• April 3, 2020

DAWNINGS: Black History Month for white Christians - Odessa American: Columns

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DAWNINGS: Black History Month for white Christians

The Rev. Dawn Weaks is the co-pastor of Connection Church in Odessa.

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Posted: Saturday, February 8, 2020 5:30 am

February is Black History Month. Why do I care about Black History Month as a white pastor?

My grandmother lived in Brownfield, not far from Odessa, for most of her life. She married into a family that had ties to the KKK. Their thick racism spurred her to action. I remember going with her often to the “colored” side of town to care for families in need. She regularly quoted from the Bible to me, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” She also drilled this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt into my head: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Because of her and other influences, I became curious about those who had been made to feel inferior in our country. I began to learn about the sinister side of American history. I learned that racism is the United States’ original sin, and that the Church in America acted as accomplice to that sin. The clearest example of this I can give is the “Slave Bible,” published in 1807.

This Bible was published to give to slaves. It had 90 percent of the Old Testament cut out, anything that referenced God liberating slaves from Egypt. A few key parts of the New Testament were left out too, including Galatians 3:28, which is a pesky verse about the equality of all people. Tragically, Christianity has been used over and over again to perpetuate racism, despite the compelling witness of the Bible that all people are created in God’s image and are under God’s eternal care.

Yet still somehow, Black American Christians remain faithful and invite reconciled relationship with those who are willing to learn from the past and turn a new page in our American and Christian history.

If you ever feel stuck in your faith, this may be the path that sets you free again. Reading Black theologians like James Cone, Katie Geneva Cannon, Howard Thurman, and Renita Weems made the Christian faith come more alive to me in all its vibrant hues, not just white. Attending predominantly African-American churches and expanding my experiences in other ways challenges and grows me.

We are all called to have a full-color faith, no matter our skin tone.

Not long after my grandmother’s death, DNA kits came along. I tested mine, and sure enough, what I suspected was true. A touch of West African is in me, delivered from her. It turns out she had history to tell me but she could not speak of it within her circumstances. Yet I can hear her voice sometimes when I read the Bible’s words, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Black History Month helps us to do just that.

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