I watch the tearing down of statues and monuments considered symbols of oppression. I listen to the opposition argue history is being erased by doing so. As this low-hanging fruit is being picked, interest has shifted to where it needs be, the ultimate symbol of white supremacy, white Jesus, and by extension, the white church.
The Twittersphere has been abuzz with righteous outrage over pundits' and politicians' talk about taking down statues of white Jesus. It's beyond awkward for opponents to argue erasing history. Jesus, in fact, was not a white man. It is equally irrational for opponents to argue that Christianity is somehow under attack. As I ask myself, "What would Jesus do?" I conclude that he cares little for statues of adoration and preached against idolatry. His message of loving one another despite our differences speaks loudest. I am certain he would agree that if a statue divides us, it needs to go. Jesus lives in our hearts, not nailed to a wall. After all, He's been there and done that.
A nerve has been hit hard, now raw and exposed. A challenge to white Jesus is a challenge to white supremacy. The sins of slavery and racism rest solidly on the altars of white Christian churches in this country. Historically, many churches convinced God-fearing people that slavery and oppressing black people was sanctioned by the Bible and it was a blessing to the enslaved. The hearts of church members were co-opted by a racist message and wrapped up in the sanctity of God's word. Bishop Claude Alexander of Charlotte told The Washington Post last year, "The church gave spiritual sanction [to racism], both overtly by the things that it taught and covertly by the critique it did not raise." As churchgoers say amen, they say amen and thank you to white Jesus — in effect saying, "God is good. God is white." Therefore, subliminally communicating whites are superior.
This message runs so deep in the subconscious, even good God-fearing people don't seem to realize it. Recently, Pastor Louie Giglio, leader of Atlanta's Passion City Church said, "I'm living in the blessing of the curse that happened generationally that allowed me to grow up in Atlanta." Arguing against the term "white privilege," Giglio preferred the term "white blessing."
"We understand the curse that was slavery, white people do ... And we say that was bad. But we miss the blessing of slavery, that it actually built up the framework for the world that white people live in." After public outrage, Giglio made a public apology, shed tears and pleaded for prayers.
The white church reinforced racism and corrupted Jesus' message of love into one of hate and division. Under the banner of Christianity, the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan tortured, terrorized and murdered our black brothers and sisters. Hiding under the hoods were members of the clergy. The Klan still exists and still spreads hate and division. Deep-rooted in their belief system is the notion of God sanctioned white supremacy.
I pray that white church leaders and their congregations everywhere take this opportunity to practice what Jesus preached. We are called to love one another, not oppress the few. Step up, white churches. You should be ashamed. It's beyond time to accept your role in establishing white supremacy. Atone and actively participate in healing the deep division you created. Your silence is deafening. God will forgive if you ask. You must ask. Then, you must act.
Marcia Jones is a former attorney who lives on James Island.