I was talking with a man a few days ago who began the conversation with, “I didn’t like your portrayal of God the Father in The Shack.” “Really?” I responded. “Was it the woman part or the black part?”
As you can imagine I get a great deal of feedback regarding my choice to make God the Father a black woman. There are many ideas that we assume to be true and as long as they go unquestioned they continue to inform what we believe. I was never trying to make a case that God is actually a black woman, although I confess that this imagery makes much more sense to me overall then the white man we have imagined. I simply didn’t want my children, for whom I wrote the book, to lock up God the Father in a white male box.
There is only one human nature. There is only one human race! There is a massive difference between a conversation about ‘race’ and one about ‘racism’ and we often mitigate our participation in the latter by focusing on the former.
One of my favorite authors, now deceased but still very much alive, is Jacques Ellul, whose father was a Serbian aristocrat and his mother French. In his book, The Betrayal of the West, he writes,
“…the greatest fault of the West since the seventeenth century has been precisely its belief in its own unqualified superiority in all areas.”
By ‘West,’ Ellul means those who look just like me, middle-aged, balding, slightly overweight white men. For the last few centuries, we white men have controlled the reins of power and platform, have determined and defined the rules for everyone else and formed the dominant ideologies and philosophies of our ‘white’ culture.
But many of us still believe that the center and source of all existence is a self-giving, other-centered love. Here there is no hierarchy of power, no hierarchy of value and no hierarchy of respect.
And even if you do not believe that Jesus is the incarnation of this self-giving, other-centered God, you can still believe in the ‘Spirit’ of Jesus. The humility that embraces our common history as humanity, the openness to walking in the eyes of the ‘other’, the risks of searching together for better ways and understandings, the courage to suspend our judgments and prejudices while attacking the darkness that resides in our own hearts—this is the Spirit of Jesus.
God has a dream. Abraham Lincoln has a dream. Gandhi has a dream. Martin Luther King has a dream. I have a dream. We all have, in our heart of hearts, a dream that together we can forge a world that is safe for our children, our grandchildren and our neighbor’s children; a world where the color of our skin is neither indicative of innate superiority nor criminal tendency; a world where the one is as important and significant as the many; a world where together we will fight the enemy of our humanity that continues to divide us, accuse us and dis-color our perspective through greed, fear, technique and ideology.
Evil has no color, but grace is every color, as is forgiveness, repentance, confession, compassion and self-giving, other-centered love. As evil is an incremental process so too will be our healing.
But it is time! Time for the healing.
Time to join together in the ‘Spirit’ of Jesus, who refuses to treat the maligned and less-fortunate with anything other than profound dignity, who would never relate to a human being, especially our children, as commodities to be bought or sold, or from whom to extract servitude or pleasure.
It is time to admit we don’t understand, but are willing to learn, to open our hands rather than clench them, to abandon any hierarchy of value that catalogues our differences as a basis for disrespect.
It is time to beat our weapons into implements for our common good, for justice to restore and heal and not marginalize and punish, for the powers that be to bow before simple and individual acts of humility and kindness. It’s time to respect the history and culture of the ‘other’ as something to be treasured and protected, to end violence of the heart and mind as well as the hand.
It is time, to dream…together!