By Tami Jackson
Just when you think you’ve heard it all, Anthea Butler, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, claimed that “America’s God” is a white racist in her July 14 editorial.
Professor Butler wrote at ReligionDispatches.org:
The not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman case has me thinking a lot about a book I first encountered in seminary, Is God a White Racist?, by the Rev. Dr. Bill Jones. As a budding seminary student, it took me by surprise. Now, as a wiser, older professor looking at the needless death of Trayvon Martin, I have to say: I get it.
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.
When George Zimmerman told Sean Hannity that it was God’s will that he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, he was diving right into what most good conservative Christians in America think right now. Whatever makes them protected, safe, and secure, is worth it at the expense of the black and brown people they fear.
Their god is the god that wants to erase race, make everyone act “properly” and respect, as the president said, “a nation of laws”; laws that they made to crush those they consider inferior.
When the laws were never made for people who were considered, constitutionally, to be three-fifths of a person, I have to ask: Is this just? Is it right? 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?
You already know the answer: No.
What poppycock. This professor questions the nature of God predicated upon a verdict with which she disagrees? Anthea Butler has the audacity to surmise what’s in the hearts and minds of millions of Americans of faith. What Bible is this woman reading — the Gospel according to Rev. Jeremiah Wright?
I listen to another former prof, my father, a retired scientist AND pastor. My dad often quotes:
The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7b
Prof Butler concludes:
As a historian of American and African-American religion, I know that the Trayvon Martin moment is just one moment in a history of racism in America that, in large part, has its underpinnings in Christianity and its history.
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.
Ms. Butler, I suggest that whatever men you call “good Christians” and “racists” are in no way good nor Christian. The “good Christians” were the abolitionists who fought to realize the bright promise of the Constitution.
The good Christians I know believe in the rule of law and truth, because God is Truth. And these good Christians I know amened when Martin Luther King Jr. spoke:
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Millions of Americans claim the name of Christ and ascribe to the biblical admonition to value character over physical attributes. And just because a verdict does not square with a bitter, warped narrative does not change the immutable goodness of God.
We mourn the loss of a child of any color. We pray for the Martin family and grieve for their loss.
And in the meantime, Anthea Butler, I suggest you re-visit history and read your Bible — your writings suggest you know little of either.
Follow Tami on Twitter at @tamij