Is Our Preoccupation With Race Moving Us to Color the Gospel?


Recently a black colleague of mine asked me if I was working on any new writing projects. I told him as a matter of fact I am. It is a book on The Pilgrim’s Progress. He quickly responded, “Oh, will that be a black man’s perspective on The Pilgrim’s Progress?” His response was both telling and disappointing. It was telling in how much the conversation of race and the politics of race have overtaken our conversation in the church. It was disappointing because it suggested that black men and women can’t write anything except it be explicitly the “black perspective” on a thing.

I know it might sound a bit sacrilegious these days to even raise the question, but could it be that our preoccupation with race is moving us to color the gospel? In other words, we can be so concerned with black and white issues or issues of social justice and not realize that we are slowly slipping away from the character and content of the gospel message into our personal cultural and social agendas. Consequently, we may unwittingly be saying that if the gospel proclamation does not include my felt sociological needs or cultural affirmations then it is a gospel insufficient. Thus, we may be coloring the gospel with our preferences.

It would seem obvious, but I often find the obvious needs restating: The gospel is not black or white. The gospel is the color of water (that may not be the best analogy in light of the present circumstances of our brothers and sisters in Flint, MI, but bear with me). In the book The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother, author James McBride describes a conversation where he asked his mother, “What color is God?” She responded with a deftness seemingly lost on us today. She said, “God is the color of water.” In other words, he is not definable by color. He is not bound by our cultural preoccupations, and neither is the gospel.

The danger the church must be leery of today is the same danger she has had to combat from her beginning – cultural pride. And cultural pride is no respecter of culture. From the conversation Jesus had with the woman at the well, to the neglect of the Hellenistic Christians, to Paul’s own explicit cultural denials, the struggle to overcome cultural pride has been and is real. White Christians struggle with it. Black Christians struggle with it. Hispanic Christians struggle with it. Asian Christians struggle with it. And the list goes on and on. Racism is rooted in it. And too often my bitter responses to racism are rooted in it as well.

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SOURCE: The Front Porch