Whiteness Killed the Witness

Nathan Stanton has spent the last 10 years as a pastor, church planter and artist on the West, South and Northsides of Chicago, and is an Interfaith America Racial Equity Media Fellow 

 

“Yes, Jesus died, but not on a cross THAT big.” These were my words to my wife as we drove along the historic route 66 (US 40) somewhere around the Texas/Oklahoma border. You see my eyes had come to meet the biggest cross I had ever seen in my life. Its official name is the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ in Groom, Texas, it stands over 190 ft tall and weighs 1250 tons. It is the third largest cross in the country, which is something. Now this was a sight to behold especially an age where Christians seem to be concerned with historical and contextual accuracy yet a statue of this size is rife with falsehoods, color, scale and placement are just a few. Any of those could be expounded upon extensively with a relish. What is represents and has represented is much more dangerous and subversive.

I imagine the pride must feel as white Christians look up at that cross. All while sensing notions of victory and inevitable supremacy. As I explained to someone online not long ago, my goal is to assault whiteness not white people. You see the idea of superiority because of one’s skin color has been a cancer to this nation. We are experiencing a treatment of sorts aimed at expunging this record from our archives. As of yet the clinging to whiteness has become even more deep seated. Our recent election polarized many beliefs along political lines and exposed the distance that separates our society today. Christianity since Constantine has been used to justify many actions of the state and as a result further the state-blessed ideology. Typified in American exceptionalism, we are excused from the same moral framework Jesus introduced and are free to perpetuate violence, greed and grandeur to further our mission. This thinking and action has profound consequences that require us to forfeit an inheritance as peacemakers in lieu of peacekeeping in the midst of a chaotic world impatient men have created. We believe we are persecuted, yet we are the persecutors, we think we are Jedi, but we are the Empire. The empire crucified Jesus and holds its actions as righteous and necessary. Instead of witnessing the crucifixion, we are organizing instruments of torture, deepening ghettos and excusing racism. Whiteness in its superiority cannot straddle both persecution and prosecution or be oppressor and oppressed. That cross reaching for the sky reminded me of the tower of Babel that tried to reach the heavens and instead disappointed God.

The biblical prophet Elijah once had pronounced a drought upon the nation of Israel. They had drifted far into idolatry and as a result found that their days would be full of fruitless planting and harvesting. Elijah prayed and it did not rain for three years. People starved and Elijah ran from the ire of King Ahab. Finally after a showdown Elijah told the king to eat and drink for there was the sound of heavy rain. Then Elijah proceeded to send his servant to look for the impending rain six times and on the seventh, there appeared a cloud the size of a mans hand. Thus ended the drought with a thunderous storm of heavy rain. There is a gathering storm that does not look like much but this cloud of witnesses marching and speaking out on behalf of the marginalized are ending the drought of righteousness and morality. Unmotivated by power grab that has characterized much of our political struggle. Many small bands of activists are awakening the righteous rains of a healthy nation to finally wash off the whiteness that has covered Christianity and our nation for far too long.

The life Jesus lived and death he died was not about the grandiose larger than life dominance. it was about the love that intentionally subverts its status quo for the least of these. Jesus showed us the biggest gun one could possible need is the capacity for compassion. Whiteness feels entitled to the best at the expense of the rest. I know you may say it WAS Texas after all and who takes those symbols seriously. Symbols are important and shape the American psyche. The marginalized are slowly being crucified daily by racist policies creating a dangerous spiritual imbalance. As this “cup of iniquity” fills it must spill over at once toppling those grandiose monuments. Statues and symbols that do not represent the small life lived on purpose in the shadow of mountainous imperial monstrosities.

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

Political scientist Henry Brady explores how trust has broken down in the U.S. and what we can do about it.
"Intel, which ranked second on the REDI Index last year, overtook Google, last year's top company, by 10 points in 2021. Intel’s public conference on religious inclusion earned it the extra boost."
"The letter says its signers feel compelled to condemn such expressions, "just as many Muslim leaders have felt the need to denounce distorted, violent versions of their faith" in previous years."
During the coronavirus pandemic, Moncayo has led the food distribution program through Mosaic West Queens Church in the Sunnyside neighborhood.
Raja writes about the usefulness or appropriateness of the term "BIPOC" - Black, Indigenous, People of Color- in discourse about race and justice, and how it relates to and reflects the politics of race and racism in the United States.
The river has been important since the dawn of civilization and has served as a commercial hub and lifeline for countless peoples over many millennia. Yet there has always seemed to be a justice that was out of reach for some.
"Many synagogues are leaning into the Purim tradition of giving gifts to friends and the poor— a custom known as “mishloach manot.”
"We know through surveys that people are more likely to like Muslims if they know one personally. But because only about 1% of Americans practice the Islamic faith, many people just don’t come into contact with any Muslims."
Purim tells the tale of Esther, an orphaned girl-turned-queen, how she married King Achashverosh, then saved the entire Jewish community in the ancient Persian city of Shushan, through her bravery and wit.
Higher education remains highly unequal and racial divides persist. How can these realities be explained in a context defined by wokeness?
There are so many forces that pull people apart from one another. Institutions and systems and ways of thinking that want us to feel separated, broken, helpless, and quick to capitalize on moments of weakness. The very thing that brings out...
Others noted Rihanna chose to display Ganesh on Feb. 15, the day Hindus celebrate as Ganesh's birthday, or Ganesh Jayanti. The god of beginnings, Ganesh is honored before starting a business or major project.
Until this year, most schools, states and national high school athletic associations had typically forbidden religious headwear, citing safety concerns, unless a student or coach had applied for a waiver. No waiver, no play.
Do a quick Google or YouTube search for tarot, and you’ll find the two main things people tend to inquire about are love and money. Underlying these inquiries is a belief that a tarot reading can tell the future, which begs the question of whether...
The results are based on responses from some 1,800 Black American adults, including more than 800 who attend a Black church. The California research firm conducted the survey in the spring of 2020.
Asian Americans are suffering under the weight of these mounting incidents. Many, including those in our own circles, have expressed concern about leaving their homes to perform everyday tasks.
"Black residents make up a little under half of Washington’s population, but constitute nearly three-fourths of the city's COVID-19 deaths."
Can interfaith leadership foster greater equity for the health of communities of color? Four leaders in healthcare discuss racial health disparities in our nation and how interfaith leadership can be implemented in order to solve them.
“It's an invitation to be subversive by focusing on ourselves."
Across the state, nearly every major health care system has partnered with Black and Hispanic houses of worship to expand vaccine access, setting up mobile clinics in their parking lots and fellowship halls.
Gandhi organized a nonviolent protest on behalf of the farmers. That was when the word satyagraha was used for the first time in the context of a political protest.

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.