The Idolatry of Whiteness
The world is changing. It has always been changing, and God loves change, loves creativity, loves flourishing. This is observable across all of God's Creation. So when we start talking in new ways about old concepts, God is delighted.
This summer, I am introducing a new way of thinking about the concept of a “white” racial identity. I am finding it more and more useful to analyze “whiteness” through the prism of an inherited system of idol worship, one baked into our socialization and unquestioned by our social/political/economic institutions. Furthermore, I am finding whole-hearted God worship as the best antidote to the harm of whiteness, both for “us” as the inheritors and for "them” as the outsiders.
First, I will acknowledge that I am a white man, and have been unquestionably “white” my whole life. Secondly, I would like to acknowledge that this congrega-tion is white. Just saying that, I know I have made many uncomfortable.
To acknowledge the racial makeup of white spaces is taboo; we fear that in doing so we will express an intention to exclude. It seems, however, that not mentioning it is one of the best ways to maintain it, much like idolatry. We become like Aaron in Exodus 32, who attempts to ignore the Golden Calf set up before the altar, and simply proclaim that the people’s worship is in honor of the Lord Almighty.
Worship of God is not a side project; it is not something we can do during a pause from our participation in systems of domination (see Amos chapter 8). If it is, it is not worship of the Lord Almighty, but instead is worship of a dumb idol of our own creation, one that adjusts us to injustice, that anesthetizes us to the suffering of the world.
The God revealed in Jesus offers endurance to those who witness oppression, who confront empire and domination systems head on, who stand vulnerable before the beasts of this world. The God of Jesus goes with us into the dark, and the light of Christ illumines the way forward, as well as the obstacles on our path. The God of Jesus gives us the strength to repent, to turn around, to look within our lives and acknowledge where we have missed the mark, intentionally or not. It is this light, this worship, which obliterates idols.
The idolatry of whiteness is so pervasive, so unconscious, that without training our eyes to see and our ears to hear, we will continue to perpetuate the belief of racial superiority without ever seeing ourselves or our culture as racially biased. It is not a sign of moral failure for this to be so; it is by design. Whiteness, like idolatry, roots itself deeply in culture, working to hide within legitimate-seeming practices.
Many modern-day prophets on whiteness, such as Paul Kivel, David Billings, Robin DiAngelo, Jennifer Harvey, James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ibram X. Kendi, and WEB DuBois, can help to open our eyes to the reality of this idol in our midst, just as Jeremiah, Amos, Hosea, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Micah have helped our ancestors in the faith open theirs. The question is not whether we can come to see the idolatry of whiteness, but whether we can keep from turning away once we do. And that is where our trust in God, the Lord Almighty, will come in.
In Prautés and With Pistis,