The time for decolonizing Christianity is now. We have no right to take land and/or oppress peoples in God’s name. Those of us who are White and progressively-minded need to be actively decolonizing our understandings of our Bible stories, faith, and practice. This is the only way we will ever wrestle Christianity away from the Empire and be able to live in peace with our neighbors. So let me say it clearly and loudly, Christianity does not make anyone superior to anyone else in any way. You do not have to be White, male, heterosexual, cis gender, able-bodyminded, wealthy, and/or a US citizen to be Christian. You also do not have to believe that the Bible is the literal, inerrant word of God to be Christian. Personal salvation does not have to be the center of your theology to be Christian. There are other ways of following Christ. They may not be popular or pervasive. However, we who ascribe to a less dogmatic Christianity have an obligation to live it out in the public sphere.
Let’s start with the story of Abram, our spiritual ancestor without whom their would be no Christianity. The story in Genesis goes that one day Abram heard a call from God to go a to a new land. If Abram agreed to go then the land would be his and his descendants would be more numerous than the stars. This is a beautiful story of how a people came to be in a certain place. It is also an ancient story with a very different understanding of God.
Abram knew God as a tribal God. This God was vengeful and exacting. It makes sense that this God would readily take land from others and give it to Abram. This isn’t a literal story. This is a description from an ancient people of what happened. It doesn’t mean that we who claim to be God’s people today have a right to take land from others in the name of God. It does not mean that we have permission to continue to oppress peoples we deem somehow “less than.” In fact, it’s time we stop hiding our fears and White supremacist ways in religious wrappings.
God is never on the side of the conquerors. Everything Jesus taught indicates that God is on the side of the marginalized, the oppressed, the outcast, the ones being invaded. God is on the side of the peacekeepers and the justicemakers. It might be easy for us to see that God is not on Putin’s side as Putin seeks to take Ukraine any more than God was on Putin’s side when he bombed Syria. Is it as easy for us to say that God is on the side of Rohingya who are being systematically persecuted and killed by the Burmese military? What if we bring the question closer to home?
God is where oppressed people cry out, not in the forces that seek to maintain oppression. In the United States this means that God is on the side of BIPOC who have lived under White supremacy long enough. God is on the side of QT folx who want to live in peace and without fear. God is on the side of people with disabilities who want universal access. Yes, God is on the side of those who live in poverty who want access to living wages, healthcare, housing, and nutritious food.
I do not doubt that God called Abram to a new land and made a covenant with him. However, I do not believe it was God’s idea to wage war on those living in the land. I suspect that was the only way people knew how to do things. Yet, we know better now. We know that human beings are all equal before God. All are beloved. All have innate value. When will we start living this way?
Perhaps God is calling us to a new land, a new life, in this Lenten season. What might that call look like? What does it mean to live faithfully as Christians in a pluralistic world? Can we not find a way to live in peace with our neighbors without having to “save” them or view them as somehow “less than” because they worship differently, speak differently, dress differently? Christianity doesn’t make us superior to anyone else. Being White doesn’t make us superior to anyone else. I could add that being male, or cis, or heterosexual, or able-bodyminded, or wealthy, etc. doesn’t make anyone superior to anyone else. God asks us to bring Divine Love into the world. Can we do that without continuing to perpetuate the fear and division required by Empire?
We are equal before God. When will break Christianity free from the grip of colonialism and the control of Empire to make justice and equality and peace the pillars of global society?
RCL – Lent 2C – March 13, 2022 – Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 • Psalm 27 • Philippians 3:17-4:1 • Luke 13:31-35 or Luke 9:28-36, (37-43a)