Woke and Christian
When it comes to black consciousness, I must confess, I should be the last person to school anyone . I mean, I grew up in what used to be typical ”white “suburbs- turned –“ black” suburbs as soon as more people of colour entered the neighbourhood. I , of all people would be and should be the last to school anyone on what it means to be black and” conscious” especially because – to top it all, I am a member of an evangelical ‘reformed’ church lead by an elderly, white man from England.
Even so, with the English language ‘coming out of my nose’, so they say, and memories of sharing swimming pools and bathtubs with white friends as a child; I only awakened to the depth of black consciousness over the past year with all the racial tension that’s plagued our hurting nation.
I’m often saddened when walking the streets of down town Joburg and seeing inequality spread out like a quilt carefully crafted to depict the aftermath of apartheid and a struggling black nation trying to find itself.
For the longest time I’ve suffered in silence about an awkwardness that I could not explain. I have a good education and I ‘speak well’ (speak well is essentially a bigot term used to identify people who aren’t English, but still speak the language without a heavy accent – usually given as a compliment). I am pursuing my dreams. I have a job. There are opportunities open to me. But I feel … lesser than. I’m good, yes, but just not good enough. I can do a lot of things…but just not in this skin. Looking back, the words of the American singer and songwriter Solange with her new song ‘ Cranes in the Sky’ helped me to at least direct my articulation on what this crippling thing could be. It’s a beautiful song about attempts in conquering private pain.
I tried many straining things to help me get a grip on who I am and what my purpose is. But this metal cloud would hover over me like an eagle marking its target. I eventually tried praying this thing away and applying the band aid of “my identity is in Christ’ without applying myself to what that truly means. It sounds so holy and right. Often I’d repeat, “ it doesn’t matter what my culture is, my Christian culture is all that’s important”. Be that as it may, this thing is still ever with me and I want to rant and rave it away alongside the young activists making fees and statues fall. This thing is thick with injustice; full with unrighteousness and swollen with anger.
Black anger is legit. Black anger is somewhat righteous. Being physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually oppressed by another people for centuries is no small thing. It affects all black South Africans today in one way or another. It affects me, even in all my cosmopolitan-ness and good education-ness. It’s almost in our DNA.
This thing wants justice. My oppressed head, heart and heritage needs redemption. It just might not be the kind most are looking for. No. The justice that will prevail over the land is far greater than anything we can think or imagine.
As a Christian I believe in a Savior who did not come to judge the world but save it. God’s desire in renewing all things is all encompassing, from peoples to social systems. Truth is, when sin entered the world, it did not just affect people but all of creation. The beauty of diversity in all our different cultures that we see glorifying God in Revelation 7 has been tainted by the fall and with it came social systems and injustices that marred the imago dei. However, the glorious gospel affirms that all will be made right. Justice will prevail. All will be accounted for. Not necessary by me, but by God himself. I can do my part here and there and my part counts, but ultimately, perfect justice will come from the only Just One.
Any past, present or future injustice will never go unnoticed or unpunished. God cares about it all and not just on a high level but even when we are robbed of change in a taxi or undermined at work for following procedures with all integrity – all these little and big hurts will be accounted for…by Jesus.
The gospel is such a game changer in that it isn’t a religious movement or a political ideal. Christ’s transformative power found in the gospel deals with the heart of a person and the heart of the matter. It deals with the inner being that is shaped and influenced by cultural movements, yes, but it also transcends it.
The gospel has no ties with being Jew or Greek, a slave or freeman, male or female…black or white, although it does not make those distinctions disappear (Gal 3v28). The human soul was made to glory in God; to be in constant awe of Him; to be satisfied in Him and enjoy him forever. This comes with obeying His holy word that instructs the soul – housed by various cultures – to love Him and believe in Him and all He has promised. The gospel is the sweetest answer to all injustice because the sin and guilt of the world was thrust upon Jesus.
We are able to look upon whoever who continues to oppress us knowingly or unknowingly today with love that only God Himself can give. As C.S Lewis puts it ,”It’s loving another self because it is a self (like us) made by God. “And since we all know how much punishment we deserve for our secret racial or non-racial sins, we should be able to resonate with the grace our fellow South Africans need even though some might not know they need it yet.