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

The expansion is fueled by concerns over political polarization on college campuses, an infusion of funds from foundations interested in bridge-building, and a merger with IFYC, which has a track record facilitating interfaith engagement.
Ancient rabbis imagined the great chain of tradition, that went from generation to generation, as a ball that is tossed, playfully, from teacher to student. Is there a "Lasso Torah" inside a television show about a fish-out-of-water Midwestern football coach?
Studies show houses of worship have provided solace during the pandemic, but companies across the U.S. are struggling to respond to requests for religious exemptions to vaccine mandates.
Catholics leaders have urged vaccination to "protect the most vulnerable," and studies show this outreach is helping improve vaccination rates among Latino Catholics.
Across the country, people from all political divides, faiths and walks of life are coming together to help resettle Afghan refugees arriving at the borders.
The first episode of “Home Sweet Home,” which DuVernay said prioritizes curiosity over conflict, features the Wixx family — a “super queer” Black couple with three children.
Each week, we share our top 10 religion stories from journals, news sites, podcasts and magazines.
Dr. Abel Gomez: "If we’re talking about interfaith work and we want to expand the ability of communities to practice their religious ceremonies, I ask my students: if we think about the experience of Native people under the occupation of the United States, do they actually have religious freedom?"
The Fisk Jubilee Singers, based at the historically Black university founded by the abolitionist American Missionary Association and later tied to the United Church of Christ, started traveling 150 years ago on Oct. 6, 1871.
The last several months have been catastrophic for Haiti. The Aug. 14 earthquake left more than 2,200 people dead, followed by Tropical Depression Grace two days later. The country’s political sector has been in disarray & over 22,000 people have officially died during the pandemic.
Apache Stronghold will take part in a day of prayer Saturday (Oct. 9) at Oak Flat before meeting with leaders of the Tohono O’odham Nation, who will offer a blessing and prayer for their travels.
It’s not just interactions with friends and families that are getting cut. Routine yet beneficial interactions with people at fitness and child care centers and volunteer organizations are also being eliminated.
Ismaili Jamatkhanas are designed to be both places of worship and community engagement, so when the chance to conduct a vaccine drive became a possibility, volunteers mobilized quickly.
Amid personal and professional crises, the author writes that she finds her Christian faith "one of the most fruitful sources of hope, even in the darkest hours."
Facebook has been a catalyst for religious communities that aren’t defined geographically. For religious leaders who connect with their flocks on the internet, the outage was a reminder to own their information.
The pedestal that propped up the statue of Junipero Serra looks bare at first glance, but once a smartphone camera is aimed toward it, an animated monument honoring the Tongva, the Indigenous people of Los Angeles, comes alive.
A Lutheran church in Wisconsin recently hosted an interfaith dialogue between a pagan and Lutheran pastor. They will continue the conversation this month in an event hosted by the Parliament of the Worlds Religions in Chicago.
The articles and videos are by and about inspiring Latinx/a/o interfaith leaders from diverse religious communities.
Our top 10 religion stories of the week show religious pluralism as an opportunity, not a cause for despair. They're also great reads.
The law, possibly the first of its kind in the nation, is part of a larger effort by women athletes to have more say about what they wear while competing.
"We are American faith leaders from six different faith traditions, including yours," said a letter to President Joe Biden. "We see our nation continuing to spectacularly fail in welcoming the stranger."

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.