7 May 2017
Is God white?
This is a question that may seem unnecessary to some readers, if so, you probably need to read this article as much as the people who have asked this question before. I am one such person who has asked God this question on numerous occasions, for reasons that seem obvious to me but are completely foreign to many.
Let me explain, I know that this question is controversial and may seem unnecessary to even ask to a lot of people. I understand that there are generic answers to this question, but I try not to have a generic faith, rather an honest one.
The generic answers just haven’t proved satisfactory for my purposes of spiritual growth and understanding the character of God.
I know this question can be dismissed with the statement that God’s love surpasses our natural understanding which is true- generic answer 1.
As such when we try frame Him within our human understanding- we are destined to fail.
By this logic, it is therefore unnecessary to many to even try and frame God in this limited to light- of a race. However, for some the ability to disable this racially limited understanding is facilitated by boundless privilege and for the rest of us- it’s a lack thereof. My understanding is framed within my reality, and my reality isn’t one where I’m able to disassociate myself from my race to grow in Christ. If anything that seems ingenuine, because what kind of God do I believe in that is only concerned for my soul and not the black body He placed it in. He made me as a whole entity and so to try grow spiritually without an understanding of my whole being seems somewhat vapid to me. The argument that God’s love surpasses my human understanding is not invalid, but is neither satisfactory for my spiritual growth. The knowledge of this truth has not allowed me to bask in God’s promised peace, instead a seemingly unquenchable thirst for an answer- or at least greater understanding of God’s role in my life has developed over the years.
Is God white?
I first asked God this question in grade 10 from a place of deep seated cynicism and complete disbelief that I would receive an answer. Faithlessness really. Black religious dysphoria is how I would describe it- an inability to fully believe in God or rather understand a white one. Controversial but true, and I do not write to cause controversy. On the contrary, I have been writing this piece for months now and praying that I would lose the conviction necessary to publish this -but I haven’t. The reality of the matter is that this controversial question confronts many POC (people of colour) and so has not lost its relevance- not to me at least. I’m not writing this piece as a theologian, ultimate authority, or some kind of universal answer but this is rather the answer that I have found when asking this question. I will explain the reasons for framing God as white later on, but firstly I’d like to address those who are rebuking me for asking God this kind of question and questioning the nature of my faith.
I do not serve an insecure God.
The God I serve is not threatened by any question I could ever ask because He is all knowing and all powerful. The God I serve knew I’d ask this question before I did. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.” (Psalm 139:13), He has carefully knitted me in the womb, surely, He knew I’d ask questions like this? I need to know my Father’s character to understand Him.
Psalm 119:73 reads Your hands made me and fashioned me; Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.” I asked God to empower me to understand, what clearly evaded me.
Ask and ye shall receive, right?
"Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7 :7 NLT)
If anything, I’ve been banging on this door with balled fists, frustrated.
I’m not the kind of girl who will put a band aid on a bullet wound and call myself healed. Avoiding questions like this and answering them with generic answers has often left me in a space of being spiritually complacent- which is not something I want for myself (I would rather be ablaze in my faith than lukewarm- something God is in favour of; Revelations 3:16). For my growth, it has been necessary to ask God ‘difficult questions’ and stand in faith that He will understand that this controversy is seated in spiritual curiosity not disobedience. God knew all the questions I could ever ask, before I grew brave enough to ask them. That being said, God also only answers our questions when He knows we can cope with the answer, and so I only received an answer this year (2016). ( Side bar : I started writing this article last year September, I finished it this year in May) . I have asked God this question regularly since grade 10.
Why can’t you just believe?
Why are you saying that God is white?
Historically speaking, the word of God was brought to Africa (South Africa included) with the arrival of white settlers, 1652 Jan Van Riebeek type of thing. This is simply a fact but the reality of this fact impacted belief systems throughout the country and continent. Prior to the arrival of white settlers, indigenous Africans had their own belief systems, many of which were rendered socially unacceptable with the rise of Christianity and the superimposition thereof. To create unity colonialist forces relied upon the super imposition of not only languages, but a unified belief system in order to maintain structures of control- with religion weaponized to do so, often used as a justification about colonialist expeditions .
Entering into university, I was confronted with the reality that many people of colour believe that Christianity was weaponized as a tool to pacify African resistance. That Christianity is a white man’s religion, with a white God - crude, but honest.
How can you say this?
Well the common understanding of the introduction of Christianity into the African context is that it resulted in the widespread abandonment of African belief systems and adoption of an attitude of Christ centred peacefulness. A peacefulness which many believe only undermined marginalized people in the long run. To be less abstract, there is a saying which reads that “Africans were given the bible to hold and while reading it were robbed of the land. Now they hold the bible and look at their land.” Enough said.
This attitude of peacefulness, an attitude of Christ in adversity is believed to have bred even more widespread injustice.
I mean what good God is following the word of God when you’re destitute?
What is the use of following a God who falls silent during Apartheid?
What use is it to follow this God while His terms are used to pacify righteous resistance?
Realistically speaking South Africa could have been plummeted into civil war. The fact that democracy was negotiated was a miracle in itself, but a miracle for who?
Many POC believe that this negotiated democracy was a sell out and that the ‘white mans religion’ facilitated this (i.e. the TRC).
Has the bible not been used to pacify resistance in an African context ?
I mean initially the church (used in all-encompassing fashion) helped perpetuate Apartheid ideology and later completely reverted to call on citizens for calm and peace, convenient is it not?
