American Jesus: An Introduction

Years ago, I started trying write a lengthy blog post called “American Jesus”. Its main theme is racism and religion. I’ve been reluctantly adding to it as I’ve reflected on society. 

Living in Canada, some of the white pastors that I’ve encountered have either spoken or acted in ways that left me feeling uncomfortable. I couldn’t help notice that they modelled themselves a certain way. Specifically, they seemed interested in mimicking what you might witness in American-style, Big Box Christian circles. Hence, my title.

This post goes out to every Black Person who has had to tolerate bigotry in a church setting. This is especially for those who have endured a white pastor who loved to show how “down” they were.

Yet when the darker skinned people in their congregation dared to open their mouths about how they have been wronged by society—or a fellow parishioner—suddenly those people were doing too much, or just “misunderstood” something–or were just plain WRONG.

Photo by Valerie Sigamani via Unsplash

Years ago I lived in Toronto with a pair of roommates.  We got along well. For some reason, one day, one roommate–a woman of colour* that I’ll call Angie–and I got together and decided to take each other to church. She took me to a Black church that she attended. I took her where I went. Downtown.

It was a white church. In hindsight I know that I was one of very few non-white people in attendance. Yet somehow, I only started taking it in after the service, when she pointed it out.

Because of that observation, you might be tempted to feel smug. Especially if you’re reading this and went to church with me back then.

Please don’t.

Don’t say, “Claire, you know damn well it wasn’t a ‘white’ church.” Technically, supposedly,  everyone was welcome. The term “white” is simply a descriptor of the majority of the people who showed up.

And please, don’t look at my sudden realization and tell me, “Ah, Claire. See how comfortable you felt. The people in that church behaved decently towards you. They took you in as a child of God.”

Some seemed to, of course.

However, years later, after the American election in 2016, I became aware of just how white certain members were—especially some of its leaders.

Over the years many of us remained connected via social media.

Hellscape that it can be, Facebook is where I saw the most garbage. The political climate is connected to the current cycle of racist evil that we are experiencing. And in the days after the election I saw a lot of interesting things.

Please note in these examples, I’m generalizing. Mainly because I imagine other Black people have witnessed similar things. Meanwhile in real life, while drafting this, I was thinking of specific individuals.

Among other things, via social media, I witnessed white Christian men who…

When asked what the intentions of protesters who took down Confederate statues were, declared “I don’t know!”. As an authority, his attitude only added to the narrative that protestors must have been unhinged. He missed an opportunity to do research and recognize the statues for what they are: Symbols of oppression.

Men who took cheap shots at Obama. Meanwhile, in the wake of blatantly evil acts from his successor, said NOTHING.

Men who share stories from a media outlet that made Fox News look like it deserved a Pulitzer.

Men who love to talk about what MLK would have done—because it bothered them when anti-racist protesters got violent—and after all, didn’t Dr. King hate violence?!? Meanwhile, Dr. King understood that a riot was “the language of the unheard.”

(Dear White People: STOP using Dr. King as a prop to excuse your lazy approach to injustice. He may not have been interested in rioting, but he understood the type of hopelessness mixed with righteous anger that lies beneath.)

Men who quoted random Bible verses without explanation. Yet the scriptures’ tone and content left readers thinking only one thing: they believed innocent people were to blame for whatever leader they wound up with.

Men who told me, “Black people voted for Trump!” Which in hindsight, is interesting. When I first saw that comment, I shot back a word about slaves who were extra loyal to their masters.

However today, when I hear that, I think “And a woman defended Harvey Weinstein.” Because one did, literally. In court.

Here’s a #ProTip: Someone may receive support from those who are among their potential victims. Yet that does NOT mean that they are incapable of oppressing them. It merely makes them good at fooling the most naïve among the oppressed.

That, and there’s a little thing called Stockholm Syndrome.

Looking back, it hurts to realize that I turned to some of these people for spiritual leadership. (Mind you, it wasn’t a completely surrendered form of leadership. When I was a child, not only did I go to church, but my family was involved in ministry. Throughout my life, my parents encouraged me to cultivate my own personal relationship with God.)

Nevertheless, when you go to church services—or watch a pastor on YouTube–just by showing up, you are saying that you value the opinion of the person in the pulpit.

Black people, you need to beware of the beliefs of the people who lead you on Sabbath and Sundays. Our lives matter.

 

*She wasn’t Black, but she wasn’t white, either. Hence my use of that term.

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