Sleigh bells ringing, fireplace crackling, the smell of home-cooked food fills the air, the decorations are…wait a minute, Why is baby Jesus white??
How did we…
But He was born in…
And His mother was…
It’s easy to get into the spirit of Christmas with family, music, gifts, and even going to church for the second time of that year (#saved). But have you ever noticed that in every mainstream depiction of the nativity scene everyone looks clean, pure, beautiful, fashionable, calm, and…White?
Have you ever questioned these depictions?
How can we say that we worship the Son God who loved all, saved all, and died for all when our only witness of His birth is baptized in whiteness? You see, we’re taught that Mary and Joseph had to go to a manger because on this specific night all the hotels and air bnbs were somehow “full”.
If Jesus was so privileged as our culture makes him out to be, then how come all these other places couldn’t make special accommodations for his birth? White men throughout history have always been gifted special accommodations, especially when they throw tantrums. In fact, the presence of these men causes people to prepare the space for their arrival. But why not Jesus?
The Church is quick to accept the lies that are produced by the exertion of white privilege, then it is to accept the true color of Jesus’ humanity. Jesus was born into a brown body, He lived in a brown body, and He died in a brown body. At the time of Jesus’ birth Nazareth was a hated small town. Yet, it’s the town where Mary and Joseph settled in, it’s where Jesus grew up. So when Mary, a brown woman from Nazareth, and Joseph, a brown man from Nazareth, were looking for a place to stay, I can only imagine the sting they felt when they heard the phrase, “there’s no more room in the inn” disguised behind the true message of, “go away, we don’t want your kind here.”
The representation of Jesus is the heart of the Church’s exclusion of people of color. We hold so much weight to this part of Christ’s identity. So much that Jesus’ identity would be incomplete without POC . It’s only when the Church comes to understands the life of Jesus as a brown man from a despised town, is when the Church can fully understand what suffering, pain, resilience, and praise in the midst of the storm really means.
When Jesus lead his ministry, his disciples were diverse in ethnicities, backgrounds, personalities, skills, and gifts. It was this diverse ministry team that witnessed to multitudes of diverse people. It’s a sad truth that the Church is nowhere near Jesus’ model of ministry. We’re so caught up in our cultural comfortableness of staying neutral, raising more money, building our churches in white, err I mean “safe” neighborhoods, doing mission trips to impact the lives of those less fortunate than us, implementing outreach programs that only reach people we’re comfortable talking to, putting queer worship leaders on stage but telling them to “give us your gift of praise but leave the reason for your praise at home,” idolizing cisgenderness and gender complementary, raising up men to be leaders but leaving the women in the classrooms and kitchens, and the list goes on.
Representation is key. Where are the black voices in your church? Latinx? Asian? Middle Eastern? Do you even know that we’re here?
Our spirits, the very spirit that’s intertwined with God’s being, comes through the Church doors with such a Word of suffering and resilience. We have never stood silent when the whiteness of the world rapes us with suffering. Whether we’re fighting for justice, racking up degrees, making it rain, or gaining a rapport with authority figures the Church will always know of our existence. Congregants will always ask for guidance on various social topics. Community members will always ask for space at the table.
The question the Church consistently faces is, “what should be our response be to…?” Often times the answer a church decides on fits into their own box of comfort. What the Church doesn’t want us to know is that these decisions are just temporary fixes to preserve their comfort and power; an excuse to buy themselves more time to enjoy their exclusive community. But Jesus modeled the answer for us – Inclusion.
So how does the church practice racial inclusion?
It starts with representation. Adding POC to the ministry team breaks the silence of marginalized voices by providing a perspective of Christ that challenges and/or enhances one’s faith. In addition, a ministry team with POC will reflect the Kingdom of God.
When POC are apart of congregations or ministry teams, it’s important listen to them. The Church shouldn’t restrict its listening to sermons; listen as we teach in classes, listen as we fellowship with other members/guests, listen as we share opinions in meetings, listen as we check in with our church family. Our experiences as a person of color isn’t limited to just protests and laws. From generational history to the smallest of everyday tasks, our experiences are embodied into our being.
From representation, awareness and conviction of oneself is soon to follow. The Church needs to learn how to recognize when and how white privilege is being misused. It’s time to take responsibility. It doesn’t matter who influenced you or if this truth is too hard to hear, but the truth is that the Church is a powerful institution that’s guilty of gaining power through the misuse of white privilege. The Church today is more known to exclude people than it is to practice inclusion. Do the reconciliatory work, don’t just dream of a better tomorrow when the Church hasn’t done their own work. Educate yourselves on black history, immigration, poverty, etc. Try reading these verses from this spiritual and see if you can spot the pain and praise that the slaves expressed:
I’ve got shoes, you’ve got a shoes
All of God’s children got shoes
When I get to Heaven goin’ to put on my shoes
Goin’ to walk all over God’s Heaven
Ev’rybody talkin’ ‘bout Heav’n ain’t goin’ there
Goin’ to shout all over God’s Heaven
Why are the shoes important? Why can’t the shoes be worn on earth? Who’s not going to Heaven and why? What’s the purpose of shouting over God’s Heaven? Why would slaves sings this song?
If you’re having trouble answering these questions, then it’s time to step back and let some people of color take the lead!
Born and raised in Cleveland, OH, I grew up in the Baptist tradition as a pastor’s kid. I moved to Nashville, TN in 2011 to pursue music at Belmont University and it was during my college years that I wrought to reconcile my faith and sexuality. As a result, I developed a passion for LGBTQ ministry and social justice.
My vision is to create a campus ministry for LGBTQ students to heal from religious trauma, deconstruct/reconstruct their faith and reconcile their faith and sexuality. In addition, I wish to consult affirming/questioning churches in the Southeastern region of the US by creating programs that will support LGBTQ congregants, leadership development, and support groups for reconciling race and/or sexuality within the Christian faith. Currently, I am working to launch my campus ministry with my Alma Mater, attend New Covenant Christian Church, and working full time at the Martha O’Bryan Center.