Jesus didn't speak in red letters

United Church of Christ - a just world for all
United Church of Christ – a just world for all (United Church of Christ, 2018a). Copyright 2018 by the United Church of Christ. All rights reserved.

The title refers to the fact that many translations of Christian Scripture put the words of Jesus in red.

I recently started reading several books for my United Church of Christ (UCC) Scared Conversations to End Racism (SC2ER) facilitator training, one of which is The Africana Bible: Reading Israel’s Scriptures from Africa and the African diaspora (Page, 2010a). One of the first things that gave me pause to consider is the movement away from Old Testament and New Testament terminology to that of First Testament and Second Testament. While the terminology is not specific to this book alone, in my mind it drives home that I have a still speaking God, one of the foundational beliefs of the UCC (UCC.org, 2018), and that my ears need to be equally open to new interpretations.

Never place a period where God places a comma

Gracie Allen

While not too far into the reading as of yet, the book makes use of a historical and cultural centered perspective of reading, interpreting and understanding of Christian Scripture. When I was in seminary, before God dragged me into education kicking and screaming, the focus was less on the cultural and more on the historical. Textbooks we read were largely rooted in tomes written by foundational authors from a European Christianity perspective (James, 2010). Commentaries on the Scriptures were also by white authors, leading rise to my second point to ponder, “Given the importance of commentaries to those who read the Bible, it is surprising that biblical scholars receive little formal training in how to write them [(commentaries)]” (Page, 2010b, p. 6). A fact to which I can attest. And I, a somewhat trained reader, have to admit that while I have read from white culture, sometimes Israeli culture, and sometimes Greek culture perspectives, I have never read the Bible from a black or brown perspective or considered the large role Africa played during the First and Second Testament periods.

I look forward to hear how God is still speaking as I read this book and others during my journey as facilitator in training for the UCC SC2ER. Until then, I shamelessly plug the UCC.

United Church of Christ (2018b)

And if you’re ever in my “neck of the woods”, come visit me and my church family at Warwick United Church of Christ, 10 Matoaka Lane, Newport News, VA 23606 or like us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/WarwickUCC/).

References

James, L. R. (2010). The African diaspora as construct and lived experience. In H. R. Page, Jr. (Ed.),The Africana Bible: Reading Israel’s Scriptures from Africa and the African diaspora (pp. 11-18). Fortress Press.

Page, Jr., H. R. (Ed). (2010a). The Africana Bible: Reading Israel’s Scriptures from Africa and the African diaspora. Fortress Press.

Page, Jr., H. R. (2010b). The Africana Bible: A rationale. In H. R. Page, Jr (Ed.),The Africana Bible: Reading Israel’s Scriptures from Africa and the African diaspora (pp. 3-10). Fortress Press.

United Church of Christ. (2020a). What we believe. Retrieved February 18, 2020, from https://www.ucc.org/about-us_what-we-believe

United Church of Christ. (2020b). Identity ads. Retrieved February 18, 2020, from https://www.ucc.org/god-still-speaking_ads

Warwick United Church of Christ [@warwickucc]. (2020). Home [Facebook page]. Facebook. Retrieved February 18, 2020, from https://www.facebook.com/WarwickUCC/

I was black until 1967

If I am to define race based upon skin color, then at my very genetic core … I must be a light-skinned black man. Legally, until 1967, I was black growing up in the Commonwealth of Virginia as a result of the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 (the instructions of implementation for the act are pictured below). Legally, I would only be able to drink from the non-white water fountains, I would not have access to the same quality education as white children, and I would have to sit at the back of the bus.

Racial Integrity Act of 1924
Wolfe (2015) Racial Integrity Act implementation [image].

“It is estimated that within the state from 10,000 to 20,000 possible more, near white people, who are known to possess an intermixture of colored blood, in some case to a slight extent it is true, but still enough to prevent them from being white”

from the Virginia Health Bulletin pictured

The act written to prevent interracial marriages in the Commonwealth of Virgina would not be ruled unconstitutional until the United States Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia, 338, U.S. 1 (1967) (Newbeck & Wolfe, 2015). But by definition, I could legally be classified as black in the Commonwealth of Virginia where I lived from ages 4-6, until 1967. I wasn’t, but I could have been, and so could you.

