I wonder what good is our worship, the worship of Christians, because I wonder which God we are worshiping.
We are worshipers; we do, as a rule, go to church. Many of our churches are filled every Sunday. We sing the songs of Zion. We quote the scriptures. Some of us speak in tongues, We celebrate God.
But at the end of the day, what good is the worship?Which God are we adoring and promising to serve? Isn't worship supposed to inspire us to do things differentlyt? Aren't we supposed to be filled with the presence of a God who demands justice and mercy for everyone? Aren't we supposed to be reminded of Matthew 25 where Jesus tells us that we must do right by "the least of these" or be in trouble because in ignoring them, we have in effect ignored God?
The tendency of practicing Christians to put other Christians down, and to decide their worthiness of justice is not new, nor is it confined to one ethnic or racial group. It seems that all of us do it. Black Christians have had no less propensity to put down members of the LGBT community than white Christians, for example. The human capacity to put each other down is non-discriminatory. Black and white Christians have been known to be anti-Semitic.
But this tendency to put others down and cast them out as unworthy seems to be a direct put-down of God. Didn't God create everything and everybody? Don't we all say that in our litanies? Don't we have that somewhere in our Christian doctrine? Are we aware that in putting others down, we are in effect putting down the Creator who made everyone and everything?
Or do we not really believe in the omnipotence of God? We can't have it both ways - that God is good and created all that has been created and at the same time believe that some people are not worthy to be on this earth. According to many who hold that view, God is a limited entity. and a good God would not have created brown and black people, who are morally and spiritual inferior to white people, right? A good God, whom, many believe, wants the world to be white, would not have messed up His/Her own intentions, right?
I am confused. How can we say we believe in the God of Creation and at the same time so blithely put others down, cast them aside, and ignore their needs and their cries?
I have been studying Christianity, white and black, as I am doing research on a biography about the Rev . C.T. Vivian, and I have been struck at how pious, white American Christians found nothing wrong with decrying the right of African-Americans to live with dignity and with full American citizenship. In her book, Mississippi Praying: Southern White Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1975, author Carolyn Renee Dupont writes that "instead of seeing blacks' rigorous religious lives, whites saw only a presumably natural spiritual inferiority that, they believed, underpinned all other black weaknesses. Whites thought this inherent moral depravity displayed itself especially in black sexuality. A young parishioner...thought that the morals of the Negro are far below those of the average white." (p. 32)
That opinion, in spite of the fact that white slave masters continually raped black slave women, with no threat of repercussion or accountability, is troubling. What in the world is "spiritual superiority" according to white Christianity? And what is morality, according to white Christian doctrine?
Not even President Abraham Lincoln, who had a deep faith, believed that black people were equal to whites. Lincoln was not an abolitionist and he didn't think that the phrase "all men are created equal" applied to black people as it did to whites. He said, "I will say then that I am not, nor have ever been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races." He said he was opposed to blacks having the right to vote, to serve on juries, to hold public office and to intermarry with whites." (http://www.history.com/news/5-things-you-may-not-know-about-lincoln-slavery-and-emancipation).
There is a disconnect, it seems, between white and black Christians. The notion of dignity is different, what it is and who gets to have it. There also seems to be a disconnect, or at least some major disparity in understanding, on the notion of who God is. People who discriminate and dole out injustice feel justified, God notwithstanding. Didn't God create black people, too?
So, is there one God, or is there another one somewhere? Does this one God sanction racism, sexism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, discrimination against the LGBTQ community, the attack on Planned Parenthood Clinics, where some people have been killed? Does this God sanction the horrific conditions of urban schools? Is God looking the other way and smirking at the plight of the people in Flint (and other places) where the people, largely black, brown and poor, have been given poisoned water and are still being made to pay for it? Does God sanction corrupt government, government that allows people with money to get away with much of what they do, while making "the least of these" suffer disproportionally? Is God OK with how Christians have put down and excluded people on the basis of their color, nationality, sex, religion or sexual orientation? Is God OK with mass incarceration? Can a Christian nation really support policies that make it a sure thing that discrimination and despair continue to exist?
I am confused. Who is God, really? If the words of the Bible can be, and have been, interpreted in such a way that Americans have been able to use the Bible to justify racism, sexism and all the other "isms," then is the Bible a viable sacred text? And what good is our worship if there are many Gods, not one? What if the truth of America is that we are a polytheistic society, not a monotheistic society at all?
Do we need a new Bible?
This God who sanctions racism and hatred and bigotry and discrimination and oppression is not the God I learned about from my mother or in Sunday School. I do not recognize this deity.
And I wonder, what good is our worship, if we, or since we, seem to have a disconnect in what we believe as concerns the will of God. There is one God, we are told, but there is not a monolithic understanding of who God is and what God requires.
That, for me, is a problem.