White privilege and hope for the future

As a Christian, there is a particular vision of the future that I hold too. Generally speaking, this eschatological view is not one of escapism, but rather of restoration. This sort of vision has developed from numerous sources and I can’t say it’s totally original to me.[1] However, the point is this; instead of the goal being to get to heaven and escape this world and then watch as God destroys it and replaces it with another, God is actively involved in restoring and redeeming this world and that the new one will be birthed from it. This “new world” may not necessarily be a new physical creation, but it will be one without the violence and death that is present here and now. This can be a hard version to have and there is a lot to work out with it, but this progressive vision of the future sees us as humans actively involved. We are God’s agents in renewing and restoring the world. Because I hold to this vision of the future, I am particularly affected when I see some sort of injustice, especially a systemic one, befall somebody.

Which is all why I found the Trayvon Martin case so frustrating. Not only was this a sign of the sort of reactionary “me first” revenge violence we always see, but it was also wrapped up with issues of systemic prejudice. The responses to the verdict hammered this home even more. I was shocked to see so many people claim that African Americans, in particular President Obama, were the real racists in this case. It all brought the notion of white privilege to bear on the situation.[2]

For a while now, sociologists and other cultural researchers have pointed to the increase in non-white groups in the United States. This is a good thing, in my opinion, as it only increases the diversity and complexity of the U.S. If the country is truly going to be a melting pot, then it needs to continually be welcoming in those who are “other.” Too often though, especially among the Conservative crowd, the reaction is that something is being lost, rather than gained. With this latest element of reverse racism, they are right that something is being lost; the privileged status of white individuals (especially men). This doesn’t mean anyone is being racist against them. On the contrary, it’s simply us as a country finally seeing the cracks in the systemic racism that has created white privilege. There is still a long way to go, as the Martin/Zimmerman case so clearly shows.

Here is the connection I am making; privilege is against the new world that Christians are called to create. Systemic privilege, in this case white privilege, is antithetical towards the justice that will come in the new creation. It is antithetical towards the universal reconciliation that Christ’s death and resurrection heralded.[3] It is antithetical towards the “first shall be last and the last shall be first.”[4] It will not exist in the new creation and we need to be working towards ending it. The first step is confronting it and with the reactions to the Martin case, it seems too many still haven’t done this. That will change. It must. It has too. I have hope that it will.[5] As of now, it is still an issue and one we must confront and dismantle. Inequality is sin and it does not belong in God’s new world.

Credit for giving me the direction for this post, after many drafts of what to say about white privilege, goes to the sermon Andy Lucas of Emmaus Road gave a couple weeks ago. You can listen here

[1] For the most part, the popular and well known version of the end of the world/afterlife is going to heaven and leaving this world behind. I fall in line with N.T. Wright (and others) who view the “end” and “heaven” as restoring this world, not leaving it behind. Wright’s Surprised by Hope outlines this view well.

[2] The clearest indication of this is in the responses from Conservatives towards Obama’s speech after the Trayvon martin case, some of which can be read here.

[3] I also don’t hold to the Calvinistic idea that only “some” are saved, but rather that Christ’s death gave salvation to all. How this works out functionally is another post for another day.

[4] Matthew 20:16- The parable that precedes this famous verse is taking about role reversal in the hopes of showing the original audience, and anyone else, that in God’s kingdom there are no authority structures as are seen in our culture (and the ancient culture).

[5] If you want to see an indication of this, check out the youtube video for “Kids React to Controversial Cherrios Commercial” from The Fine Bros.


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