Is Christianity a White Man’s Religion?

Concerning the Book: Is Christianity the White Man’s Religion?

by Dr. Antipas L. Harris

Without a doubt, we are living through troubled times. The world is engulfed in noxious uncertainties: contentious politics, racial unrest, hate groups and global warming, to name a few. Now, amidst the devastation of coronavirus, or COVID-19, many people are turning to – or back to – faith. Amid the constant resurgence of blatant racism, as exemplified in the recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, reminds us that we are really battling two pandemics, simultaneously. People are looking for answers, seeking the “peace that passes all understanding,” and a new and better normal. As president of Jakes divinity school, my primary aim is ensuring that current and future ministers are prepared to bear witness more effectively for such a time as this. To that end, seminarians and faith leaders alike will discover refreshing innovative strategies for overcoming obstacles and deepening faith in my forthcoming book, Is Christianity the White Man’s Religion?

Americans searched for God with renewed interest in the last decade, and it seems that COVID-19 has only intensified this quest. Spiritual fulfillment, after all, is an important dimension of the human psyche. While many people will continue to look to the Bible and their Christian faith for guidance, others question the relevance of the Bible for contemporary times. In any case, people, in general, are scouring America’s spiritual landscape, hoping to find a faith that is real, one that heals and unifies. I explore this faith anew in Is Christianity the White Man’s Religion?
Let me share an experience I had a few years ago while teaching a graduate course on leadership. A 22-year-old student interrupted my lecture with a question: “What do you say to people who are leaving the church and arguing that Christianity is the white man’s religion?” I was taken aback by the question. First, it was unrelated to the topic. Second, I wondered who in the world would argue such a thing. I knew that this had been a common question back during the Jim Crow era, and I almost brushed it off. However, the discussion that ensued opened a world of discovery. Apparently, my ethnically diverse class of millennials was more attuned to the relevance of the question than I.

Unable to shake the discussion from my thoughts, I embarked on a journey of research and found that many Christians are unaware that much pondering about faith exists outside the church. How relevant is the Bible for understanding today’s complex issues? What does the Bible offer to a nation of multi-ethnic, multicultural, multi-generational individuals? The answers to these and similar questions led me to write Is Christianity the White Man’s Religion?

The book sheds renewed light on the biblical foundation of love and unity, unearthing little-known historical facts that may stimulate healthy debate. Jesus’ disciple, Mark, for example, author of the first Gospel, was of African descent. Mark was just one among many Africans whose New Testament roles refute the “white man’s religion” assertion. While the historical insights will be informative, the text uncovers theological truths, as well. For example, the Incarnation reveals that Jesus came among us as a Jew. This chosen cultural identity communicates to us that God cares about the cultures of the world, an indication of the important role ethnic diversity plays throughout Scripture. Such foundational truths have implications for how God envisions togetherness in the universal family.

Our witness is stronger – our impact is greater – when we speak with a united voice against racial injustice.

Many Americans harbor suspicions about traditional Christianity yet acknowledge the human need to connect with a higher power. They are looking for a faith that makes sense for the world around them, a faith that comforts and strengthens and sustains and empowers.

Concerned about social inequities, they also seek a faith that condemns racism, sexism, or any ideology that denies full human equality.

I understand the transformative power of a public witness. I also understand that our witness is stronger – our impact is greater – when we speak with a united voice against racial injustice. Together, we can bear witness to a faith grounded in the love of God, a dynamic faith that exemplifies unity in diversity.

Will you consider this journey? Feel free to pre-order the book from the JDS Online Bookstore.

(Article first published in Pneuma Review)

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