Need Proof?

Last November I had a health issue and all the doctors assumed I had lung cancer. They were also concerned about deep vein thrombosis which could lead to a pulmonary embolism. So when I read that the FDA had approved genetic testing with regards to thrombophilia, a blood clot disorder, (Boddy, 2017), I spit in a tube, and mailed it to 23 and me (https://www.23andme.com/). About a month later I got a report on my genetic characteristics. Fortunately, I was not genetically predisposed to thrombophilia. So how did I become black?

23 and me results also include ancestry and linage according to genetic markers. My genetic markers indicate I am 1.7% sub Saharan African and 1.3% of that is Angolan and Congolese. My historical genetic lineage traces back even further (see my 23 and me results below).

Dr. Cook-Snell’s African Maternal lineage according to 23andme.com.
Dr. Cook-Snell’s African Paternal linage according to 23andme.com.

So when did I become white? In 1967. But I had white privilege due to appearances long before that in my family of heritage, and that was in the 15th century, a topic I will explore in an upcoming blog.

References

Boddy, J. (2017, April 7). FDA approves marketing of consumer genetic tests for some conditions. NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/04/07/522897473/fda-approves-marketing-of-consumer-genetic-tests-for-some-conditions

Newbeck, P., & Wolfe, B. (2015, October 26). Loving v. Virginia (1967). In Encyclopedia Virginia. http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Loving_v_Virginia_1967

Wolfe, B. (2015, November 4). Racial integrity laws (1924–1930). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Rhttp://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Racial_Integrity_Laws_of_the_1920s

The Journey Continues

Dr. Cook-Snell in Starbucks
Dr. Cook-Snell in Starbucks (Cook-Snell, 2019).

Last semester I started blogging about white fragility (DiAngelo, 2018) as an example blog for my students’ assignments. It’s another semester and time to start my blogging again.

My overarching question in my first post of last semester, What color is my hat, was how may I, as a Christian white man, talk with other white men and women of faith, on the topic of white fragility to be a change agent to fight against racism?

Summing up, in Color-blindness is a medical condition not a social excuse, I talked about the fallacy of claiming to see the person, not their color when we defend our non-racists positions. Doing so denies the experiences persons of color bring to the table and the real racism they face growing up black or growing up brown.  In my next post, Family values, I examined the spoken and unspoken words that perpetuated the illusion that my family of heritage did not express racists ideology, only discovering upon reflection how deeply embedded generational racism is in my family of heritage and how it subtly blinded me to issues of white privilege and fragility. Next, in What color is your Jesus?, I asserted my belief that Christ, the center of my faith, was more than likely a person of color than the images of white Jesus that populates my faith. I also found research supporting that when that same Jesus is black (Marsh, 2004), it is more than likely an image of crucifixion then redemption. Finally, to wrap up the semester, I wrote about how the first step to change is awareness of the problem. This semester my goal is to begin to be an active part of that change.

Towards that end, when looking for new materials this semester to use as my examples for my students, I discovered a facilitator training opportunity offered by the United Church of Christ’s Sacred Conversations to End Racism (SC2ER) (United Church of Christ, 2018). As a congregant within the UCC, I will be completing that training. As a result, and because life and research are both messy, I’ve revised my question to how may I work towards social justice in the fight against racism with my brothers and sisters in Christ? Same topic, but a different perspective. This semester’s blog will chronicle that journey as my students complete their own journey on their own topics of choice.

References

Cook-Snell, B. H. (2019). [Photograph].

DiAngelo, R. (2018). White fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism. Beacon Press.

Marsh, C. (2004). Black Christs in white Christian perspective: Some critical reflections. Black Theology, 2(1), 45-56

United Church of Christ. (2018). Sacred conversations to end racism. Retrieved January 22, 2020, from https://www.ucc.org/sacred_conversations_to_end_racism