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February 7, 2006

Guest Commentary: What Christianity is not

A group of people came together to talk and discuss the world in which we live, under the rather humorous guise of a “nonfiction book club.” The makeup of the group went like this: four white (two male, two female) evangelical Christians; a young black male of Kemetic spirituality (see Ra Un Nefer Amen); a white male, eclectic poet; a white female anthropologist; and a white male agnostic.

The group withered away by its seventh week. A couple of interactions almost developed into physical combat. There were shouts, wall-pounding, floor-slapping and the manifestation of utter dissatisfaction in each meeting. I was doing research for the next book I was writing. It is a book of essays including one on the current context of religious imperialism. The evangelicals in the group did not like my use of the term (imperialism), and so they actually wanted me “to prove to them that Christians had/have an empire to back up their imperialism.”

I have always found it funny when the white man tells the black man that racism no longer exists. Perhaps, as Kwame Toure noted, racism may just reach an apex of covert disguise that not everyone can see the racism as it exists. This is where the field of study concerning white privilege comes in. It is the same for evangelical Christianity. It may just be so invisible and covert that there needs to be a field of study devoted to Christian privilege (empire). Do Christianity and its sheep engage an empire? Yes. But …

Never mind the blood-soaked history used to justify land thievery and chattel slavery. Never mind that Adolph Hitler claimed Christianity. Never mind that Southeast Christian Church backs up traffic on Interstate 64 every Sunday morning while the Rev. Bob plays those wonderful Republican Party DVDs on the mega sound/sight system. Never mind pastors who drive Bentleys and wear new Pierre Cardin suits every week just to wipe it in the face of the parishioners, some of whom happen to be housekeepers down on their knees cleaning floors Monday through Friday, only to drop $50 tithes in baskets that obviously do not need it.

Never mind the openly homophobic Southern Baptist Seminary president. Never mind the seminary system that provides tuition aid to students who drop out of state-sanctioned colleges (like U of L, etc.) if they transfer to a seminary. Never mind the marriage amendment that oppresses a particular section of the political community and that it passed by an overwhelming 73 percent (yes) to a ridiculous 27 percent (no).

Never mind that 47 states do not require churches to pay property taxes, which feeds the movement to create mega churches, or buy sports arenas, and actually steals money from regular taxpayers only to drive up our property taxes. Never mind that the nation of China — the home of Buddhism — is now one-third Christian, thanks to the great work of international Christian imperialism. Never mind the 13 countries (including Uzbekistan, India, Pakistan and Nigeria) that make it illegal to commit an “unethical conversion,” essentially meaning that when food is handed to someone in exchange for converting to Christianity you may just be risking your life for five years in an Uzbek prison. Never mind the “10/40 line,” which is the area of the globe where the “most people must be converted to Christ in the shortest possible amount of time.”

Never mind all that when capitalism makes being a pastor just a “good career” and when the doctrine of “make disciples of all nations” tears down any sort of ability to change the international missionary work that is representative of a very evil historical process of “spreading the word.”

Never mind all that, because what spirituality should be is an openness and wanton engagement toward harmony, of truth seeking, of healing the multiple past mistakes our ancestors bequeathed to us. What spirituality is not is all the above. It is not filling up the tithe bowl when you are broke. I see now that I can only prove what spirituality is NOT, rather than what it is. And that is proof enough of the Christian imperialism committed; as I do not have a real, tangible answer to what spirituality is because all I have ever known is the imperialism busy bustling around me, never ceasing from its path of annihilation.

Ken Walker is a published poet and has taught in various places about racism and black power. He wants all forms of imperialism eliminated from Mother Earth. Contact him at theconsortiumlouisville@juno.com