The country could have been set ablaze in a civil war or genocide for Africans to reclaim land, dignity, as well as economic resources, I mean MK and POQO were armed and ready, Operation Vula meticulously planned.
Why didn’t any of this get utilized during 1994?
After hundreds and thousands of people of colour had suffered beneath Apartheid, and 400 years of colonialism.
Why weren’t apartheid perpetrators tried and executed?
Why isn’t what happened in South African seen as genocide?
Why wasn’t a war tribunal held, murderers tried and executed?
Why are we, as survivors of such a corrupt and evil system- so peace loving? I mean why do people of colour even believe in God when He didn’t even help during Apartheid-seemingly.
Compelling arguments which I never really had the luxury of escaping during history class as uncomfortable eyes strayed in my direction awaiting a reaction, but what was there to say? I still prayed to God who was supposed to be the same God then as He is now. In high school my best friends and I would just shift uncomfortably in our seats with our other black Christian peers as we learnt about Apartheid from an ‘objective’ third point of view.
Vlak Plaas, the mutilation of Steve Biko, the death of Chris Hani and the clinical exclusion of Africans from meaningful economic and social participation. Moreover, learning about the initial role of the church I remember how uncomfortable my best friends and I felt learning not only about the initial role of the church but the prolonged silence during this period of oppression.
For centuries, God can be seen as being absent from our suffering and yet, for centuries we (as POC) have believed.
I always wondered why we continued to believe, what value it held practically to follow the example of Christ’s peacefulness when it was contributing to our continued oppression. Why were we as POC so comfortable with following Christianity when oppressors were using it to exact violence against us. These were things I wondered as I sat in a majority white class room debating the ‘benefits’ of Apartheid- the “good things” that Apartheid did.
I sat wondering why God didn’t intervene in a more visible way, why God didn’t insist upon my history being documented as a genocide, where was the God I followed in all this oppression- I mean this is my lived reality and how do I answer these kinds of questions?
The type that speak to a history of brutal colonization beyond my control and the fact that I may believe in a God who is only a concept, a construction made by men who looked nothing like me. And I mean these kind of questions were kind of okay with me. Well.. hearing my mind whisper them to myself during history lessons hoping that God couldn’t hear me, but what happened when I got into university, confronted face to face with the same kind of questions. Asked by peers who look like me.. then what? Which generic answer would prove good enough for the cynics then? Myself included.
Have faith (generic answer 2).
How do you have faith in something you’ve never interrogated yourself?
God isn’t a mere thing, or theoretical concept to me .
I have often questioned what God is it that I follow who is concerned with my soul but not the black body that He placed it in.
A God who loves me so much that He put me in a world that relates to me as an underperforming genetic mutation- purposed for nothing more than oppression.
If God lives in me, then why did he make me so different to Him?
A God who loves me and calls me to exercise continuous forgiveness without knowledge of the burden that this places upon me.
A God that calls me not only to exercise forgiveness but ask for forgiveness, as if the world hadn’t conditioned me to beg forgiveness for my blackness since the moment I was born.
What God do I serve that has allowed pain articulated by my savage tongue and the tongue of my ancestors to go unheard. To be called uncivilized, to be removed, rendered destitute, to be all but spiritually desolate.
What God is this?
What God is this that tells me that He alone is my refuge but allows explosions in churches in the 1960’s to go unpunished and then again shootings in churches in 2015 to go unpunished.
This God that calls us to be brave, as if bravery is always exercised at the front of a rally.
As if it doesn’t require bravery to study the history of your oppressors who wrote your ancestors name out of everything except for anthropology studies. As if it does not require bravery to study in places in which the environment rejects you. To be brave enough to believe that you can study well enough to pass- especially when you are a first-generation student. To be brave enough to shoulder the burden of the economic salvation of your family while studying. To be brave enough to accept that mediocrity is not optional if you want to succeed because you do not have generational wealth, nor the safety net of historical privilege to secure any success in life.
To know that you have to be more than average, because you need to be able to pay black tax. You need to help pull your families out of the ghettos you were district six’ed into. To be brave enough to study the inaccurate history and in debates keep an even temper when you have to explain why it’s offensive when the lecturer asks who knows where Kuilsrivier is and makes direct eye contact with you before looking for another black student. Keep an even temper when you get accepted into university only to have someone assert you that you got in because of BEE, not because you work hard, or because you’re capable.
What God is it that I believe in that demands such an enduring bravery?
Why do black people always have to endure in the name of God?
The bible says “ Take them as examples of patient endurance under suffering. We call them happy for they have endured. “ ( James 5 :10-11). I didn’t feel happy God.
This God calls us to forgive, but why then, God does this forgiveness feel more like endurance?
Why God, in Your name am I forced to bite my tongue until it bleeds.
Unable to get things off my chest I suffocate, all in Your name.
That is the nature of black religious dysphoria- suffocation.
This is the desolate land that many of my POC and I roam through in our spare time, absent of milk and honey something about it felt hellish.
During my quest to answer this question I went through a phase of separating myself from God, but only ended up subscribing to a new kind of oppression- hopelessness. Profound Spiritual desolation, and subsequent emotional bankruptcy.
Short lived was this spiritual divorce and soon I returned to God, with my black religious dysphoria still, firmly, in hand. Questions still burning alive and well in my heart, unanswered.
