Are you reading Anthea Butler? You should be. Her wit, humor, and charm are infectious and her no-holds-barred truth telling is important (by wit, humor and charm I do not mean to reduce power and make her cute, and not dangerous. I mean that she is witty, humorous and charming but she is also powerful and commanding). On her blog, I recently read her post, “The Zimmerman Acquittal: America’s Racist God,” and was deeply saddened. Not saddened by her accusations but by the fact that the accusations have to be leveled in the first place.
In response to the Zimmerman trial, and George Zimmerman’s opinion that his actions were ordained by God, Butler wonders what kind of God Zimmerman and America are following. And so do I.
When we hear statements like this, that the death of a child (lets remove it from the racial, Stand Your Ground, and gun debate) could be part of God’s plan, it seems those people are describing a different God. That doesn’t match my definition of God. What God is this that plans for a man to kill a child (no matter justified or not)?
God ain’t good all of the time. In fact, sometimes, God is not for us. As a black woman in a nation that has taken too many pains to remind me that I am not a white man, and am not capable of taking care of my reproductive rights, or my voting rights, I know that this American god ain’t my god. As a matter of fact, I think he’s a white racist god with a problem. More importantly, he is carrying a gun and stalking young black men.
(Italics are mine for emphasis.)
The question she asks, and the statement she makes is a true one. When we see a God of wrath and defense of death and hatred, that is not our God. That is some other God, and regrettably more and more, the God of America.
Butler continues to unpack her meaning and does so very well. To Evangelicals God is often one who protects and He is. God is a rock and a fortress and a safe haven. No one is arguing the fact that God is a protector. Exodus 15:26 describes him as Jehovah Rapha (The Lord That Heals). The psalmist describes God in many terms from rock, to cave, to shepherd and beyond. But the question Butler makes us ask is not if God protects or not, but what he protects. Does he protect our stuff, our giant piles of shit stockpiled against a famine of stuff? Does he protect our ethnicity or our bubble of people like us? Is God merely a protector of, “Whatever makes them protected, safe, and secure,” asks Butler? Because to her, and them, and me, it seems it is ” at the expense of the black and brown people they fear.”
“Is God the old white male racist looking down from white heaven, ready to bless me if I just believe the white men like Rick Perry who say the Zimmerman case has nothing to do with race,” she asks?
She goes on to answer the question as we hope she would, with a definite, “You already know the answer: No.”
The thing that saddens me is that the question even has to be asked. In a world of rhetoric that ties God to gun control, hatred of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, oppression of women, support for wars, acceptance of rich domination (so much so that Dave Ramsey published a diatribe against the poor *, and that being rich is supposedly proof of God’s blessing).
Why and how do we let so many people with a strange God co-opt God’s name and identity for their own purposes? How do we regain the imago dei or even better how do we take our own hands off of it and allow God be who God is?
Butler concludes her post with a call to all us, where are you and who is your God?
Those of us who teach American Religion have a responsibility to tell all of the story, not just the nice touchy-feely parts. When the good Christians of America are some of its biggest racists, one has to consider our moral responsibility to call out those who clearly are not for human flourishing, no matter what ethnicity a person is. Where are you on that scale? I know where I am.
Finding out where we are is an important place to be. So often we overlook racism, see it just as a joke, and either laugh or look the other way. The issue is that when we say nothing, we slowly allow God to become that very thing. At the end of it all God is either a white racist asshole who we hope to avoid, or he is something we have been avoiding with our silence. I hope to learn more about where I am and move to a place that has a God who not a white racist (seems weird that this even needs to be said).
But part of the issue is that we want God to be like us and not us to be like him. We seek to have God on our side and we seek validation that God is an American, and what Evangelicals often mean by that is white, middle to upper class and anti- a whole laundry list of things. Lucky for us, God is not like us, and our purpose is to try to find out what God is like in a journey that transforms us.
On a side note… Hilariously, ironically and thanfully…when you google image search “white racist God” Prof. Butler’s photo is the biggest response. A web search shows a bunch of idiots who missed the point and had their feathers ruffled.