modern narrative of race: Panopticon over community?


Anthony has posted a positively stunning appraisal of the “modern narrative of race” he notices as having grown up around and inside Christendom

the church and postmodern culture: conversation: The Panopticon of Ecclesial White-ness: Taking Foucault to a Church divided
When one studies the history of Christendom, especially during the 16th century, a modern narrative of race emerges. In particular, a racial hierarchy begins to emerge, with white people at the top. Such a world became a part of the DNA of Western Christendom and habits began to form. . One only has to do a genealogy of how the church justified racism with scripture and particular doctrinal formulations (e.g. the curse of Ham). Modern racism, a product of the Enlightenment, gave scientific justification for the hierarchy of races. Christendom, on the other hand, sacralized white-ness. Christendom sacralized or divinized a racial order that emerged out of 16th century Europe. Contextually, this had devastating consequences for how race would play itself out in American church culture. Power relations within Christendom created knowledge or truth that described ‘white-ness’ as norm or standard and non-whiteness or blackness as deviation or sub-standard.

I am reminded of a segment of a DVD I watched last night called “God and Guatemala”, where one missionary couple from the “Primitive Methodist Church” set up a school to “educate” kids into what looked much like a “non-Mayan” or even “anti-Mayan” way of life. (The Mayans, for those who aren’t aware, are the largest indigenous group in Guatemala, and they have a deep connection to the earth; much as many Native Americans in our country are deeply “environmental”. This among other practices , and their “pagan desire” to maintain this cultural distinctiveness (and intentinal isolation from practices that stray from these values) , are things which this school seeks to “drum out of them” and turn them into “Americans” (the segment shows the kids being trained in computers — ie. preparing them for a life OTHER than in their Mayan culture — and singing as a class “America the Beautiful” —and why not? They’re “Central American”, so “America” fits them too. But all too obvious is the cultural assimilation effort happening. I ‘m sure these folks are well-intentioned. This is obviously what they have learned as good, white Americans (the husband is Guatamalan, the wife is North American– it didn’t say, but with his North American wife, I got the impression that the husband’s missionary zeal was also inherited from North American missionaries that conflated American culture with Christianity.

That coverage of a Guatemalan misison effort (there are several depicted in this program, from all over the map), including the mention of how America pretty much destroyed the regime in place as a result of a peaceful revolution in 1944. But their “problem” as far as the American leadership was concerned, was that they were on the road to seeking a recovery of their land which was “owned” by United Fruit. The reformative regime was branded “communist” because of their efforts to recover a national identity and access to their own natural resources. (Much of this story is recounted in Stephen Kinzer’s excellent history Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change From Hawaii to Iraq)

This all too easy “assimilation” that happens when Christendom seeks “respectability” brings about a faith perspective that conflates nationalism and “capitalism” with “Christian mission” . I hesitate to even call it a “faith perspective” , since it seems to be the case that no real faith is required (although I concur with Jamie’s assesment that everyone has a meta-narrative, conscious or not– so it might be more accurate to call it mispalced faith; heretical faith. In its wake, such “faith movements” dramatically constrict the concept of community, and encourage separation and fear of the other. Racism and ethno-centrism become confused with orthodoxy.

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I am a Web developer with a background in theology, sociology and communications. I love to read, watch movies, sports, and am looking for authentic church.

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