Rock! Paper! Scissors!
Tools for anarchist + Christian thought and action
Vol 2. No. 1
Art Against Empire
Art Against Empire
Guest editor: Ewuare X. Osayande
By: Ewuare X. Osayande
Most Christians would agree that white supremacy is a sin. But what many Christians fail to consider is how white supremacy has shaped their perception of the one they believe to have the power to forgive sin. White supremacy is more than mere forgivable sin. It is a form of idolatry. As such, it has infected the very worship and reverence of the Most High in the Christian church. Whiteness is a cloak of power worn by those privileged by an oppression that is predicated on the wholesale slaughter of people of color all over the world.
White supremacy necessitates a white deity. According to its false logic, God can only be white. Therefore, Christ – as God’s only begotten Son – must also be white. The dark-hued Jesus of history disrupts white supremacy’s central premise – that white people are better, are the best, and, as such, are the only people fit to rule.
A whitified Christ has wrought havoc in the minds and spirits of people of color and white people worldwide for centuries. Indeed, it has upended the very nature of the Gospel message. For what can possibly be the meaning of a white Christ crucified? By distorting the image of Christ, white Christians have usurped the social location of Jesus and deemed themselves the world’s savior and have placed themselves above reproach. More than that, they have also claimed the space of perennial sufferer, giving the idea of the “White Man’s Burden” a morality it cannot in truth hold.
The historic account of the brown-skinned Hebrew rebel known as Jesus nailed to a Roman cross as retold generations later in the Gospels is an indictment of Empire. Christians idolizing a white Jesus is a justification of Empire. That is a contradiction that sits at the heart of the Christian church. Left unchallenged and unreconciled, it has enabled the execution of untold millions of people since Paul proclaimed “Christ crucified.”
White Christians are challenged by the historic reality of the cross. For the cross, understood as Jesus and his followers understood it, represents a confrontation with the systems of unjust power and oppression. The Truth of Christ and his message threatened the powers. Calling for and recognizing the equality of the slave and the Emperor, the poor and the rich, the sick and well, the outcast and privileged is scandalous to the purveyors of the status quo. In The Evidence of Things Not Seen, James Baldwin wrote that white people came to the cross by way of the Bible, whereas, Black people came to the Bible by way of the cross. Today, white people must come to the cross by the way of Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Renee Davis, Philando Castile and Korryn Gaines, and the many others of us Black and Brown executed without trial by the state.
To see Christ as he was, and in seeing him, see the Everlasting Challenge to Empire he represents, all Christians must be healed of the blindness by the spit and soil that is the word and world of the oppressed. We must come to see God in their efforts to be seen, heard, respected and made free. Those whose faces are made of flint, who were and are attacked, targeted, surveilled, arrested, taken, tortured and killed by those who worship a god made over into their own likeness.
When Jesus told the crowd gathered on a hillside in Galilee to take up their cross and follow him, they didn’t think of wearing a gold pendant around their necks. They remembered their family members who in the thousands were crucified by the Romans when Jesus was still a child. Today, when Jesus says, “Take up your cross and follow me,” he is inviting us into a life of confrontation with empire and its enablers and collaborators. To follow Jesus in our day in this way is to heal our sight so that when we see the dark-hued of humanity marching in the streets all over the world, we will say, “Hosanna to the Highest, Blessed are they who come in the name of the Lord!”