They say open letters are self-indulgent because all it is, supposedly, is someone venting at best or bringing attention to themselves at worst. They also say group blame is unhelpful and asking white people to acknowledge well-established patterns of privilege is reverse racism. Also, putting a colour to the addressee scares certain people, brands and entities – and their money, and forming relationships, etc. But I love you too much to let good manners get in the way of the truth.
Let’s start with the obvious: more of us are rejecting White Jesus. Far from waiting for him to vomit us out of his mouth, we are the ones who have found him lukewarm and are vomiting him out of our mouths; we have weighed him and he has been found wanting. We haven’t rejected him because he’s white but because he doesn’t exist except to bestow privilege on some and throw everyone else under the bus out of Christian love.
Certainly, there may exist or have existed a number of brown-skinned men named Jesús (you know, the guys trying to cross your borders to destroy the land of your fathers?) or a brown-skinned man who was crucified 2000 years ago. Heck, he may even have risen from the dead to watch the world from behind an invisible curtain and answer prayers. That would still make him realer or more believable than White Jesus, who is a brainwashing, behaviour-management tool. Though you invented him, he is so effective at the purpose you created him for that even you believe in him on the pain of eternal damnation. Not of your own, of course: of those homosexuals and of everyone else who “sins” differently from you, especially if they aren’t white, straight or male. It’s a sweet deal you have going there with White Jesus. He certainly looks out for his own.
You have done what you’re doing across the centuries and you keep doing it today but you don’t think it’s you doing it. You never did think you were doing it, otherwise you wouldn’t have done it: what makes you think you aren’t still doing it now?
You’d argue it was your mistaken forefathers who did it, not you. Because nothing of them and their ways rubbed off; you’re better educated, now, so you wouldn’t go so far as to keep slaves. It’s not in vogue anymore. It stains the moral whiteness of being white and interferes with the narrative of essential white goodness. Or, it’s a few misguided policemen and not you. You wouldn’t kill black people. Lynching days are over. Jimmy Crow is dead. You love black people, now that you’ve remembered that white Jesus died for them too. Afterthought much? So, those policemen are not your sons, fathers, neighbours, brothers and husbands. Their attitudes are magically isolated from yours so you just have no idea how they can do what they do. They are not your worldview armed and taken to its ultimate physical conclusion. Certainly, you’re not doing it so you can’t work out why they are doing it. It’s impolite of them to keep drawing attention to the race issue and reminding you of how America used to be by killing black people in 2015. And those acts of violence have nothing – nothing – to do with White Jesus and his offer to forgive people for the sins they’re conveniently more likely to commit if they’re not white, straight and male, or beholden to persons who are straight, white and male.
You tell “sinners” that God loves them but hates their “sin.” I question your definition of sin and its astounding convenience in propping up your ideology, one I have come to find more sinful than any “sin” you piously and pettily preach against. You’re the scandal, and it is your ways that are abominable. I haven’t wanted to tell you that. I’ve wanted to listen to your worship music and read your online sermons and hear your podcasts. But the body count is too high. And White Jesus and I have agreed to see other people.
You lost credibility long before you lost the right to define marriage for everyone else. The flaw in your theology and theopraxy has now claimed the life of a beautiful, intelligent black woman named Sandra Bland, and I see those flaws showing up in the Christianese I am bombarded with – in South Africa. Wasn’t Uganda and its gay people enough for you? I tell you that you’ve caused suffering but the connection is too remote, too tenuous and too contrived to be credible to you right now. It’s always six persons and six shades of skin colour or six rainbow colours removed from you. Don’t you feel safer knowing White Jesus gave you and your loved ones one of the most powerful shields in the western world – white skin? But you wouldn’t know because you have never had to.
You are too busy worshiping your paternalism disguised as complementarianism; you’re worshiping your archaic moralism – self-preservation and the preservation of privilege, really – to see it for the patriarchy and racism that much of it really is. You worship your disregard for the ecosystem by calling it stewardship but it’s just failure to call to account billionaires who share your skin colour and speak with your accents and pad your church pews. While slashing pensions and toying with savings. They have bribed you to keep quiet, and you cannot even see that.
The world cannot take you seriously when your entire approach to the world blinds you from seeing the damage you inflict on the world. You’re a chip off the old block even as you were founded fleeing the old block. Another group that looked like you and spoke like you came to Africa with bibles like yours and preached a Gospel much like yours, which was really no Good News at all except for those who benefited materially. You are the terror that you escaped in Europe, and no sooner than you had escaped it, you copied and surpassed it. The abused becomes the abuser and you cannot see.
You have preserved – rigidly – your theology at the expense of human experience. You have shrunk back from those whose human experience cannot be explained within your theology. No wonder you are spiritually disengaged from the world you affect and harm so profoundly.
You want to “take America back for Jesus”? Then for God’s sake, just love people. It is love that produces the fruit of life-giving goodness, but the “spiritual fruit” you celebrate – when you have people acting straighter and whiter and less human – only serves humanity within the fantastical paradigm it has set up. And that’s just before your own people hit spiritual burnout. Your paradigm is a closed system and seldom reaches real people on the ground without harming them.
Love people, I say. But that’s too simple for you, so you won’t hear it.
Dear White Right-Wing American Christianity, So-Called: your days are numbered.
Thank you for reading. Please feel free to comment and share.
Siya Khumalo writes about religion, politics and sex.