Race and faith; two topics I cannot avoid discussing as a black Christian woman. Although not physically obvious, my faith in Christ is an integral part of who I am, my identity is firmly rooted in my faith and it is by my faith that I live. For me this is fundamental and shapes how I view the world. My race, on the other hand, is clearly a lot more visible, and my kinky coils, my larger set nose, my dark skin are a physical part of me. Race is not just physical though, I guess from this I could explore further what it means to me to be black; is it just the colour of my skin? No – definitely not in this world, it has been used to define me and therefore I couldn’t possibly be naïve and restrict the implications of my melanin. And this is not necessarily a bad thing; I celebrate the culture, traditions and nuances within the black community. I love my African, Ghanaian heritage, which has shaped how I’ve been brought up. Both are my identities.
As I scroll through my social media pages, I am confronted with the reality that racial injustice and racism is prevalent in our society. Post after post, video after video reminds me that Martin Luther King’s dream of a generation where people are not judged by the colour of their skin has not come into fruition. How should I respond to these injustices? I would be lying if I didn’t admit that my first response was anger. Anger that people could be so ignorant, so cruel but then I am quickly reminded that this is no surprise, not that it makes it right. But I am not surprised at a person’s wickedness given the depravity of the world. Still my moral compass does not allow me to accept that this is just the way people are; I still consider that as a Christian I can and should respond to social injustices in line with biblical teachings. Therefore my faith shapes my response to racism.
The second and more positive experience of race and faith for me is how the vibrancy and diversity of my culture aids me in my worship as a Christian. Although few like to admit it, the culture of a community does influence their way of worship. As I’ve matured in my faith I have realised the two do not have to be kept mutually exclusive and cannot, as a particular culture will tend to dominate a church, even unintentionally. I believe God has created this diversity and therefore it can be used for his glory. So when I’m in Accra praising God to the beat of the traditional drums (a really joyful sound that all Christians should experience!), or whether I’m singing a more traditional hymn in my local church in London; I see my culture facilitating my worship and a positive way in which I can express my identity.
When asked the question; which comes first, your race or your faith? I can answer without any hesitation. My faith of course! My identity as a Christian, triumphs over all possible intersectionalities I experience as a black woman. The matter of the soul is a matter much weightier; it surpasses and transcends the physical issues. This is not to say, there is no place for my race in my faith as I’ve discussed above but to put it in the words of the apostle Paul “… hav[ing] put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” Colossians 3:10-11