I went through intervals of completely forgetting this dysphoria only to be reminded when I would watch friends turn away from God, frustrated, for the exact same reasons. Except many of them never returned. Black religious dysphoria beckoned me closer still when I was forced to study how Martin Luther King was a debaucherous, lustful delinquent in history class in matric, as opposed to the truth. Closer still, when people made jokes about how my family must be from the Cape Flats. Closer, when I wonder how different my life would have been if my Dad, who can fix any machine and does mathematics like genius, had been able to study engineering instead of teaching. Ropes of injustice, used to lower the casket of my dwindling belief.
6 ft. 6,
I made God black for a while God. Black like me. And a women. because I needed to be able to relate to God to pray to God. This was also short lived because I missed my prayers being simple, clothed in peaceful refuge. And I know it’s not just me, a lot of my friends are like “yes Black Jesus must just ----- (fill in the blank). Sometimes we say it jokingly, but I know the truth and the heart behind it. It’s not just me.
Eventually I just decided to make God, God the only way I know how; Supreme - unlimited by my human perception. Nonetheless, a restlessness settled in my being. Faith momentarily silenced when violence screamed over every written record of my peoples’ history.
See readers, I’m writing this whilst sitting on the floor of the library in front of the turn styles, protesting free education for bodies who are oppressed by no fault of their own. I write this in front of a turn style with the sad realization that a tragic irony is at play. We are blocking access to the library much like the way in which the universities fees block black bodies in from receiving a much-needed education- except that this inconvenience is necessary and facilitated by a hunger for justice. A momentary inconvenience for some, a life time of inconvenience for disempowered black bodies. (Except, unlike my peoples’ obstacles we were violently removed in less than two hours.)
Writing this article in a post-apartheid, apartheid state wondering if the fate of my people will ever change. When will God liberate my people and allow Africans to be African in Africa?
When, will we be able to be restful in the pages of history, unaffected by injustice, peaceful in much deserved prosperity. when will my people be able to enter the land of milk and honey, ripe for prosperity?
And I see the looks, from cadres, as I hold this bible- wondering how I could be so lost, to hope and believe now. When God still seems absent, 20 years later.
Get the picture?
Do you have the context? Of why I asked this question, over and over. In 1000, different forms.
If you are feeling offended at this point I challenge you to read further. Not to agree, nor to share the same sentiments as me but to gain understanding.
If that seems irrelevant to you then I’m perfectly at ease to inform you that you that you aren’t the target market for this article. The exit arrow is at the top right hand of this browser page- but it's you, the dangerously aparthetic who probably need to read this article the most, so read further, even if it's just to disagree more intently thank you already do.
11 September 2016 that is when God gave me an answer to this question and I write this article to glorify Him alone.
On this Sunday at church Pastor Mahlatse Mashua was utilized as a tool by God to give me answers to these questions.
The pastor began by voicing black religious dysphoria and the concerns regarding religion and the way in which believing in God often calls for the sacrifice of heritage and “[sanatization] of my desire to exercise social justice.” The pastor then questioned how an almighty God, capable of not only creating, but ruling the universe is removed from campus narratives. Removed from black pain and in this removal, are we not then diminishing the power of God?
To work wonders, restorative wonders.
What God is it that we believe in that we need to protect from our pain, and difficult situations.
Is the God we believe in not one capable of protecting us, God does not call upon us to protect Him but rather trust Him to do the inverse? Why are we indulging the idea that God is fragile- why entertain such a fallacy by not including God in the most difficult of circumstances.
The pastor then prompted us to welcome God into difficult conversations, into challenging spaces which was interesting as a fallist (fees must fall student activist) because of how comfortable the campus appeared to be with excluding Jesus Christ from situations of conflict.
Or rather how I had experienced people use Jesus as a tool to pacify people with statements like “Ugh I’m just going to pray that these poor people find their sense”, or “I’m just going to pray that all of this drama stops” instead of praying that a sustainable solution could be found. The introduction of Jesus into this zone of conflict by the pastor immediately peaked my interest because in all honesty I had expected a patriarchal pastor, ready to weaponize Jesus and wield his positional power to pacify protest politics.
The pastor then wanted to interrogate why God appeared unjust? Which was nothing new to me.
The pastor explained that justice has always failed outside the sphere of what God intended justice to be, the purpose He intended it to serve. The bible says God will do what is right, he will bring suffering on those who suffer and he will give relief to you who suffer and to us as well. (2 Thessalonians 1: 6). So then why have so many been robbed of this justice if God is right and true and faithful in all He does (psalms 33:4) ?
Once man fell from God’s purpose for us in the garden of Eden a shift in mentality occurred, we (as people) no longer belonged to God -to serve. We belonged to ourselves, and in belonging to ourselves we belonged to the flaws seated within us. We became obsessed with self-glorification and in that glorification, we amplified our flaws with no regard for the consequences. Once such flaw was that of ego. Human beings began to purpose ourselves outside the intention of God and with that the purpose of justice was altered. In that alteration injustice was born.
We can see this in the garden of Eden, Eve was tempted by the desire for ‘true wisdom’ as presented by the snake (genesis 3:6), without thinking that none above God was the wiser. As soon as human “wisdom” was birthed, Adam and Eve realized they were naked and in this nudity found shame. A complete paradigm shift occurred in the two, who then diverged immediately from the intended glory that God had planned for them.
The existence of this paradigm shift has resulted in human “revelations” and our flawed understanding ultimately determining what is just. The development of an independent standard of morality outside of God’s discretion which has resulted in absolute disaster.
Fast-forward a couple of thousand years where this injustice manifests in historical atrocities such as colonialism, slavery, human trafficking, apartheid, the holocaust, est.
