Friday, February 19
In Acts22:3 Paul, describing both his Jewish lineage and Roman citizenship says, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated strictly according to our ancestral law, being zealous for God, just as all of you are today.”
Paul’s revolutionary ministry breaks with the hypodescent present in the biblical genealogies. From Paul forward “Christian” does not designate any one nation or race, describing instead a single body of believers. As a presbyter of the Church of England it was a Pauline-like overreach for John Wesley to ordain clergy let alone raising someone to the episcopacy. Wesley gifted us with an apostolic succession rooted in spirit not bloodline. Yet we have not always demonstrated this nimbleness addressing questions of race, gender, class, or sexuality.
“In the United States we have governmentally crafted definitions of race as well as broadly accepted social definitions. We also practice a form of hypodescent, the notion that racial identity is denoted by physical inheritance and by “blood” from a racial group. But this works in a particular way: the lower ranking group is what defines the descent. So throughout US history (and up to today) “looking” black makes you black, as does any black parentage (even great-grandparents). According to popular opinion, having even one drop of “black blood” in your genealogy makes you black, but having many drops of white blood does not make you white.” Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths about Human Nature, by Agustín Fuentes.
Action step: today, with brutal honesty look at your beliefs about race and blood. How were you shaped by ideas of hypodescent? Ask that your eyes be opened to ways in which you believe race is biological and not a social construct. To be antiracist we must first challenge all preconceptions about race. Are these racial categories of humanity as real as you were taught they are?
Oh Lord, let me love my brother,
let me love my sister
always and everywhere
as your mirrored Self
here among us, beside us,
and where I need to lift up,
let me bend my knees,
put my hands to the plough,
and do just that.
And where I need lifted up,
let pride never refuse
the rainbow touch of another.
Bless him, bless her, bless us
and weave us together within that covenant comfort
that stretches from here to there
till it reaches everywhere,
warm and strong
within the shelter of your loving arms.
Marc Harshman, from Race and Prayer: Collected Voices Many Dreams edited by Malcolm Boyd and Chester L. Talton (Morehouse Publishing, 2003), 136.