“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness” Genesis 1:26a
There is a voice in the American society that says that we need to fear African American people. That for some reason we are all ignorant savages that are looking to destroy everything- property, and people alike. And unfortunately those “images” are what I see so often. Youtube is littered with videos of black people fighting one another, ripping clothes and pulling out hair. The most popular music from today’s black artists say things like sex, violence and money are good things to desire. In fact, I recently heard a song by Nikki Minaj that basically glorifies her derrière in the most sexual way. I had to get on my students for listening to it in Sunday school. (Yep, exactly) There are nearly 2.5 Million people incarcerated. According to the 2009 census ~850,000 inmates were African American. The statistic only worsens when other minority groups are added. Much of this has to do with the prison industrial complex (believing that the best way to rehabilitate some is to institutionalize them, which in fact does nothing in terms of rehab), and the new Jim Crow (discussed in another blog). All of this feeds this voice that gives way to so much fear. This voice would cause an otherwise confident individual to clinch her purse or lock her car door when a black man walks by. This voice would cause a store clerk to ask a black man for two forms of identification when paying with a check, meanwhile the previous lady (white) who paid with a check was not even asked for a one piece of identification. This voice cause another store clerk to secretly follow black kids around the store assuming they are thieves and are stealing merchandise . This voice would cause a supervisor to assume that because a black woman has a recent new hair doo, that she looted the hair from Ferguson shops. (Yes someone actually said this) This voice causes the police officer to assume a group of black men standing in a parking lot are conspiring to commit a crime. This voice causes law enforcement to point snipers and militarized police officers armed with rifles and tear gas to fire toward unarmed citizens who are exercising their first amendment rights to protest, yet they protect the Neo Nazis as they rally and protest on the city hall steps. And it causes the officer to reach for the lethal weapon before rationalizing the situation and allowing the laws of the land prevail.
But there is a problem with this voice. This voice is inaudible. It doesn’t really exist. It is something that we have conjured up that says “they” are different than us. That last time I checked, my blood is still warm and runs red through my veins just the same as my white brothers and sisters. So, why the disparity? Why are we treated so differently? I believe a great portion of it has to do with the appreciation of the image of God, or lack thereof. Genesis 1 describes God’s creation plan. On each day of the first week, God created something and he called it good (טוֹב – “tov” meaning very good, or forcefully good). On the six day, however, God would create his greatest creation, namely mankind. “Let us make man in our image…” This has so many implications, more than I’m willing to unpack now. But what I will say is that humanity was God at his best. We bear his image! That doesn’t mean that its a physical appearance, but we bear his image in terms of his character. We can show goodness, and kindness, and love. We can create. We can show mercy and grace. We were created to bear God’s glorious image to the world that He created! This is central to our relationship to one another. Now I must say, that while we are created in His image, that image has been marred by sin. We don’t love perfectly. We don’t show kindness, goodness, etc., perfectly. C.S. Lewis calls us “Glorious Ruins”. I think this is an accurate description. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t try.
1st John 3 says that those who love God, loves their neighbor. Neighbor is undefined here intentionally. Neighbor knows no color or ethnicity. It knows no socioeconomic status or mental capacity. It has no distinction. In the case of the gospels, when neighbor is defined it is usually the marginalized, and the outcast. This should move us to consider the superficial fear of other races. If you are reading this and have these fearful feelings, consider your heart. Why are you fearful? Is it because of the “voice” that says you should be fearful. Maybe its because of the images you see on T.V. and the media. Or is it because of your own sin that prevents you from seeing the image of God in a person. Calvin says sums it up nicely saying, “The Lord commands us to do good unto all men without exception…, [The Scripture] teaches us that we must not think of man’s [real value], but only of his creation in the image of God to which we owe all possible honor and love