So where was God during all of this? If He’s ever-present, where was He?
We serve a God who loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31 :13)
Meaning; God firstly loves us enough to respect our autonomy. God allows us to choose, both Him as well as realities outside of Him. People’s choice to commit to creating realities outside of him is what has resulted in such severe human suffering. I believe God has been present in all these moments but His love has also enabled the victors of such suffering to be strengthened by His presence. God has consistently equipped the oppressed with the tools to successfully dismantle injustice. God has consistently remained present in the lives of those who have endured oppression. God has actively liberated the oppressed. God has used us as examples of His faithfulness and the success that can be found in His ways. God has permitted us to experience the joys of liberation though our belief in Him. Jesus never promised us an easy life, Jesus did promise us His unwavering presence in times of trial. As a people, we have endured many a trial and through belief experienced His promised liberation. God has wielded us as people of colour as a tool to demonstrate his righteousness for generations.
Nonetheless, it can still be asked why oppressive institutions resurrected themselves throughout the ages by people- people who claim to believe in God.
We elevated the power of our own understanding and self- belief to a godly state, resulting in the diminished presence of God in difficult spaces. This diminished presence resulted in the construction of justice without the most just of all- resulting in a corrupt standard of justice, of Christianity.
And this is nothing new, we see this in the Old Testament, the social exclusion of the disabled, intense slavery, social oppression of women all protected and promoted by the law.
So how did this just God respond to His exclusion not only from His people but His purpose therefor?
God sent down Jesus, to bridge the gap.
Bridge this divide in which human horrors had been birthed and framed unintended reality as being just. At a time in which the worst parts of our person had been amplified at the expense of our humanity. Lord God, sent down Jesus, to restore justice, to rebuild.
During this time, the failure of the Roman law had encouraged a spiritual thirst for the Messiah’s arrival. Foretold already by the prophets (like Daniel) up to 500 years before the time, the idea of justice had already been conceived in a way which was not bound to the practises of the time.
God sent Jesus to renew our lost fellowship with God. “ The centrepiece in God’s justice.”
Lord God created Jesus Christ to enable us to experience the power of redemption, and a manifestation of great faith. A testament to faith, that the word of the prophets was undoubtedly true. One person purposed to dispel the notion of a far-removed God- a God who watched suffering, unmoved, unstirred, unbothered.
How great is a God who can come down to our level, so that we may receive Him at a level which we can comprehend. You see, God sent Jesus Christ to liberate the enslaved because at that time people were enslaved by the Roman system and a brutish dictatorship.
Similarly, those same people had experienced some of God’s greatest miracles and yet they still stood steadfast in their disbelief as a result of them leaning upon their own knowledge of justice. I can only imagine that God knew it would take a great act to renew faith and reward those who had believed the prophesies, the Lord God sent Jesus Christ.
The Lord God we follow, became man- for our salvation.
Moreover, for our understanding and a renewed realization of His power and His faithfulness. God knew we would believe nothing less than a person, because we had conceived the notion of what greatness was within ourselves – limited our capacity for understanding the greatness of God. So, our God almighty answered our flaws in a way that would make sense- man.
A man who executed divine justice on a personal level, able to liberate all who were enslaved both mentally and physically.
We see this liberation in various placed in the bible.
Liberation from hunger- when Jesus fed a crowd of 5000 men “not counting the women and children” ( Matthew 14: 13-21).
Liberation from sickness or debility – when Jesus healed the lepers (Luke 17:11-19), the bleeding women (Mark 5:21-43), the blind man (John 1: 1-41), the paralyzed man (Mark 2 :1-12).
Liberation from condemnation – with a woman caught in adultery (John 8-1:11), a prostitute (7 :36-50).
Jesus always allied himself with the marginalized, with the poor, the socially out casted.
Jesus was the first significant protester in history, in the name of justice.
Jesus Christ took justice personally and as such began his struggle for the marginalized in society- namely the poor, women, and children. Jesus Christ was perfectly capable of associating himself with the middle class given the humble, yet economically satisfactory status of his family.
Jesus purposefully associated himself with the disempowered in society.
Jesus was not an advocate for classism, an example of which is (Mark 12: 14) in which Jesus was confronted with the question of paying the emperors taxes.
The disciples said, “You pay no attention to anyone’s status, but teach the truth about God’s will for people.” Jesus was concerned for people’s hearts not with their earthly wealth- all of which He was entitled to.
Jesus was a protestor against injustice and a classist system which favoured few at the unjust expense of the masses. Jesus framed Himself in a way that liberates and advocates for the liberation of others. In believing in Jesus we are called to believe in liberation- and not a limited liberation. In following Jesus you are called to follow His actions and His deeds. Actions and deeds which are centered around humanitarianism.
Jesus does not excuse us from answering this call.
Jesus never uses our human fault as a tool by which to measure our potential- but rather he calls us to act in a divine fashion. A fashion which is capable of surpassing our human understanding – to act in faith. A faithfulness which glorifies God, and how are we glorifying God if we diverge from His calling for us to act with care, and compassion for one another. Ultimately God calls us to act in His justice and this justice calls us to spend of ourselves.
“ For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son” ( John 3 :16), not only did He give us this son to show us how much He loved us, but He gave us this son as an example of how to exact justice in His name. Jesus calls us to spend ourselves spiritually and promises eternal life in exchange, promises spiritual renewal.
So I then assert that in ignoring this call are we not then rejecting God’s greatest act of love for us?
