Whiteness Killed the Witness
February 1, 2021
Nathan Stanton has spent the last 10 years as a pastor, church planter and artist on the West, South and Northsides of Chicago, and is an Interfaith America Racial Equity Media Fellow.
“Yes, Jesus died, but not on a cross THAT big.” These were my words to my wife as we drove along the historic route 66 (US 40) somewhere around the Texas/Oklahoma border. You see my eyes had come to meet the biggest cross I had ever seen in my life. Its official name is the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ in Groom, Texas, it stands over 190 ft tall and weighs 1250 tons. It is the third largest cross in the country, which is something. Now this was a sight to behold especially an age where Christians seem to be concerned with historical and contextual accuracy yet a statue of this size is rife with falsehoods, color, scale and placement are just a few. Any of those could be expounded upon extensively with a relish. What is represents and has represented is much more dangerous and subversive.
I imagine the pride must feel as white Christians look up at that cross. All while sensing notions of victory and inevitable supremacy. As I explained to someone online not long ago, my goal is to assault whiteness not white people. You see the idea of superiority because of one’s skin color has been a cancer to this nation. We are experiencing a treatment of sorts aimed at expunging this record from our archives. As of yet the clinging to whiteness has become even more deep seated. Our recent election polarized many beliefs along political lines and exposed the distance that separates our society today. Christianity since Constantine has been used to justify many actions of the state and as a result further the state-blessed ideology. Typified in American exceptionalism, we are excused from the same moral framework Jesus introduced and are free to perpetuate violence, greed and grandeur to further our mission. This thinking and action has profound consequences that require us to forfeit an inheritance as peacemakers in lieu of peacekeeping in the midst of a chaotic world impatient men have created. We believe we are persecuted, yet we are the persecutors, we think we are Jedi, but we are the Empire. The empire crucified Jesus and holds its actions as righteous and necessary. Instead of witnessing the crucifixion, we are organizing instruments of torture, deepening ghettos and excusing racism. Whiteness in its superiority cannot straddle both persecution and prosecution or be oppressor and oppressed. That cross reaching for the sky reminded me of the tower of Babel that tried to reach the heavens and instead disappointed God.
The biblical prophet Elijah once had pronounced a drought upon the nation of Israel. They had drifted far into idolatry and as a result found that their days would be full of fruitless planting and harvesting. Elijah prayed and it did not rain for three years. People starved and Elijah ran from the ire of King Ahab. Finally after a showdown Elijah told the king to eat and drink for there was the sound of heavy rain. Then Elijah proceeded to send his servant to look for the impending rain six times and on the seventh, there appeared a cloud the size of a mans hand. Thus ended the drought with a thunderous storm of heavy rain. There is a gathering storm that does not look like much but this cloud of witnesses marching and speaking out on behalf of the marginalized are ending the drought of righteousness and morality. Unmotivated by power grab that has characterized much of our political struggle. Many small bands of activists are awakening the righteous rains of a healthy nation to finally wash off the whiteness that has covered Christianity and our nation for far too long.
The life Jesus lived and death he died was not about the grandiose larger than life dominance. it was about the love that intentionally subverts its status quo for the least of these. Jesus showed us the biggest gun one could possible need is the capacity for compassion. Whiteness feels entitled to the best at the expense of the rest. I know you may say it WAS Texas after all and who takes those symbols seriously. Symbols are important and shape the American psyche. The marginalized are slowly being crucified daily by racist policies creating a dangerous spiritual imbalance. As this “cup of iniquity” fills it must spill over at once toppling those grandiose monuments. Statues and symbols that do not represent the small life lived on purpose in the shadow of mountainous imperial monstrosities.
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