The Gift of a New Year

The opening of a new decade (according to the Gregorian calendar) has seen a full-scale display of the interlocking systems of oppression that terrorize humanity. Fueled by the military-industrial complex, the imperialist white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy has once again shown the world it will stop at nothing to protect its self-interest. The collusion of interlocking systems of domination and oppression has produced an American plutocracy which serves only the special interest of the wealth class and ultimately is headed by a man so engulfed by his own ego that there is a total disregard of anything other than that insatiable and voracious ego. This sociopolitical moment did not arise without the help of organized religion. Theological ideas, manufactured in “religious” spaces, have held the power to inform rights and legislation in the secular realm from the inception of our nation. From the founding of the United States, the production of theological symbolism and argumentation was undertaken by white Christian nationalists who as slave owners had a material investment in the exploitation of non-white people (Fletcher 2017). 

It was a particular theo-logic that cleared the way for the birth of the empire known as the United States. Pope Alexander VI (The Borgia Pope 1492-1503) affirmed that the Christian religion be exalted and be everywhere increased and spread, that the health of souls be cared for and that barbarous nations be overthrown and brought to the faith itself. The Pope thereby adjudicated that Spain had the right to take all lands found not as Christian Nations for their ownership and their descendants forever. The theology of conquest was a sophisticated project informed by classically trained theologians (Fletcher 2017). Christian evangelism among indigenous populations was completely a project of colonizing imperialism. Europeans evangelized non-Europeans with the intention not only of teaching them Christianity but also of conforming them to European cultural standards and norms (Tisby 2019). The religious and the racial came together in the theo-logic of The Curse of Ham that was mobilized by white Christians to justify enslaving Africans and employ African bodies in the building of a nation that would confirm God’s gracious design (Griffin 1999). The violence, xenophobia, religious intolerance, white supremacy, etc. we see evidenced in the current American sociopolitical milieu is the manifestation of an intentional religio-racial project that centers a certain demographic in perpetual power and privilege. 

We have a president whose campaign was born in bigotry, that drew on the support of the Klu Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis, mocked the disabled, and proposed using the military machine to kill children. As a candidate, he promised to deport 11 million people, called for a Muslim ban, called climate change a hoax, and encouraged violence at rallies, and yet religious people make up the majority of his support base (Delay 2019). This is because the history of the system is deeply interconnected with a theo-logic that warps the fundamentals of the teachings of Jesus in service of oppressors. The time is now for theologians to begin to call for a complete overhaul of the theo-logic of the land. A new conversation must convene centered in the ethic of neighbor love that is present in every major religion of the world. Responsible theologians must begin to call for transformational politics that do not search for opportunities to integrate into dominant institutions and normative social relations, but instead pursues a political agenda that seeks to change values, definitions, and laws that make these institutions and relationships oppressive (Henderson 2005). 

The hope of our society is to openly repent and denounce all theological claims that violate human flourishing, dehumanize any member of the human family, or serve to elevate one group over another. A total abandonment of any theology that privileges or creates a hierarchy of humanity is our only salvation. Since a religion ordinarily imposes on those who have discovered the true faith the spiritual duty of liberating the infidels it is incumbent upon the true followers of the teachings of Jesus to rescue Christianity from those who have sought to pervert it in service of marginalizing, and making subservient the masses of people (Baldwin 1993). Let those who have found in the person and work of Jesus a perfect exemplar lead us into a new narrative. We are called upon to offer a theological gift to the world that takes seriously a transcendent God before whom all persons are equal and thus endows equality of flourishing upon all. If we do not dare to redress the narrative of certain religious people and call upon them as siblings to be responsible and accountable for the molestation of truth they have propagated we are worse than cowards and find ourselves complicit in every evil and atrocity of our time.

Non schola, sed vitae,

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin | Interim Director of the Doctor of Ministry | Assistant Clinical Professor

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Works Cited

Baldwin, James. 1993. The Fire Next Time. New York: Vintage International .

Delay, Tad. 2019. Against: What Does the White Evangelical Want. Eugene: wipfandstock.

Fletcher, Jeannine Hill. 2017. the sin of white supremacy: Christianity, Racism, & Religious Diversity in America. Maryknoll: Orbis.

Griffin, Paul R. 1999. Seeds of Racism in the United States of America . Cleveland : The Pilgrim Press .

Henderson, E. Patrick Johnson and Mae G, ed. 2005. Black Queer Studies: A Critical Anthology . Durham : Duke University Press .

Tisby, Jamar. 2019. The Color of Compromise . Grand Rapids: Zondervan.