Jesus places equal emphasis upon action as he does upon belief. See “Faith without works is dead” (James 2 :14-26), so then have we not dammed our faith to death by ignoring the suffering endured by those around us.
Jesus was born into a time which thrived upon the creation of hierarchies and the maintenance of privileges, He actively sought to dismantle these systems. Jesus advocated for equality, the reality of which threatened Caesar to such an extent that it ultimately contributed to His death.
Jesus demonstrated to us the human price of equality, of justice, of shared equity.
Jesus died leaving us an example of what justice was supposed to look like. Jesus bridged the divide between eternal death and eternal life, charging us with crossing the divide between injustice and justice using the tools He gave us.
In His absence, we have failed. Having reconstructed these systems years later. Through political and economic systems again we resurrected our own understanding of justice. Unlike the people in His time we cannot claim ignorance to the knowledge of how we are supposed to dismantle these systems.
Jesus told us to do unto others as I have done unto you. Jesus showed us an indescribable love which was not limited to the word, but was internalized and embodied in action. A truthful love which thrived upon action, an action which found expression in spoken word. However truthful, spoken word, found in Christ has not always been well received. Truth telling resulted in Jesus’ crucifixion.
Truth telling now, has resulted in a lot of victimization, brutalization, and isolation for truth tellers. Nationally it has resulted in the persecution of people such as Thuli Madonsela and Pravin Gordhan. In universities, it has resulted in the arrests and death of one student activist.
The rejection of truth telling and conviction in resserecting justice has illicited an anger and bitterness which has manifested in a cycle of viciousness in which hatred and resentment has begun to flourish. There is a supreme violence in the invalidation of peoples pain which cultivates anger, but anger is not always a bad thing. I do not think that anger always needs to be pacified. Beneath shouts of violent rage- a demand for restoration has been made which Jesus ultimately desired, in His grace he sought to show us the nature of restoration. But restoration cannot occur if both parties do not come to the table, restoration will fail if it is not genuinely routed in Christ.
Anger has always been a symptom of injustice.
Anger is a just response to injustice, anger is God utilizing us as tools to resist against oppression. However, we can also become victims to being angry but in Jesus Christ all answers are found. I say this because being in a constant state of rage is exhausting, especially when that anger is either met with invalidation or silence. So too, POC, are we liberated from anger by Jesus because we know Jesus creates boundaries for our expression of our anger- these boundaries are not the law. These boundaries are the conviction that He stirs within our hearts to do things in His likeness. Meaning that Jesus never called on God to exact mighty vengeance on His enemies, despite how deserving they may be. Jesus never threw the cross into the crowd, crushing His enemies and us in the process.
Jesus suffered death, innocently, to open the gates of heaven.
We are on this Earth, we are not of this Earth, which is why the ways of this Earth do not make sense to us. We belong to God, He sent us Jesus to show us the severity of sacrifice. Jesus suffered death, for us, for our liberation. We can claim Jesus as our own because He resembles us, POC, He does. Jesus was ostracized, rejected, vulnerable, destitute, poor, exploited by unjust systems. Jesus shouldered the burden of this Earth for both you and I. He showed us how to cope with oppression, but also what liberation looks like. Jesus said to His disciples, when the troops came to arrest Him, to take him to be crucified “Do you not think that I will not drink the cup of suffering which my Father has given me? (John 18: 11). Jesus understood our suffering, entirely, Jesus was victim to injustice. Jesus knows oppression but He also knows liberation. We bare His name in both instances.
Our names spell powerful stories of liberation in history books. Our names spell Christ-like justice. This is not romanticizing suffering, but it is also a refusal to deny the hand of God in the intensity of liberation which has been exacted.
God has chosen us, over and over in history- as a people who champion against man-made justice, against corruption.
What we have, may not be half of what we deserve but it is the taste of a growing democracy. In the bible where restoration has taken place, God has always healed the situation to be better than it was before. Daniel 8:3-30 is a primary example of which Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego were all forced to stand up to a King, an aristocracy and were thrown into a fire as a result. While in the fire, Jesus appeared, and none were burnt, singed, or harmed. Despite the fire being made seven times hotter than usual. Despite the fact that all the men were bound, they walked around free in the fire. God uses the worst of manmade situations to amplify His glory. I still don’t understand why people of colour have been historically thrown into the proverbial fire many a time, but what I can attest to is how strong we have walked out of the fire.
For our parents and grandparents, the idea of a President of colour was painfully far-fetched , going to any university, shop, buying any property they wanted – unheard of and in 20 years it has been done. Our country bears the fingerprint of a faithful God.
It is the beginnings of restoration, and I call it a beginning not because it has only been 20 years but because (mostly), only one party has come to the table.
So, to my white brothers and sisters in Christ I say this:
We do not need to be subjected to injustice to be able to recognize its existence.
Similarly, we do not need to be personally oppressed to move towards understanding the reasons for why things need to change. We are flexible, multidimensional beings who are capable of sympathizing with human pain and validating each other’s human sufferings. We are capable of doing this and capable of liberating ourselves from any emotional slavery because of how Jesus liberated us. Jesus died a sinful death, physically absorbing our human failures. Jesus took it upon Himself to carry our human injustices and our human ability to punish the innocent, and persecute the undeserving. As such when we suffer undeservedly we have an example of how to react with grace- despite how difficult this may be.
