A thoughtful young lady commented recently “Whatever this “white power” is, I renounce it. I rebuke it. To me it is nothing but the power of fear and death. And I will do whatever I can, God give me the strength, to hasten the day when we are more adamant about one another’s living than we are complacent about one another’s dying.”
This reminded me of something we do (and probably don’t even think about) during baptism.
Presider: “Do you renounce all the forces of evil, the devil, and all his empty promises?”
Candidate: “I do”
While we can treat it as some kind of empty comment, a silly “it’s in the rite so we’re doing it” holdover from the Dark Ages of Ignorance, there’s more of a point than our modern eyes can see. This is because as we are reminded in Ephesians “our fight [of life in Christ] is not against flesh and blood but against the powers and principalities of this current age.” This means that part of what we are dealing with in life is not just our personal sin or our inclination to sin, but the wider entrenched network of sin, death, and the devil which binds social systems as well. We are also at war against the ideas that pervert our hearts to believe that somehow We are better than Those People.
The early thinkers and writers of the church dealt extensively with the important issues which faced them. Many of those topics were quite closely bound to what was happening then but one topic has endured because the reason for writing it has endured. They wanted to know how to grow deeper in faith and what the pracitices of life were which would increase their spiritual life. The earliest writers (called the Desert Fathers and Mothers) dealt quite rightly with what we do to and with one another but even more, they dealt with what we think.
They had found that the biggest chink in their armor was not what they did (being angry or selfish or vindictive) but rather in their thoughts. Great volumes were written to help us pay attention to, sort, and tame our thoughts because they (rightly) saw that our thoughts were the origin point of our deeds. They did not presume to create external ‘thought police’ to enforce ‘right thinking,’ instead they sought to create an internal sniff test to determine what thoughts should and should not be accepted in our hearts.
They understood thoughts as free floating notions which would drift in and out of our minds. The sniff test of the practices of faith was intended to distinguish our thoughts in order to decide which we were going to entertain and which we were going to ignore. This is because once a thought is entertained, once it is given space in our head, it begins to have life and, if malign, leads us into evil.
What this means then, is that part of what we are renouncing in baptism is the evil structure of ideas that drift into our heads from outside bearing sin, death, and the devil on their wings. We test our thoughts with Scripture, we test them against the lives of our mentors, we test them in the light of Christ and then we keep the good and reject the evil. This is the goal of the askesis (lit. “personal practice/athletic training”) to which we subject ourselves as part of our spiritual growth.
Part of that askesis is testing our thoughts and ideas. So let’s test the notions of “white power.” At its most basic, it flies in the face of God’s creation of the world. You see, if there is one God who made all of humanity in the one image of the one God then there is no reason for one to be genetically greater or lesser than another. Period.
But wait, some say. What about the Curse of Ham? What about it? Have you read the actual text of the curse instead of lazily relying on what someone else told you? Because if you had actually read it you’d have noticed that Ham is not cursed. It is his son Canaan who gets the curse and Canaan did not settle in “the Land of Ham” (i.e. Africa), he settled in the land of, wait for it… Canaan.
So if anyone in the cosmos is to be a slave to the children of Shem and Japheth, it is the decendants of Canaan. So sorry, the Curse of Ham does not actually exist and all the turgid sermons preached about how Black People Were Made To Be Slaves are (let’s be polite now) Bovine Butt Byproduct. (Also: since the land of Canaan has been invaded, deported, and in- and ex-migrated from for thousands of years, good luck with finding those decendants of Canaan).
What do we say then about the argument that God has specifically chosen the white race for great things. Well first, that idea comes from British Israelism, a supercessionist notion that the people from the UK (and US) are descended from the Ten Tribes (who were somehow Truly Faithful to God as compared to the Apostate Jews, can you say anti-semitic and violates Scripture I knew you could).
There is also a notion that since Adam (earth creature) and Adom (red) have the same consonants, that the true sons of Adam turn red. (Note; this does not mean the “red man” but actually people who can blush because we can’t have “them injuns” being the chosen people now can we). This notion comes from the (I am, sadly, not making this up) Church of Jesus Christ-Christian (Aryan Nations) a group that is exactly as misguided and heretical as the name sounds.
So having gone the long way around the barn, turning over every dank and stupid rock along the way, here’s what we have learned: there is a biblical warrant for everyone being made in the one image of the one God, and thus equal before God by nature. There are positive mentions that we “all are one in Christ” and that the whole cosmos comes to God through Christ. Furthermore, the idea that blacks were uniquely fitted by God to be slaves is… wrong and that alternate theories to support white suppremacy are… frankly heretical. So where does that leave us?
It leaves us with the reality that the notion of white power is, in itself, one of the “powers and principalities” of evil which sadly hold sway in the world. It means that this perversion of Scripture can and should be renounced as the evil that it is. It also means that these evil notions will still be poked at us by the demonic forces which infest the world and that we therefore need to keep testing our thoughts in order to see if they are trying to sneak the notion of racial superiority into our head under the guise of lamenting how Those People are just Not Our Sort.
Thus they young lady was quite right to renounce ‘white power’ as a work of the devil. It is a perversion of creation to serve sin and death and thus, heresy.
In the Name of God, I renounce them.
(And before anyone asks about misogyny, it too is part of the forces we renounce in baptism and I’ve explained that here).