Midweek reflection by Pastor Shawn:
We Christians are called by God to carefully speak to the issues of our day from the perspective of the Kingdom of God. Jesus certainly did as much (ex: Matt. 22:15-22). However, I am convinced that public hot takes are generally not wise, and so I tend to avoid writing or preaching reactionary responses to the latest item in the news cycle. However, there are occasions when silence is not an option.
Just hours before our Sunday service in Beijing, a shooter in the Texas town of El Paso shot and killed 22 people and injured dozens more. At that point in time, we at COGS didn’t know much about it, other than it was deadly. We spoke of it in terms of a tragedy. We prayed for the victims and their families, as is right for us Christians to do. Our hearts, once again, were heavy with the news of a mass shooting.
As more details emerged, it has become clear that this wasn’t a tragedy. Hurricanes and heart attacks and the like are tragedies. This was horrific, a horrendous, intentional act of evil motivated by the ideology of white supremacy.
White supremacy is evil. It is a murderous idol. It is completely antithetical to the Christian faith, where, I should emphasize, we worship a dark-skinned Middle Eastern Jew as God. We condemn white supremacy without hesitation or qualification.
Now that I’ve said that, please understand: that doesn’t exculpate us.
We cannot define white supremacy into near non-existence by limiting it to overt racists, KKK members, neo-Nazis, Tiki torchers at Charlottesville, and those who post racist vile in the dark corners of the internet. Those manifestations of white supremacy are the kinds that are unambiguous, that have given up on polite company, and that have stopped caring about plausible deniability. No, white supremacy is much bigger and runs much deeper than all that.
Most of us at COGS come from countries marked by white supremacy, both in historical heritage and current culture. We have all been racialized by some form of it (different countries have different manifestations of it—the white supremacy of the USA is different than that of South Africa and India, of course—but it is truly a global phenomenon). It’s in the air we breathe, so to speak, and we don’t even notice it most of the time. We’re adventurous, open-minded expats, and so we might come to think that we’re above it. But we all carry it, in different ways.
Here’s one example: I just called us expats. But in many contexts, “expat” is a term for white people who move overseas. Black and brown people tend to be called immigrants, regardless of education level or socioeconomic status. Why am I usually called an expat and my friend Matthew, a highly-trained and educated computer programmer who moved from India to the USA for work reasons, called an immigrant?
We all have been shaped by white supremacy. We all carry it, often unconsciously. And this is true even for people of color (who are, of course, affected by it in complex ways different from the way it affects us white folks). We are not immune. It is in our institutions, our culture, our communities, and buried in our minds and hearts.
The gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to respond to the sin of white supremacy with condemnation. But because of nature of white supremacy, it also calls us to respond with reflection, self-examination, and repentance. I have found that it has subtly formed me and taken residence in me and it takes intentional effort to weed it out. And I know I’m not alone in that. As part of our Christian discipleship—being made more like Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit—we must take this seriously. White supremacy is not just in horrific, evil acts of violence. It’s in you and me, too.