Through Jesus we know that we cannot allow echoes of past injustices to dictate the narrative of the future. Through Jesus we know that we need to act in faith and hope for the future but we will not meet the future we need, without mourning now. Mourning together for past injustices. Our healing as a country, is being crippled by people being gripped by shame and guilt instead of truth-telling. Our healing is being stifled by invalidation tactics and a lack of empathy, and to you I say this –
If people of colour failed to embody relentless forgiveness like Jesus, and hungered for a law which is humane and democratic- what do you think would have happened?
You do not have the luxury of shielding yourself with your privilege if you want to call yourself a Christian because your beliefs call you to be brave. Look your history in the face, because it is yours just as much as it is mine. Acting as if it didn’t happen will not erase the fact that it did. Invalidating black pain resembles the resurgence of a dangerous past- and the sowing of poisonous seeds. God doesn’t love you more than me, and that should scare you if you claim to believe because one day we will be equal at the foot of the cross and your earthly privilege will dissipate beneath the gaze of a just God. Do not call yourself a Christian if you choose apathy above empathy.
My white brothers and sisters in Christ, you are equipped with white privilege, you can be acknowledged and heard in spaces exclusively created and preserved by your forefathers and ancestors. Use it to further the kingdom. Speak against injustices in these spaces, do not be oppressed by feelings of guilt, take ownership of the legacy that has been handed down to you. Wield your power to go from glory to glory. Our Lord and Saviour did not live complacently, He lived bravely. Be brave. Brave enough to acknowledge the role your history has played in this country. Be brave enough to take ownership of the future you want for yourself and your brothers and sisters in Christ.
We cannot call ourselves Christians and live safely, there comes a time and place in
which the will of God and your personal comfort cannot co-exit (as my pastor Fifi said in church). You cannot follow the example of Christ in turning away from injustice, in being like Pilot and washing your hands of the situation presented to you in this country. The consequences of Pilot withdrawing during the Passion of Christ were made clear, we cannot keep making the same mistakes. Choose to take up the burden of being brave, of being honest. Denying the past, does not undo its existence. Acknowledge this pain, do not claim to deny the pain of the people of the Lord, for we too are people of the Lord. Do not claim to understand it but to work towards building an understanding it, is to work towards understanding the heart of the Lord. A heart on fire for empathy, of kindness of truth-seeking. Jesus heart has been broken at the hands of injustice, Judas’ betrayal is a clear example of this. God, our Father’s heart was broken to injustice to the point of sending us His only begotten son to rectify this error. What a mighty love. Surely, God asking us to mourn injustice with each other as He did watching His Son crucified, is not too big of an ask? Surely, we can love one another beyond our pain. Beyond injustice. We are charged with demonstrating a love that surpasses resentment and anger. Jesus does not allow us to resign from fighting injustices because we have not personally experienced them, Jesus calls us to be a collective in his name that is capable of compassion. Surely, we should be charged with demonstrating a passionate Christ like love for one another?
To my people, POC, we will be failing ourselves if we wait for a long overdue apology. We cannot depend on oppressors to assume that identity, somehow that title seems to have evaded them.
We can’t rely on apologies to undo what has been done. Apologies can be empty, simply scripted word, we know this. Faith without works is dead (James 2:14-2), always has been. POC, us forgiving them is not about them, it’s about us. Solange said this one’s for us. This is for us, forgiveness is power, no one can hold you captive to your emotions of justified rage or soul burning sorrow if you don’t allow them. We have been cut from a forgiving spiritual cloth, it is in our nature. Tap into that and I know it is exhausting, but it is more exhausting to be buried beneath a suffocating anger, instigated by people completely unaffected by the consequences of their actions. We cannot heal wounds in the blazing heat of just rage. We cannot heal and we need to heal, we deserve the freedom of feeling whole. Forgiveness. It is our last and heaviest chain to break, it is the cross to which our generation has been nailed, but there must be salvation at the end of this crucifixion. We cannot wait for a heartfelt apology to instigate change, that is a luxury that has not been afforded to us. We cannot look for peace in the place that broke us, we have to seek refuge in God or one another. We have to help one another.
"Yes but they don't have to be sorry for them to deserve to die."
True. But then we kill them, then what?
We sow seeds of vengence, derailed back into a segregated state. Then what?
What of the peace our fathers fought so hard for?
What of our fragile democracy?
Will we not have morphed into people who mimic all we hate-murderers?
(This is ignoring the immorality of killing in general)
So killing would be justified becaue only the guilty would be killed.
How do we determine whose guilty?
Half the country would be guilty- guilty of silence indulging Apartheid.
It wouldn't only be blatant war criminals- who would determine who is deserving?
If we play God, we will get it wrong.
In my opinion, it's too big of a gamble.
(Disclaimer; this is not nearly nuanced enough to fully encapsulate the intricacies of this discussion - but these discussions do happen).
“Yes, that’s all good and well but what’s wrong with simple legislation? And concretization, transformation est.”
How many people have you met that are educated, but ignorant? I have met plenty.
