There is something terribly wrong, and it has been wrong for a very long time.
In my growing up, I was taught about God – the Christian God who sent his son Jesus to be the Christ. This Christ brought and taught “the Good News,” which, I was taught, meant that all people had worth. This God sent his son to mix and mingle with all whom the dominant society shunned. Because of Jesus the Christ, his life, death and resurrection, the Good News became eternal. I was taught that because of the life of Jesus the Christ that there was “plenty good room” for all whom God had created.
But the message I was taught was central to Christianity missed much of humanity. Instead of adhering to and accepting this message of egalitarianism, humanity, even in the days of the Roman Empire, opted to displace God’s message and replace it with the message, the ideology and the belief system of those who ardently believed in the concept of white supremacy. Without, it seems, worrying about what the God many were taught wanted, this ruling class decided that some people – namely, Caucasians – were not only superior to people of color, but that God sanctioned white supremacy. In American history, even clergy were known to have said that slavery might be immoral, but it was not wrong. White clergy – along with white law enforcement officials – often actively participated in violence meted out against innocent black people or gave their support for crimes committed against black people by their silence.
According to Wes Howard-Brook in his book Empire Baptized: How the Church Embraced What Jesus Rejected, Christianity embraced the Empire. Brook says that there was a religion-of-creation and a religion-of-empire, and the two were not and are not one in the same. Howard-Brook says that Western Christianity has “declared Jesus’ explicit call for God’s kingdom on earth as in heaven a heresy, replacing it with a thin hope for individual souls after death. The call to radical discipleship found in the New Testament has been relegated to the margins of the Christian world.” (p. 297)
Indeed, there is a noticeable division between what I was taught about Jesus and God and God’s will and what “good Christian people” who are in positions of power seem to have embraced.
What we practice or identify as Christianity today is indeed not “good news.” This Christianity embraces militarism, materialism and racism, as Dr. Martin Luther King preached. This Christianity is not a comfort to “the least of these,” but is, rather, an arm and tool of the government – the Empire – used to manipulate people to opt for the wants of the State rather than for the wants of God.
What makes that troubling is that the wants of the State seem diametrically opposed to what God apparently wanted Jesus to teach when Jesus was on this earth. God opted for the wants and needs of the people. If we believe what we were taught, we believe that God must be sorely concerned about how the wants and needs of the masses of people are being ignored and trampled upon by the State. The God of the State is silent in the face of state-sanctioned violence and immorality. The God of the State is not a friend of the masses but is, rather, a pawn to be called upon by the State as the State continues its quest for raw power.
That God has been present throughout history, which then begs one to inquire about the whole concept of the omnipotence and omniscience of God, and it worse, it forces many to question the “goodness” of God – because the God of the State is not “good” to the masses, but, rather, seems to side with the State and let the State have its way, God’s people notwithstanding.
This God of the State, representing the Empire, does not produce feelings of safety for the oppressed, especially for people of African descent. Indeed, this God has remained silent and has let white supremacy wreak havoc with the lives of people of African descent in the United States and in the world. This God of the State has not only seemingly ignored the pleas of black people for justice and divine intervention to eradicate white supremacy, but has also ignored the cries of other oppressed groups – the poor, the elderly, children, women, the disabled… The God of the State seems to be firmly entrenched with the will of the State, and that being the case, oppressed people do not have a chance in hell of having a life for which the Biblical God seemed to advocate.
I do not like Empire Christianity. I do not like how it glosses over or outright ignores the needs of the masses. I do not like how Empire Christianity sanctions and supports oppression against so many groups of people.
But larger than my dislike of Empire Christianity is the observation that it is impotent in being a force to destroy white supremacy. This Christianity is not of God or from God; it is of human beings many of whom happen to be wealthy, white and male, and who will do anything and everything to protect their power. This Empire Christianity is not about building community, but is about dividing and conquering people for its own purposes.
God is an afterthought in and for Empire Christianity, maybe even an inconvenience.
For all its bragging, Empire Christianity is weak and has no moral core; its core is the ideology of the Empire. Empire Christians have participated in rampant and cruel oppression of people from the beginning of its existence. It will never fight white supremacy, because white supremacy is central to its ethos.
My Sunday School lessons were good for my soul; I grew up believing in this religion called Christianity. I believed it to be the answer, the “go-to” when evil – which white supremacy is – rose up. But it is not. Empire Christianity is merely a façade behind which people hide in order to carry out their white supremacist agendas. They do it with pride and with arrogance.
It is not the religion of Jesus the Christ.