strengthener, and encourager. That's why white Christians emphasis God's love, and black Christians emphasis liberty and deliverance. Even today, hardly a sermon goes by in a black church without the preacher encouraging the congregation that even if you're "going through," God is by your side and you can lean on Him/Her.

Historically, the problem is not and has never Christianity or most religions for that matter. The problem is that historically, European Christians have chosen war and exploitation, hate and empire over peace and justice, love and humility. I challenge anyone to name one horrific tragedy done in the name of "Christianity" that had nothing at all to do with the teachings of Christ. And if you can't see the difference, you're just as intellectually dishonest, bigoted, and close-minded as those you castigate. Just be honest with yourself. It's not that you don't believe in a Higher Being, you just don't wanna except a being Higher than yourself.

And I'm a black Christian. I don't recognize the god so many "Christian" conservatives talk about. How God would prize the "sanctity of life" over the ending of poverty, which is what leads so many woman to chose abortion, is beyond me. How their god seems to think the racial problems today originate from black grievances instead of white racism is beyond me. But, I suppose if the god you serve has blue eyes and long blond hair and pale skin, he may very well think that way. But I don't know that god.

But so anyway, here's the thing. Far too many American Christians, especially white ones, prioritize other codes of ethics over Christianity. And if you're a secularists who's tired of "Christian" conservatives making a mess of the Constitution, stop fighting them and work with those of us who follow Christ, not the most recent POTUS we like. Cause there're millions of us out there who are politically progressive, and we're willing not to evangelize you or expressing our ideas in religious terms. But you've got to stop trivializing our beliefs. Cause we won't stand for that either.

If you wanna confront those conservatives who call themselves Christians, denying the existence of God ain't gonna do. Telling them they're nut cases ain't gonna do it. But, maybe if you learned the 10 Commandments, you could challenge them for the support of a regressive tax system and an economy that distributes wealth upwards and leave the poor behind. And especially when it comes to same-sex marriage. Don't let them beat you up about the "sanctity" of marriage being between one man and one woman. Challenge the divorce rate that's 50% in and outside the church, challenge the fact that the rates spousal abuse are the same in and outside the church. And you should really hit them up with the fact that their seems to be more compassion, understanding, and equal sharing of domestic duties.

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But Don't Jack My Genuis