Plenty formally educated people who are ignorant. Ignorant to the hearts of those around them. How many people have you met that are “educated” but are racist? I think in this country we are plagued by wanting to be politically correct, not honest. Which theoretically sounds fine, BUT now we have closeted racists. People who now know how the social code of the new dispensation works, a dispensation which prioritizes political correctness above honesty. The latter being one of God’s great priorities. So now, we prioritize correctness at the expense of truth because the truth can be ugly, as it is in this case. This isn’t a justification for racism or encouragement thereof, I am simply raising the point that to some people transformation is just a buzzword, it’s just jargon to be used to be socially accepted into the new club of democracy. Buzzwords, and legislation will not change the heart behind people, Jesus is capable of changing people’s hearts in ways that seminars and conferences aren’t. The ways of man are not the ways of the Lord. Isaiah 55:8 demonstrates this reading “ For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” Nowhere, in His truthful word, does God suggest that we rely on concretization or transformation. God calls us to rely on Him (psalm 37:5). Jesus is the definition of transformation, we cannot successfully exact transformation outside of him because it does not work. We cannot exist outside of Him because it does not work. Jesus calls us to commit to a transformation which resembles Him, all His people championing for justice. This is not to devalue or demerit the legitimacy of conscientization; all are tools of the Lord, all are tools at the disposal of the Lord but I believe us dammed to fail if ignore the presence of the Lord, and His power to exact change. Jesus has transformed everything. Jesus, God’s greatest love story. Written in innocent blood, resembles each letter of your name, resembles the shape of your soul. Jesus the definition of transformation.
There is no bigger transformation than death into eternal life.
Jesus defeated death.
Jesus defeated death.
Jesus defeated death.
Jesus turned even death into life. There is no bigger transformation than that.
Unlike people, Jesus is not threatened by the state of our nation or the state of our hearts. Jesus is not threatened by our difficult questions.
Not even this one
“But Christianity is a white man’s religion, you have been oppressed just as they intended for you to be- why are you forgiving them? You’re serving a white God now.”
I rebuke this.
The word rebukes this.
Genesis 11:1-9, speaks of how originally man was in one place, all speaking one language, and how “the Lord scattered them all over the Earth” because in Babylon “the Lord mixed up the language of all the people”. Meaning that God scattered Africans, in Africa aware of our existence and our languages. The word placed us here- intentionally- at the helm of mankind. God had and continues to have a plan for African people, as Africans and we can be sure of this because we received the gospel- even before colonization.
We received the gospel- as free Africans during Pentecost. Pentecost is estimated to have occurred around 70 AD, which is many, many years before colonization began.
The Lord made sure we received His truth, about Jesus Christ- our saviour.
Acts 2: 1-13 (MSG) reads of how the Holy Spirit came down amongst the disciples, gifting them with the ability to speak in different languages. Preaching the word of the Saviour to the crowd.
“They were all excited, because each one of them heard the believers speaking in his or her own language. The crowd was really amazed.
They asked, “Aren’t all these people who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then why do we each hear them speaking in our own native language?
9 We are Parthians, Medes and Elamites. We live in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia. We are from Pontus, Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia. Others of us are from Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene. Still others are visitors from Rome. 11 Some of the visitors are Jews.12 Others have accepted the Jewish faith. Also, Cretans and Arabs are here. We hear all these people speaking about God’s wonders in our own languages!” 12 They were amazed and bewildered. They asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13 But some people in the crowd made fun of the believers. “They’ve had too much wine!” they said.”
Are Egypt and Libya not African countries in which African languages are spoken?
Are Libyans and Egyptians not Africans?
Africans were present at this gathering. Present during one of the greatest deliveries of the gospel. A delivery tailored to a language in which they could receive it. God placed importance on our heritage, on Africans. If sacrificing Jesus wasn’t gift enough- we were told of His sacrifice in a language we could understand. A language that Africans could carry. Why would God do this if He had no value for Africans? Why would God tell us the story of His son- if we weren’t a part of His plan. If we didn’t matter to Him. If God didn’t value Africans and our languages. Why then? Would God do this?
The scripture reads
“Others have accepted the Jewish faith”
Accepted the Jewish faith. They were not God’s chosen people, but God chose them to hear this message. Therefore, they were God’s chosen people. Jesus dying for us on a cross was choice enough. It is the only choice that matters because through it we have been redeemed- saved, chosen as God’s people to stand before the Father. God wanted us all to know of this choice- of this great sacrifice. Of God’s desperate need to have us in His presence- as a part of His kingdom for all time. God choose all of us, over and over- for the rest of eternity. Jesus chose us even in death- Hid blood covering all sin. Covering any inequities. Shielding us from any flaws for His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). God chose us Africans- a choice made clear during Pentecost. God did not, during Pentecost, commission his disciples to climb aboard ships, sail to Africa and enslave Africans beneath His word. God did not tell his disciples to teach Africans English- for God understood our language because HE CREATED IT. God did not tell the disciples to change us- he gifted the disciples with the ability to speak to us- so that we may understand the most important message of all time in a language that we can fully make sense of.
Africans are God’s people.
13 But some people in the crowd made fun of the believers. “They’ve had too much wine!” they said.”
And in our earthly mindset we will make sense of the supernatural- naturally. It is not easy to believe in miracles- it is easy to ignore them because we are not supernatural beings. We make sense of the inexplicable within the confines of our experiences but that doesn’t evaporate the truth of what happened. People present in the crowd- during Pentecost resisted the legitimacy
So to those reading- thinking about this poor Christian girl clinging to promises of the old testament to justify her belief- I mean she wasn’t even there.
I ask of you- have you ever heard someone invalidate the truth of another before?
Because it resembles what you’re thinking right now.
“Ya, well none of you were alive during Apartheid so I don’t understand why you keep crying about black pain- it’s been 20 years get over it. I mean you weren’t even alive”
Just because I wasn’t there- doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, doesn’t mean it isn’t the truth. No one person has the right to pacify the voice of God speaking through another. You do not have the right to invalidate anyone else’s truth. Pastor Lucinda from Hillsong said “no one girl has the right to snatch out of the mouth of another girl the words that God has given them to say”.
