“Stop Saying Racism is a Spiritual Problem!”
I believe the problem of racism in the human heart is not just a theological or spiritual issue. Christians need to stop saying that. Racism is a complex reality that needs to be treated holistically and multidimensionally. Christian theology produced in the West is too weak to be the solution to the race problem or our contemporary struggle with white supremacy. In other words, if you tell me that Jesus is the solution to the problem of racism and white supremacy in America and in the world, you would have to tell me whose Jesus are you talking about? Are you referring to the Jesus of the poor and the oppressed and the marginalized? Or are you referring to the Christ of bourgeois theologians and racist Christians?
The poor and marginalized know Jesus is their friend and their only help in the time of sorrow and suffering. The figure of Christ in Western theological discourse is too transcendent and distant to relate to the poor and their living conditions and existential suffering manifest in today’s culture as white supremacy and terrorism.
When Western theologians stop theologizing and theorizing Jesus and his message, they will contribute to the solution of white supremacy and racism in our culture and Christian circles. In other words, if (and when) Western theologians start to believe that racism and white supremacy are more than a theological issue, but are embedded in systems and structures, be it economic, political, cultural, and ideological, they will start making social justice issues part of their larger theological thinking and writing, and intellectual framework and tradition.
Contemporary destructive ideologies and evils such as white supremacy and Christian white nationalism in Christian circles and in this culture are existential realities that destroy lives, demonize and alienate people, and cause more personal despair and collective suffering to our personal and shared experience as Americans and images of God. American (Evangelical) Christianity needs a new theological discourse and a new generation of theologians who can and will write theology differently and offer an intellectual and paradigm shift that is relevant and contemporaneous to our existential troubles and racial wounds.
We need to reject the idea that white supremacy or racism is just a sin or spiritual issue unless we understand sin has a multidimensional aspect. We need to leave behind this thinking that racism is just a theological matter and therefore needs a theological/spiritual solution. The God of the Bible is about cosmic transformation and holistic renewal of his creation; his solution to the human dilemma such as white supremacy and racism goes beyond the realm of the theological and the spiritual. God wants to change systems, ideologies, and structures that produce and sustain white supremacy, internal terrorism, and racism. He’s about comprehensive reparation of his creation and humanity.
Jesus is the God-Man and not just a spiritual and theological Being. He is a social and relational Deity as much as he is spiritual and theological. To say that Jesus is the social God means that he does not disengage with the social issues–such as white supremacy, internal terrorism, and racism– of life that affect and change our theological interactions with him. To say that Jesus is a spiritual Being is to convey the idea that what we think about Jesus theologically change human relationships and interactions.