This will be short.
Today, after taking in the events and words of this weekend, I finally decided to share some of my feelings concerning Donald Trump’s rise and the state of the Christian faith in the days of the Donald. After hearing one of the most irreverent men I’ve ever encountered invoke the name of God in his inaugural address, I simply had to express this point: white Jesus will fail you.
It is abundantly clear that we must consider what place Jesus has in our individual and body politics–especially in the time we are facing. After seeing Christian singer Vicki Yohe’s Instagram post (below) depicting a very white Jesus signaling his “return” to the White House, I was, without question, annoyed.
First of all, I’m not really concerned about whatever weapons she feels might be formed against Trump. I’m concerned about the weapons he, his cabinet, and our congress will form against me and others like me. But this here signals that we’ve lost our good sense, but that we’ve also never really known Jesus.
For the sake of transparency, I do, in fact, unapologetically subscribe to a Black Jesus. That’s me. But, to be blunt, anything is better than a white Jesus. Does this mean that white people are intrinsically bad? Nope. It does mean that the prioritizing of whiteness in matters of faith and equality is sinful.
At some point, our theologies have to stop our quick trek to the cross. The three years of Jesus’ ministry has a lot to teach about this man we emulate. The subversive justice-making done in that time is Jesus. The offering in death is significant because he is the Christ. We have a difficult time differentiating between his universal purpose and human life–but we should note that his human life was required so that his universal purpose could be fulfilled.
But that is the exact reason why Jesus’ color matters. The historical constructs of Jesus have cemented the place of white supremacy and white privilege in our civic culture, because of our religious culture. If the model of civilized behavior is the culture associated with white skin, that means the model of civilized religion must also be. Do we not see that in the purposeful conversion of African slaves? Do we not hear that in our hymns: “What can make me whiter than snow?” Do we not experience that in the appropriation of “Christian morals” for the sake of political gain? Do we not hear it in the cries of “All Lives Matter,” that we might silence a movement of liberation? Do we not see it in the building of the least diverse administration in 30 years?
White Jesus will fail you. A white Jesus fails us all–not just minorities and outsiders, but all of us. If we are invested in the work of dismantling systems of inequality and oppression, we must begin by dismantling the Jesus of the oppressor. If we want to end the surrogacy of Black bodies, we must remove whiteness as the standard by which all things are measured. It has become abundantly clear to me that I do not practice the same faith as many others would like to claim. You cannot oppress me in life and expect me to embrace you in worship. You cannot oppress me in worship and expect me to say that we worship the same God and attempt to follow the same Jesus. Privilege, supremacy, and oppression are not gospel values.
Let us not be swept up in a seeming revival of Christian morals in these next few years. They are based on false perceptions of what it means to follow Jesus. Jesus is not going to cement your power–Jesus is going to destroy it. If that’s not how you see it, check the color of your Jesus.