As RadicalDiscipleship.net approaches Her 5-year birthday this month, we will start posting more frequently from the archives. This classic is from the prophetic imagination of Nick Peterson, currently pursuing his PhD in Liturgics and Ethics at Emory University.
*Originally re-posted from social media in April 2016.
As a powerful but vain imagination, white supremacy attempts to imprison God to whiteness. In a white supremacist framework – God has a white sentence without parole. While confined, God must look white, talk white, think white, affirm white, bless white, and value, above all things, “his” own image made in whiteness. White supremacy attempts to hold the very God of the universe in chains – theological, liturgical, spiritual, creedal, geographical, social, emotional, and political.
Under the rule of white supremacy, God is not allowed to function outside of white forms of intellectual discovery and exploration, white expressions of emotion and affection, white cultural and artistic aesthetics, and white forms of physical embodiment and movement. Solitarily confined, God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omni-present. Locked in a maximum security white complex mangled and sustained by centuries of exploitation and pillaging.
White supremacy, with its penchant for grandiosity, requires all of creation to be ordered in such a way as to affirm its vain imagination. The fragility of whiteness is such that, to imagine a world where God is not white and does not work primarily for the benefit and blessing of white people, is to imagine hell. Hell is nothing less than a disruption of status quo or suspicion as to whether or not it is really God who is locked up. In a white supremacist’s imagination, hell is the place where whiteness loses its proximal association to God’s sovereignty; a place where whiteness no longer has claim to Divine superiority. Hell is not white inferiority, but instead, the absence of white superiority. So any claim that undermines white supportity is an assault from the pits of hell.
Nonetheless, for as long as has tried to confine God, God has shown Godself to be beyond such horrid conventions. God has tirelessly sought to show God’s appreciation for and interest in diversity. From the diversity of inorganic materials and galaxies to the diversity within organic creation, God has tried to help the people see the truth of xe’s presence in, through, around, about, above, and beneath ALL things.
In this present moment, God is still screaming loud and clear that xe is not white or the validator of white supremacy. God has been using the voices of black and brown men and women, Muslim men women and children, queer and non-cis gender persons to help the people hear this important message. These prophets are trying to help the people see that it is not God who has been locked up all this time, but instead the god-given conscience and humanity of white people.
The normalcy of white supremacy makes acceptable and praiseworthy the sociopathic systems, institutions, and governments that name white supremacy as privilege, merited, and or the favor of God. Failure to undermine, expose, and disrupt the patterns of white supremacy that are part and parcel of our shared life ensures the persistent undue suffering of ALL creation.
For people of faith, what does it say that in 2016 we still perpuate the illusion of a white Jesus in our christian imaginations? What does it say that our churches would have a fit if we pulled down our white Jesuses and white saints and white cherubims and angels as an act of repentance? That doing this would shake the very foundations of our churches is proof that we have a problem. This is not about nostalgia and honoring the hertiage, this is about understanding the ways that white supremacy has decimated the human family. This about acknowledging our need of repentance, reformation, and salvation. We all need to be saved from the evil of white supremacy and the ways it has highjacked our conception of God and one another. #TakeWhiteJesusDown #whiteaintGod
2 thoughts on “White Ain’t God”
I love this so much.
Thanks for this, Rev Peterson.
For putting such poignant and knowing words to the pervasive, sinister disease that is whiteness/anti-God.
And for journeying with Tommy and me all these years to help us see…
and disrupt and repent and tear this shit down that keeps us sick and separate in our not so innocent unwitting, and extremely destructive, training in superiority-attachment.
You, and your words, are so much Light! (not the white kind tho! Thank xe!!!)
Dear Rev. Peterson,
Many thanks for undergirding my 50+ year journey from whiteness theology. Now 78, I was jarred from “white-liberal-feel-good” safe & establishment Christianity in my first parish in south-wstern Pennsylvania by Dr. King’s martyrdom. What followed was a profound & frightening reaction when a handful of us took to the streets for racial justice. Suddenly my white skin no longer protected me as i became a pariah in my all white community, to the point of life threats & this north of the Mason-Dixon line. Since then I have tried (with too many failures sadly) to follow that “Black Messiah” I first encountered in Rev. Albert Kleage’s work up to & including the brilliant & passionate writings of James Cone. Though slowed down physically by Parkinsons I still try my damndest to match words with actions. Indeed, words like yours help me struggle forward. THANKS FOR THAT!
Your privileged yet still being transformed old-fart white bro,