50 Shades of Brown

Jesus did not have blonde hair and blue eyes.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Moving to Florida from Boston in the 9th grade was challenging for many reasons, but culturally is where I struggled the most. My new home was a 30-foot Airstream trailer beside an orange groove about 30 minutes south of Tampa. One summer afternoon, a few guys from my new school picked me up in their truck to take me to an “event”. Piled in the bed of that truck, with a few guns mounted to the back window, we took off to the center of town. Finding a parking space, we navigated the thick crowds and headed to the steps of the courthouse, the apparent source of the commotion, and the place where a man was shouting through a megaphone. Although I was still unable, through the crowds, to see the man speaking, his message shocked me. It turned out he was a leader in the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and was spewing his message of hate to a large crowd that seemed to be energized by his ignorance and empowered by his racism. Once we finagled our way to the front of the group, I was even more shocked by this man’s appearance. This speaker of ignorance was in a suit, had a leather briefcase beside him, and looked like a respectable businessman or attorney; the message did not match the outward man. While I don’t remember the specifics of his message, I walked away stunned that in 1985 racism seemed to be thriving with no consequence, boldly proclaimed on the steps of the courthouse in the center of town. Of course, I still chuckle when I remember what did break up the hate and silence the message. That trophy was not awarded to someone in the crowd or even the police protecting these men; nope, it was a massive black man with a giant boom box on his shoulder playing Jungle Love by the Time. This man made his way to the very steps of the courthouse, stood shoulder to shoulder with the police, and then laid down that boombox with the speakers facing the KKK leader, turned it up even louder, and then just stood there until everyone went home.

To be honest, the only thing that has gotten better about racism since then is its ability to hide in the shadows of our seemingly unified country. We may not have “events” on the steps of the courthouse anymore, but make no mistake, racism is still thriving; it has just learned to be more subversive and subtle since being publicly removed from the light. And, tragically, the church is not exempt from this hate, for I have seen more acts of racism in the church than I did in my 14 years of military service. Fueled by our emotions, indoctrinated through tradition, and sustained by our lack of biblical knowledge, racism continues. So, what does the bible say? Did Jesus have blonde hair and blue eyes, making Him superior, hence worthy of cultural emulation?

In the book of Genesis, Moses records the account of our creation in chapter one, that we were all created in the image and likeness of God. A study of the original Hebrew word for “image” proves illuminating and a theological death blow to racism. The root word for “image” is to chisel, or chip away, as an artist does with a rock. But, there is another interpretation of this root word; it can mean “to become dark.” According to the Genesis account, God scooped up some dirt to create the first man, and we know dirt is brown. Science tells us that every human’s pigmentation is brown, just different shades; the lighter brown we call white and the darker brown we call black. While we have become quite proficient in classifying people, especially depending on their race, God says that we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9, ESV). The message coming from Peter’s “boombox”; a message that should silence the voices of hate, is that in the economy of God, there is but ONE race.

So, we should be celebrating God’s creativity in the diversity of humanity, not using it to separate ourselves; therefore, silence the message of hope we were called to proclaim. It should be impossible to position ourselves above anyone else when we recognize we all come initially from dirt! As one southern evangelist used to shout from the pulpit, “there are no big shots, are no littles shots, just a bunch of us who ‘ought to have been shot had it not been for the grace of God!”.

Scripture: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” -Galatians 3:28

Question: Do you struggle with loving people that are not like you? Have you ever thought of yourself better than others because of the color of your skin?

Prayer: Father, please help me to see everyone as you see them, through the eyes of love. May I recognize today that everyone was created in your image and likeness, therefore worthy of your love. If there is any racism in my heart, please reveal it that I might confess it. Father, as I go about my day, may I celebrate the diversity in all of your creation, and may others see your love through me. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

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