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  • Hope on Union

Dismantle Racist Structures

The history of the world always has been filled with disputes, conflicts, and wars. It appears people don't know how to get along. I guess it should not be too surprising that the first story in the Bible after creation is a conflict between husband and wife, Adam blamed Eve for their troubles, and the first story about brothers is about murder. History books only seem to teach about wars as if this human violence against another is to be celebrated, not avoided. We are so calloused about wars that we can recite their names and dates without any sadness over the loss of human life.

The study of the root causes of wars reveals that human violence stems from our "otherizing" people who look different than ourselves. The human story is that by nature, we are fearful species. We believe what we do not know poses danger, and we are suspicious of those we do not know. Mistakenly believing that we are somehow safer if we keep away different people, we have become a paranoid species. This is at the root of our racism.

All wars have racism at their root. Nazis scapegoated Jews for their economic woes following WWI and started WWII. Western European slave trade was justified through racist ideologies that those who had more skin pigmentation were lesser human beings. This led to not only the brutal slavery of the African peoples but also apartheid in South Africa, Jim Crow in the U.S., and the Japanese annual fingerprinting of those of non-Japanese heritage. Racism is also responsible for the genocide of Native peoples in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. This also led to dehumanizing colonization of the Middle East, Asia, South America, and Africa.

The foundational racist ideology of the U.S. was fully embodied in William Penn's The Excellent Privilege of Liberty and Property: Being the Birth-Right of the Free-Born Subjects of England (1687), the first Magna Carta published in the new colony. He justified stealing the land from the native people by the English-born Quakers to create their religious state simply because they were of English descent. This millennium alone, we have seen the "Muslim Ban" from Middle Eastern countries, police killing of innocent black civilians across the country, the U.S. invasion of two non-Western European sovereign nations for "American Interest," and a president declaring that the U.S. is a racist nation using such embarrassingly denigrating words in referring to people of other nations that he shamed us all.

However, the most disconcerting revelation of the past two decades was the exteriorization of the extreme overt racism of the Christian Church. It was the Christian right, in the name of Jesus no less, that was most vociferous in exhibiting the hostility. They were the zealot of hate, and they justified it as their faith. However raucous their defense was, the vehemence and fervor of enmity from the conservative evangelicals made it clear that their religion could not possibly be based on the Bible. They were not a Bible religion but racist cultural mythology.

The message of the Tower of Babel is that we are one people, even though we may speak different languages. The story of Abram and Sarai moving to a strange land to start a new life is the biblical story about God's plan of reintegration of people groups. The Old Testament is filled with accounts of aliens experiencing oppression as outsiders and prophets warning the citizens of the imminent punishment for mistreatment of the widows and orphans, the poor, and the aliens.

Prior to Jesus, religions or the regional mythologies reflected how a group of people of an area understood their world, how to live, how to build a community, and what happens to them when they die. Each group of people created a religion for those who looked like them, spoke the same language, or shared similar ideologies. However, the new religion of Jesus changed everything. By claiming that God is for everyone, Jesus declared that there was no "us" or "them" in God. John, in his Gospel, wrote, "the wind blows where it wishes, and we do not know where it comes from and where it goes, and it is the same with the Spirit of God." This means that God's grace is known to all people. They may use different languages or different means of expressing the grace of God, but the truth of Jesus is made known to them by the Spirit of God. God moves on all people the same way without any discrimination.

The revolution of Jesus' religion is that it breaks down the fear barriers that exist between people. Pharisees condemned Jesus' message - Jews and Gentiles are accepted equally by God - as a frivolous mutinous heresy and rejected God's revelation of new liberation theology. Jesus freed Jews from the tyrannical grips of the nefarious Pharisees who contaminated their religion with prevarication and the Gentiles from the cruelty of pernicious prejudice. Faith in Jesus is freedom for all.

Racism is the original sin of the U.S. and cancer of the Christian Church. Dismantling racist social, economic, political, and religious structures must be the focus of the Church. We are called to reflect the love of Jesus as individuals in our daily lives and as a community of faith in our missional activities. To have faith in Jesus means we are liberators of ourselves and our neighbors from the opprobrious grips of racism that is asphyxiating the Church. Let our faith be authentic, equitable, and honorable. Let us be people of Jesus, and let us devote ourselves to creating the KIN-DOM of Jesus.

Pastor Sunny

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