Whose Side Is God On, Anyway?
Then Jehoshaphat took a position before the assembled people and said, “O God, God of our ancestors, are you not God in heaven above and ruler of all kingdoms below? And didn’t you make the natives of this land leave as you brought your people Israel in, turning it over permanently to your people Israel, the descendants of Abraham your friend? – 2 Chronicles 20:5-7 (MSG)
During a recent dinner at a friend’s house, after sharing stories of kids and grandchildren, teasing those of us who struggled with the spiciness of the chili (okay it was just me!), and talking about recent shows we had seen, the conversation turned to faith in connection to the emboldened behavior of white supremacists who claim to be Christian.
We grappled with how not only interpretations of the Bible often reflect how humans have “signified God” (I first learned this from the Rev. Dr. JoAnne Terrell, womanist, and professor at Chicago Theological Seminary), but the biblical stories themselves reveal this as well.
Our storied lives are based on how we understand and relate to God. When I read this passage from 2 Chronicles, as a Puerto Rican in the diaspora I absolutely cannot relate to the colonizer’s experience of God.
Thankfully, in our spicy theological conversation, rather than waste time talking about “that ain’t the God I serve,” we agreed that to live as a faithful Christian is to follow the commandments of Jesus: Love God, love your neighbor, and love yourself.
This made things clear, even as we agreed how hard it is to truly follow these commandments. Especially when your neighbor is a raging racist!
God of our ancestor, Jesus—forgive us for creating you in our image and retelling the story to suit our own agendas. In this Lenten season, may we seek to be more like Jesus, reflecting your love, grace and justice in the face of death, denial and despair. Amen.
Marilyn Pagán-Banks (she/her/ella) is a queer womanist freedom fighter gratefully (though not always gracefully) serving as executive director of A Just Harvest, Senior Pastor at San Lucas UCC, and adjunct professor at McCormick Theological Seminary. She is a joyful contributor to The Words of Her Mouth.