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an annotated ten commandments for a white theology

jonathan myers

An annotated Ten Commandments for a White Theology: 1
I am the LORD your God, who is bringing you out of the land of the Imperial West, out of the house of colonialism and white supremacy;
You will have no other gods before me. 2
You will not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven, or on earth, or that is in the imagination. White skin, male genitalia, and heterosexual orientations will not be given the normative place of understanding God. 
You will not continue to bow down to the power of whiteness or worship it; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the racism of their ancestors for as many generations as needed of those who rejected Love, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me by loving others. 
You will not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God with idle claims of openness, inclusion, or love. 3
Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 4
Six days you shall labor and do all your work. Take care of all bodies, with special care for black and brown bodies who’ve been beaten and worn down in order to uphold a life of white ease. 
Honor your fathers and mothers by releasing your fear of losing power and control, by lifting up those trampled under the boot of your ancestors, freeing those captured and imprisoned. 5
You will not murder any black or brown man, woman, or child whether by your own hand, or by the hand of your police. 6
You will not commit adultery by fetishizing another’s culture or body for your own enjoyment. 7

You will not steal the life, the joy, the hope of people of color by hoarding opportunity, access, and resources. 8
You will not bear false witness against your black neighbor, either in word or in silence. 9
You will not succumb to white guilt and shame and covet your black neighbor's power or your brown neighbor’s truth. 10

1 Whiteness must be de-centered from theology. It is no longer okay to say black, native, feminist as qualifiers to theology, while assuming that ‘theology’ exists on its own, apart from white privilege and supremacy, thus allowing it to be normative.

2 The original command was to a people recently liberated. This new command is for a new context, one that is rooted in imperialism, colonialism, and white supremacy. This is a God who desires to liberate those who oppress - knowingly and unknowingly.

3 Can you truly say ‘Are all welcome’, or can you only honestly aspire to it? Do not placate others’ experience by claiming to understand their situation. Do not dismiss #blacklivesmatter with #alllivesmatter

4  “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.” (Exodus 20:11) Take the time you have because of your privilege and reflect on how support your labor systems that oppress people of color in your community and around the world.

5 This can literally mean state prisons and correcting the judicial system, but also refers to capturing native people on reservations, LatinX immigrants in deportation, black communities in urban ghettos, etc.

6 This includes actively working with your local police departments to implement implicit bias training, de-militarizes on the ground officers, and finds community based accountability structures for policing black and brown bodied people.

7 This is also known as misappropriation of others’ culture. White communities must think carefully before singing slave spirituals, smudging a home, practicing yoga and other meditation practices. This means do not act without listening. Do not use language that belongs to another’s community.

8 Who sits on boards on the organizations you are a part of? How do people see themselves represented in your faith community? Who is making decisions?

9 There are myriad ways white people bear false witness agains black and brown bodied people. We misrepresent them by assumptions of lack of intellect, money, language ability. One of the ways in which ‘progressive’ whites do this is with complicity and silence. A new white theology will not allow for silence to continue to be agreeable.

10 Do your work to seek the liberation you need to allow communities of difference and color to be free of your control, norms, and assumptions. Understand your history, do not run from it and do not allow it to continue to enslave others.

This piece can be found in lenten devotional called "Resipiscence", download available for $10 and hardcopy for $15. Please consider grabbing this resource with so many incredible pieces offered by writers, artists, activists, pastors, theologians dispersed throughout the country. It is well worth the investment!  Find your copy here

Here is the podcast episode where this piece, and the other pieces for Lent 3, are shared. Please subscribe to this podcast and listen to all the brilliant contributors for this project. Apologies for the sound quality, especially at the beginning, but this was not done in a studio, but rather online on a zoom call.