Beyonce, White Folks, Church & Dis-Creation

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I saw an article on Huffpost this morning relating  Beyonce’s album ‘Lemonade’, the black woman’s experience, and prejudice within the church. It speaks into a subject I think about quite a bit, which is racism, the value of people, and what God says about those things. Rather than put a post on Facebook, I decided I’d explore the issue a bit here in this platform, which seems more appropriate. My thoughts aren’t fully formed – again, I’m exploring. It’s an issue I think worthy of exploration and I’d love to read some of your thoughts if you care to comment.

Being in seminary I am exposed to lots of conversation surrounding issues of justice, and race is certainly in the mix where justice is concerned. I know, as a white girl, I’m wading into sacrosanct territory for some of my seminary contemporaries, but I’ve got a couple of thoughts in development here and I want to write about it.

The first thought is that racism is an ‘everybody’ problem, in conflict with the core character and values of God, and white folks (I) need to work every bit as hard as people of color to end it. I see the problem minimized by white folks through denial and dilution i.e. “All Lives Matter” offered as some kind of backward way to expunge the existence of racism. Though white folks can’t know or understand first hand what it means to be diminished by systemic prejudice, we’ve got to acknowledge that it exists, that the chorus of voices saying this is something that affects their lives in very real and detrimental ways are speaking truth.

Privilege is invisible to those who have it. Let’s say that again. . . PRIVILEGE IS INVISIBLE TO THOSE WHO HAVE IT, and white folks working to end racism along side our brothers and sisters of color requires us to listen from a position that says ‘you are the expert on your experience, not me.’ It requires white folks to become willing to let go of their privilege, which comes at great cost to people of color, and, instead, affirm that all people are valuable and worth fighting for. It means holding space for the anger and frustration that is expressed by people of color. It means listening to others and saying ‘how can I help?’ It means a deep and central collective acknowledgement that we have all been participating in a system that hurts others because it’s easier to do that than to change things. It means turning away from that system and finding a different way.

My second thought is that all people are valuable to God. God cares for all of God’s creatures and instructs us many times throughout scripture to care for the people on the margins, the ‘widow and the orphan’, which equivocates to the disadvantaged. To care for the people on the margins is a path which leads us into harmony with God’s created order. This is important because to be in harmony with God’s order is to be living in an atmosphere of Creation.

When we step out of God’s created order, Dis-creation happens. We see it over and over again in the bible…people get greedy and don’t care well for those on the margins. Soon enough, the famine and floods and earthquakes and wild beasts start happening.  Dis-creation is precisely what we are seeing in the world of today. It is a direct result of greed, and racism most certainly is one of the forms greed takes.

I see injustice for my brothers and sisters of color and for the Native American community, and I want us to move through that and beyond it. I want that because I believe the solutions to many of the problems we face today are to be found, either within those communities, or through the shift toward valuing those communities as highly as we value our own without making them to be like we are.

The only way we’re going to get out of this thing alive is together. God has shown us that, over and over again through God’s word. So, I’m going to use my voice and bring up the subject, even though I’m not an expert and I don’t have very many answers. I do have one answer. It is God’s answer, and it is that we’ve got to be just, valuing each and every person as highly as we would our own children, because they are God’s children.

Strangely enough, I really believe that if we begin to value all human life the way God does, most of our environmental and economic problems will be resolved, because we will be back in the goodly order and graces of God.

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5 thoughts on “Beyonce, White Folks, Church & Dis-Creation

  1. Hi Jen: Thanks for the post.

    I must also confess my limited understanding from experience. I appreciated your comment: “Privilege is invisible to those who have it.” This means I must pay attention and listen and not try to apply solutions from my own ignorance.

    I hope seminary is going well.

  2. I grew up in a town where, at least among my circle of friends, color wasn’t a big issue. Our problems were more around jocks vs brains, and blacks and whites fit into both categories.

    As a student of history, and religious history in particular, I was always fascinate by the fact that racism is a modern innovation. Even back in the time of Our Lord (and before) race wasn’t a major issue, religion and nationality were far more important. As an example, you need to read the Old Testament with a map to determine racial identity of the various groups, there is rarely a mention of a person’s race; skin color is mentioned only as a passing comment, such as in the Song of Solomon:

    The Beloved to the Maidens:
    I am dark but lovely, O maidens of Jerusalem,
    dark like the tents of Qedar,

    The skin color of the Queen of Sheba is never mentioned in the meeting with Solomon yet, being from the area we know as Yemen, she was undoubtedly black. Many rumors exist that Solomon sent the Tabernacle to her for safe keeping, and a sect of holy men in Yemen claim that, to this day, it is still in their possession.

    Even in Greek and Roman times interracial marriages were not uncommon, slaves existed as both black and white, and even the black kingdoms mentioned in historical / archaeological papers had white people as slaves. It was not considered anything more than what happened when one kingdom conquered another. So, when did racism enter the world? Why is it such a hot-button topic these days? Why does it seem to be the one “-ism” we can’t get past?

    • Interesting observation. It seems to me our present U.S. racism is a vestige of the African American, Chinese, and Native American enslavement/genocide that happened throughout the building of our nation. African Americans were considered only ‘three fifths’ of a person within our legal system, indicating their lives were less valuable. In order to take this land from the Native Americans in the way we did required an egregious devaluation of those populations.

      Racism seems to go along with imperialism – Germany, South Africa, US. It requires seeing others as ‘less than’ based on race, a view which most certainly is not a biblical principle. I guess devaluation due to ‘otherness’ makes it easier to justify imperialistic (or greedy) behavior – which we do see in the bible, i.e. the exilic period and the way the Assyrians treated the Jews. ‘Otherness’ comes in different forms: skin color, nationality, religion, etc. Maybe race is simply the current flavor. I know the division isn’t good, isn’t Godly.

      • It didn’t start in America, the attitude was brought here. Still in search of its origin.

        Two things are needed to conquer another people, devaluation and rights, and the process is still alive today. In order to allow abortion the first step was devaluation, from a baby to fetal tissue. Once the baby was considered little more than a wart that can be removed then rights come into play. Now, the woman’s “right” to choose overrode the former baby’s “right” to life.

        To eliminate a group you must first devalue them, then elevate everyone else above them.

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