By Starlette McNeill
I am not recognized in, by or through race, and I do not want to be associated with others based on the social coloring of my skin. Instead I want to be identified by my Christian confession and witness. If there would be a general group that I would want to be included in, it would be those called “the great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12.1-2).
I want to be known by and for my faith, which is greater than any external marker subject to social interpretation, political climate, age, illness or death. There are too many exceptions to race’s social, behavioral and aesthetic rules to make a positive identification through the social coloring of skin. And I refuse to allow this human social condition or the treatment of others based on prejudice to become the means by which I understand myself.
How can someone live this American life as a Christian while believing that God would create them to be hated, oppressed and forsaken all because of the characteristics of their creation? God does not create us out of hatred or in order to favor another.
One truth must overrule the other, and if Christ’s truth to His disciples does not take precedent we have not fully grasped it. Or perhaps, we have not allowed Christ’s truth to take hold of us. It seems that we are ever more possessed by race and versed in its pronouncements.
As American Christians, we say that we are ambassadors of Christ, yet we are unable to reconcile with others because of race. We allow our racial identity to dictate what part of Christ’s calling we will fulfill. We are better representatives of race and heralds of its message.
We have more faith in the transformative power of race than in the regenerative work of Jesus Christ. Our identity as white/ black/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige people is more relevant, resourceful and applicable to us. It makes more sense to us.
We know the Scriptures and recite them, but we do not identify ourselves by them. We are better converts of race. We believe its testimony. We share our stories of race more freely because we are not ashamed of our racial identity, though we should be. We are more proud of the social coloring of our skin than our Christ. But, to accept a racial identity is to deny one’s Christian identity. How can this be?
If someone is insignificant and weak due to the social coloring of skin, what purpose is sacred Scripture or the work of Christ? Has the blood lost its power? The cross its saving ability? Can race defeat Christ or interfere with His work in us? Well, can it?
Does the Bible lack the ability to identify and position us outside of this world’s systems and meanings? Is God unable to provide a refuge for us from race? Can the hand of God not save us from race?
What is the purpose of the Word of God if it cannot triumph over the social prophecies of humanity? Are we not more than conquerors through Christ Jesus (Romans 8.37)? Can we not do all things through Him (Philippians 4.13)?
Has the freedom of Christ not set us free (Galatians 5.1)? Does Christ being formed in us not change or challenge how society attempts to shape us (Galatians 4.19)? If you believe that these sacred Scriptures do not apply to race, then you have your answer and you know what you answer to.
I do not identify with race, and as a Christian I should not. Instead, I want to be identified with Christ. This is my hope and my prayer. Amen.