Racism and the Church

I wholeheartedly believe that issues of Justice, fairness and equity especially as they relate to ecological, gender, sexual, racial/cultural and economic realities should occupy the forefront of our theologies. In my experiential opinion, justice should take precedence over any other theological concerns. I say this not only as a theologian, but as a black Latino male. Any theologizing about God and her being and very existence, is really irrelevant for all important purposes if issues of equity for all human being are not addressed.

This leads me to discuss my experiences within some of the mainline historical denominations in the US. I have come to accept that perhaps the most unabashedly racist institutions in our society are churches and their denominational organizations. This may be due in part to some prominent teachings that are remnants of 16th century reformation theology such as “justification by faith and grace alone,” constructs of “saint and sinner” and notions that God is able to forgive us even for sins perpetrated against others. Intentionally or not, these teachings facilitate the ability for individuals to continue hating, because, in accordance with the teachings of Luther and Calvin, the depth of human deprivation is so deep and encompassing that evil/racism is not in the sphere of human agency/volition to be confronted. Therefore thanks be to God for her grace that is freely bestowed upon the sinner exonerating him or her from all consequences of their sins.

I ask myself: Does God really have the right to forgive someone who trespasses against me, without asking for my permission? Does God have the right to forgive those who, due to ignorance or evil have caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqi children, women and men? Does God have the authority to forgive those Christians who continue to break and destroy the self-esteem of others and dehumanize their fellow human beings simply because of the color of their skin or culture? I will leave these questions to be answered by the theologians. It seems to me that God has a perpetual public relations nightmare to address!