So I rebuke the hand of doubt- snatching a revelation of truth and replacing it with disbelief for that is the seed of the enemy.
A girl in my church said that God lives within us, because the Holy Spirit is deposited in us- a piece of heaven lives and thrives on earth through us. So our spirits cry out for heaven- we cry out for the spirit of God, which is why His works so easily manifest in us. I believe that Africans might do this the best.
Have you ever heard anyone say
‘We’re too forgiving and welcoming as a people- that’s what is wrong with us’
Is that not one of the most telling testimony for the power of God’s heart in Africans. Is that not evidence of the fingerprint of a generous God. Africans are generous in spirit. Generous in forgiveness. Generous in hospitality, generous in grace.
Is our history not evidence to the fingerprint of a loving God?
Of a gracious God.
Grace meaning an unwarranted, unmerited, and undeserved favour, kindness and relentless love and forgiveness.
What other reason could there be for why civil war has not broken out?
We are a grace filled people. We are a Godly people.
However, this is not a voucher for the cancellation of injustice. This is not an invitation to ignore the reality of how my heart feels because I feel angry, a holy fury of sorts and it’s holy for the simple reason that God’s grace, forgiveness, and wealthy kindness has extinguished any hatred and ill wishing.
Do not be confused – I am angry. I am enraged at the state of this nation. I am enraged that the hand of colonialism still has a chokehold around the throat of African prosperity. I am enraged that the poor are still robbed of a seat at the table which serves milk and honey- the seat of this land. I am enraged that students cannot afford to pay fees. I am enraged at a government who responds towards us with apathy but has enough money to employ 88 presidential body guards, to spend R246 million on Nkandla and then act as if NSFAS is economic salvation instead of enslavement. I am enraged that people are still being forced to romanticize a legacy of oppression instead of being confrontational with the reality that the people of this country are being neglected at the hands of the rich. I am a well of holy fury. A fury compelling me to act with concern towards the state of this nation.
To call God to maintain His promise given in Isaiah 58 (GNB) to “Remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice, and let the oppressed go free. [to] Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless poor. Give clothes to those who have nothing to wear, and do not refuse to help your own relatives.” I will call God to maintain His promises as Solomon did (2 Chronicles 6:14-20).
A Holy fury rages within this melaninated skin and it will not be pacified by poor restoration rhetoric without action. A need constantly incinerates me to try and exact a liberating justice written in the blood of Christ’s sacrifice.
With the knowledge that God will never leave me, nor forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:8) nor forget me (Isiah 49:15).
I will cry out to God, faithfully knowing that His arm is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear my cries. (Isaiah 59: 1).
Isaiah 61: 1-4 reads
“ The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor; a
he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified
4 They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.”
And I claim this justice, I claim His justice as a servant of God- chosen by Christ to lay claim to generational promises made in the old testament written in Christ’s blood into the new.
The Lord says, “The Lord will fight for you, and there is no need for you to do anything” (Exodus 14:14).
The only thing I will do is what God has told me, to write. For Psalms 68 reads: “The Lord announces the word, and the women who proclaim it are a mighty throng” (NIV). So, I will join a mighty throng of females hosting the truth of God clothed in dignity, grace, and brown skin. Laughing with no fear of the future.
So, I will write.
I will write of a God who so loved us- all of us- that He sent His only begotten Son to be the champions of our souls. I will write of the character of God. I will write of His unfailing generosity and His endless grace. I will write of a God filled with a violently relentless love. I will write of the character of a God so fierce that he destroyed nations only to rebuild them for our benefit. I will write of an earth-shattering violence in which a Son left a heavenly home, to come to a corrupted land to breathe promises of an eternity of milk and honey. I will write of a son so brave that He wrote a love letter, in blood, an invitation into heaven permanently standing. I will write of a King so just that we stand equal at the foot of the cross. I will write of a brave son. I will write of the character of a Lion whose promises roar life into my bones. I will write of dignity, and justice as well as the absence thereof. I will write of a romance that has moved nations. I will write of a King whose spirit seeps into every crevice of History and has tended to the wounds of horrific pasts with gentleness and patience. I will write with the knowledge that these works will never be nuanced enough to capture His greatness or His unfailing mercy. I will write with the knowledge that I will never be able to fully understand Him but that won’t stop me trying. I will write of a Father, and a Son. I will write of my Father and His son. I will write of saviour. I will write of our resemblances in spirit, a shared vigour for life. I will write of a resemblance born through the spillage of innocent blood. I will write of God who is like the wind- unseen but deeply felt. I will write of a supernatural God as His mortal child – destined to spend Her life trying to decipher the messages of a Supreme being. I will write of a God who is the colour of the setting sun, the colour of an Earth aching for more of His presence. I will write of a God compassionate for tears spilled by His people for a past deformed by inequality. I will write of His character, not His colour.
I will write of my father as his child having adopted His ways.
Passionate about His heart and the concerns laid upon it.
I will write with Holy Fire, knowing that doubt disintegrates at His touch. Knowing that the dreams of my soul were stitched together by capable hands. Incinerated in a holy fire- burning me brown – the perfect shade in the eyes of God. The Lord says, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." (Jeremiah 1:5 NIV). I challenge this limitation of what God can do, that he couldn’t have chosen someone who looks or sounds like this. With these prophetic words, I vanquish this lie cast by the Devil back into the grave where it belongs- people of colour were chosen by God. WE were chosen in the womb and we have been chosen long after.
Members of a Godly family,
equal at the gates of heaven.