White supremacy is America’s original sin – by Shawn Bawulski

This is the text of a speech given by Shawn Bawulski at the Phoenix Black Lives Matter rally against hate this week. It is re-produced with permission.

I’m honoured to be speaking at this rally against hate.

I speak today as a Christian theologian: God’s love is pure. God’s love is on us all.  I love you all, and I can’t fully know what you’re experiencing right now, but I’ll never stop loving you all.

America’s original sin

First, I must say that white supremacy is sin. America’s original sin, in fact. It is an evil, a scourge. It is revolting. There’s no nuance to be struck here. There are not many sides. Polished manifestations of racism are still racism.

What we’ve seen this weekend is the latest harvest from a field that’s been around for a long time. It is recently been further empowered and validated, but it’s not new. It runs deep. It is sin.

Incompatible with Christianity

Second, America’s white supremacy is incompatible with the Christian faith. I’m a Christian theologian and I speak from my tradition. White supremacy is an idol. It is worshiped as a god, a provider of life, meaning, and deliverance.

It is, however, a mute statue, unable to save. It makes a mockery of the living God. I find it ironic that so many white supremacists claim Christianity, A FAITH WHERE WE WORSHIP A BROWN-SKINNED MAN AS GOD IN THE FLESH.

The gospel repudiates racism

The Christian message is that God has taken on human existence, and that leaves no aspect of human experience untouched. What God touches, God heals. God enters into our human relationships. Into our social structures. Into our history. An ancient theologian has said that “The unassumed is the unhealed”. The devastation of white supremacy can be healed because God has not left humanity to perish of its own devices. This gives me hope, and leads to my third point.

Third, I speak to Christians in particular for a moment, and especially to my white Christian brothers and sisters. I say this: the Christian gospel repudiates racism. Give a full-throated, unambiguous condemnation. Anything less is less than the gospel.

White or Christian?

Jim Wallis writes:

“If white Christians acted more Christian than white, black parents would have less to fear for their children.”

He’s not wrong. If white Christians acted more Christian than white, racist rallies would not be tolerated. If white Christians acted more Christian than white, domestic terrorism like we’ve seen recently would be called out for what it is. If white Christians acted more Christian than white, the idol of white supremacy would not be perpetuated under the banner of “I condemn all hate” or “all lives matter”.

God’s love is supreme

Finally, I turn to the words of Jesus. Warning the powerful religious leaders of his day, he says… “But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness…”

He’d say the same thing today. Dr. King captures this idea when he says that the white moderate is almost more dangerous than the Klansman. King writes,

“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

White supremacy leaves everyone disfigured, not just people of color. This includes the white people who turn a blind eye and learn to live with the lie. This includes even the white supremacists marching.

God’s love is supreme. God’s love is towards all of us. The light of God’s love is brighter than a tiki torch of hatred.

Shawn Bawulski has a PhD from the University of St Andrews and has been a professor of theology at universities in Europe and in the States. For more see www.shawnbawulski.com 

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