God Bless America?: Being White, Christian and American

September 17th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Well Amber,

You may have been on hiatus, but you came back in full force. If there’s a topic that will get me really fired up, this is it (well….there are probably many topics like that, but this is one of them). This is a myth I hate: the white American Christian whose religion is (un)equally a patriotic and biblical one.

Why do I hate this myth so much? Because it’s a mask and Christianity (as a faith) is about taking off masks. Because it’s banking on a privilege and Christians should be working hard to dismantle that privilege, not tapping into it. Because it alienates and hurts.

Because, what would Jesus do? ;)

First, cut the Christian nation talk. Stop demanding that America turn back to God. Glenn Beck is wrong – America does not need to turn back to God. A country can’t turn back to whom it was never with. The country may have been founded on cultural religious principles, but it was hardly spiritual. Ain’t nothin spiritual about owning slaves or genocide.

Here’s the raw difference: there’s Christianity the culture and Christianity the faith. The white American Christian myth is cultural. The faith should not be. But the distinction is often lost.

Christians need to understand the power of cultural Christianity as a privilege and guard against it. White American Christians must understand the peculiar and potent mix of their privilege. The myth of a Christian nation is intoxicating…to white Christians. Because, it’s branded for us. How easy is it to entwine God and country when the American narrative is always about you? Why shouldn’t God be too?


It hurts me when I hear white Christians talk so easily of the “American church” as if it is a monolith – a body that sees, hears and experiences the same things. Or when my boss (of former years) sees my cross and assumes I’m Republican. It hurts when white Christians act as if they don’t need to try to understand another Christian’s perspective or leave their racism unchecked or their sexism becomes entwined with their Christian language. I am tired of Christian arguments with no historical context. I am so frustrated with a white Christian culture that has settled in a hotel penthouse in America, only to lumber out if threatened – but not when others feel threatened. I so tired of a (white) religion of charity without justice.

Life is complicated. The world is complicated. Being a Christian doesn’t make it less so. If anything, it highlights the need to understand how complicated it is. And unfortunately, the church as an institution is a part of that complication. America’s “christianity” (the one referred to in all the speeches) has been a religion allied with power – building up slavery and wealth, fighting against the rights of others, producing fear and prejudice.

The white American Christian myth draws its power from privilege. That’s not what Jesus does. His power is distinctly dis-privileged. And more powerful. His is the one that marched against dogs and hoses.

“Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!”  - Jesus =)

I look forward to the day when politicians no longer invoke God or use certain “christian” code words. I just don’t think we serve the same God.

God bless….?

The Old Landmark: The Role of the Church in a (Post)Modern World

September 8th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink


Guuuurl, I must say, life has gotten the best of me these last few weeks, but I am back from my looooong hiatus and ready to talk about some deep ish. Can you dig it…are you ready? **raises eyebrow** : )

So, all of this talk about the “Ground Zero Mosque” has gotten the little wheels in my head turning. I wholeheartedly agree with your take on the situation.

Some of my fave quotations:

“The same leaders who tout America’s superiority, due to its freedom and democracy, are the same who demand restrictions on fellow Americans’ freedom. Because let’s not be mistaken, this mosque and community center is for Americans. Islam is in America. It is not foreign. It is not other. It is American.”

“America’s values are its greatest asset and its biggest lie.”

Well, you betta PREACH!!

Once again we see politicians using important social and civil issues to fuel their own political agendas—while ignoring the damaging, long-lasting, and hurtful effects they are having on people’s everyday lives. We see the ugly parts of this “great country” seeping out from under rug, where they have conveniently been “hidden,” and into the mainstream, fueled largely by fear that is ultimately expressed as hate. **Sigh** It really does get tiring…I’m just saying.

You said in your last post, while arguing that much of the opposition to the mosque is characterized by racist sentiments, that “race and religion cross in so many contexts…one is used to characterize the other.” This is so true and this particular statement especially struck a cord with me because religion does cross over and/or influence so many aspects of our identities, our freedoms, our opinions, our experiences, our privileges, and our limitations. Yes, race and religion do indeed cross, as do religion and gender, religion and sexuality, religion and ethnicity, religion and mental health, religion and so many different and intersectional parts of ourselves.

Living in America, a country literally founded on white Anglo-Saxon Protestantism, it is safe to say that the dominant religious narrative in this country is Christianity. Faiths and belief systems that are not Christian are marginalized, definitely some more than others. With that said, I would argue that mainstream Christianity plays a role, to varying degrees, in influencing the lives of all (and I mean all—black, white, latino, Native American, middle-eastern, east asian, south asian, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, gay, straight, transgendered, woman, man—you get the idea) Americans, despite the bullshit that is the Separation of Church and State. And it always conveniently seems to creep up around election time—all of sudden America remembers its “morals.” Smh. This has been particularly evident in the rhetoric surrounding the “Ground Zero Mosque” where Christianity has been used by many as a means to demonize and silence. What has been demonized is Islam as “un-American,” and who has been silenced are Muslims (and many Americans of color who may not identify as such, but are racially marked or profiled). This happens time and time again. We saw it in a very real way in the summer of 2008, when California became the first state (albeit temporary) to allow same sex marriage. The opposition was fierce and once again that Christian (read: heterosexual) American myth crept up from out of its dusty corner somewhere in the basement of the Capitol Building to be used for the gain of a privileged few.

Christianity has many great principles, but it is also malleable in the way that anything that is open to interpretation can be. Because faith and spirituality are things that affect so many of us and shape our identities, religion has the utmost power to offer edification, emotional stability, and healing, but simultaneously has the enormous power to ostracize, inflict deep wounds and cause intense emotional pain.

In a country filled of “others” what is the role of the Christian Church, faith, individual (what have you) in actively moving away from this OLD, tired white American Christian myth, toward embracing a faith that celebrates holistic beings and is committed to anti-oppression in all of its many forms? Now, what would that look like…? I think it’s about time to move away from “The Old Landmark” (you Pentecostals know what I’m talking about). I’m just sayin.

Btw, when I googled “The Old Landmark” the video below popped up. So, now this is completely on a tangent, but just because I looove old gospel songs…and James Brown…enjoy the following clip and take in all its ridiculousness.

James Brown – The old landmark (The Blues Brothers)
Uploaded by Davidsonr62. – Explore more music videos.

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