Exploring Faith and Community • Macalester Plymouth United Church
July 16, 2020
Rev. Adam Blons
When Isa was in preschool, it was common for kids to take on superpowers as they played. As children “flew” around the room and showed off their “super” strengths, the teachers would say, “Use your powers for good!” It became an easy mantra that all the kids began to use and has stuck with me to this day as a good mantra for us all.
Working my way through the book How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, one of Kendi’s early threads woke me up. In the introduction, he said, “an antiracist world…can become real if we focus on power instead of people, if we focus on changing policy instead of groups of people.” In the third chapter, after outlining the very beginning of black African slavery, he elaborated on the intersection of racism and power. He wrote, “…I had been taught that racist ideas cause racist policies. That ignorance and hate cause racist ideas. That the root of the problem of racism is ignorance and hate. But that gets the chain of events exactly wrong. The root problem—from Prince Henry to President Trump—has always been the self-interest of racist power.”
If racism is not about hate, then the answer to racism is not love. It is justice. For a long time, I think well-meaning, God-loving white Christians like you and me have made love the highest value in our faith. We believe our faith in a loving God will lead us into the promised land. But Kendi’s words reminded me of something author, teacher, and activist bell hooks said. “There can be no love without justice.” Justice is a righting of power in relationships. Addressing racism requires that we become fluent in power dynamics, laying bare the forms of it that are self-serving, oppressive, and dehumanizing, and building up the forms that serve, liberate and honor our neighbor. For too long, I have been satisfied with believing in an all-loving God that had no power to change the world. Perhaps that is one of the reasons white mainline Christianity has struggled. We stopped talking about an all-powerful God when power became a dirty word, as abuses of power were being revealed at all levels of society and our own power was questioned and challenged. If we are to become antiracist, then it is time to reframe and reclaim the language of power in our faith and in our own lives, to move justice ahead of love, and to become more savvy about using our power for good.