This is a living statement that I will continue to work on and update as I grow and develop in knowledge and practice.
My personal movement towards actively decolonizing my own faith & spirituality began many years ago as I began to grow in my own anti-racist and anti-colonial work. As someone raised in the Christian Church, it didn’t take long to recognize how much of my faith had been co-opted and weaponized against my own body and “belovedness” as an image bearer by a white supremacist agenda. This statement is an affirmation of my continued faith in Yeshua and a denouncement of the legacy of violence carried out against my own African Indigenous People and the Indigenous People of the world by those who falsely claimed to be followers of Yeshua. I recognize that Yeshua of Naẕerat was an Indigenous Palestinian of multiple ancestries including African ancestries. That he was a land-based organizer and spiritual teacher who claimed to have Divine Identity. He was poor, unsheltered and marginalized and his spiritual teachings were antithetical to the values of Rome and the mainstream religious structures. He lived and worked in solidarity with the sick, marginalized genders, Disabled people and culturally oppressed groups. Because of his teachings and claims of divinity he was executed by the state in a public lynching that and those who conspired against him included the religious institution of the day and the Roman State. Yeshua’s execution was ordered by Pontius Pilate the appointed governor of colonized occupied province of Judea representing Tiberius the emperor of Rome. As a follower of Yeshua living in our 21st century context, I experience the Spirit of Yeshua as affirming, protective and loving of my Black woman body and identity and I feel his solidarity and support of the prophetic claim that Black Lives Matter. The Good News that Yeshua shared through his practice and teachings was that even under colonial occupation and empire conditions, it is possible to find safety for the soul, dignity, worth, healing and experience love in the face of violence. For this reason my faith & spirituality is a protective tool against white supremacy. I am indebted to the Black Liberation Theology and Womanist Theology movement for helping me in my personal healing and recovery from Christian white supremacy. As a Black woman of African decent, I do not experience my faith in Yeshua as oppositional to my Indigenous spirituality but to be an extension of it. I know that Yeshua practiced many of our traditional African and Semitic healing rituals and honored his ancestors.
Part of decolonizing my faith is denouncing the false claim that the Yeshua tradition was introduced to the African continent by Greco-Roman and subsequent European colonizers. I denounce the lie that the Yeshua tradition begins with European conquest of Indigenous peoples. I denounce the lie that the Yeshua tradition belongs to Rome and the subsequent white-led empires of Europe that that continue to be enemies of the spiritual work of Yeshua which involves reconciling all of creation to the Good Creator.
As a Black African Indigenous person of Luo and Luhya ancestry who is a follow of Yeshua, I am concerned about the way that much of the white-led church continues to conspire with the empire to rape, steal, systemically kill and oppress Black, Indigenous and Racialized people by upholding theologies, practices and politics that are white supremacist. I recognize that when empire doctrines are spread among Indigenous peoples and colonial state religions are replicated in BIPOC communities, it is part of the legacy of historical and intergenerational trauma that causes harm to BIPOC bodies and spirits and is not a true reflection of the Spirit, teachings or life of Yeshua Hamashiac of Naẕerat. I believe that the true Church of Yeshua is a global community of believers guided by Yeshua’s teaching and opposed to the spirit of the empire and that we operate within and outside of organized religious structures. I believe that true believers are still vulnerable to persecution unto death by empire as our presence begins to be remobilized and we respond to the call to stand in embodied solidarity with the most oppressed under empire including those targeted by state violence and incarceration, health inequity, environmental racism and every form of state driven genocide around the world. I believe the experience of safety and privilege under empire for the church has been a achieved by trading in a genuine public and prophetic witness and joining in the violence of the empire. I believe that Yeshua’s Spirit has not stopped working to rebuild and recovery and awaken the Church and I am encouraged by the examples in our tradition of those who have provided strong witness during the atrocities of the last 20 centuries.
As a follower of Yeshua committed to the work of decolonizing the Church of Yeshua, I believe it is the invitation to every believer to engage in the process of seeking personal healing from the impacts of spiritual abuse of white supremacist theologies and to join the tradition of bringing prophetic truthful witness to bear about the true identify of Yeshua and exposing the constructed false identity of a European Jesus who has been marketed as a propagator of colonization and genocide of Black, Brown and Indigenous people around the world.
In my own personal healing and recovery work, I choose not to use the word Christian to describe my tradition as I associate the word with a violent Greco-Roman movement towards the appropriation of the faith based community that was being mobilized during the life and following the death of Yeshua Hamashiac. I prefer to simply refer to myself as a follower of Yeshua and appreciate any opportunity to #SayHisName. I believe that it is a powerful name that represents a lot of story and truth for many peoples and it was a threatening name for the empire and can be a comforting name for those who find themselves targeted today. Even so, I know there are many who may still use the term Christian and be faithful to the true legacy and teachings of Yeshua, reject the empire project and commit to an Anti-Racist Anti-Colonial (ARAC) faith and spirituality practice. I embrace these ARAC Christians as siblings in the faith tradition. I believe that none of us are perfect in our healing and recovery journey but I’m thankful for grace and that the One who has began a good work in us is faithful to complete it.
Services, Supports & Resources
As an Equity & ARAC practitioner, I have a special interest in advancing ARAC practice and institutional equity in faith-based organization with specialized focus and training in moving the work forward in churches. If you are part of a church that is interested in . . .
- learning more about racial justice,
- contending with integrity and grace with the violent colonial legacy of the church in the last 20 centuries and
- responding to the call of to be a prophetic witness and bearers of hope and healing in a world fractured by historical violence and trauma
you might consider reaching out to myself or another faith-based ARAC practitioner for a conversation on what tangible steps faith communities can take towards advancing racial justice and institutional equity.
Those who have a relationship with the Spirit of Yeshua and also suffer colonial violence often suffer with complex grief and trauma around the ways his identity has been co-opted for harm and finding safe spaces for recovery and healthy expression of faith and spirituality. I am committed to using my public platforms to share the resources that have benefitted me in my own recovery work. If you are interested in working together in more formal ways, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to explore possibilities.
I end by sharing a quote by Black American Liberation theologist James Cone:
“The cross can heal and hurt; it can be empowering and liberating but also enslaving and oppressive. There is no one way in which the cross can be interpreted. I offer my reflections because I believe that the cross placed alongside the lynching tree can help us to see Jesus in America in a new light, and thereby empower people who claim to follow him to take a stand against white supremacy and every kind of injustice.”
― James H. Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree