By Rachael Edwards
While the rest of the church prayed, my eyes wandered to every edge of the pew near the back of the church where the doors stood still.
I’ve fallen out of the tradition of closing my eyes when I pray. There is too much to think about. My gaze fondled the steps that led up to the church; steps that seemed to be a medium between my faith and the world. Nothing was particularly special about those concrete steps other than they gave entry inside the mouth of the church where faith and my politics violently collide.
The church is in a quagmire; many of us are unsure where we find god in all of this hell. I do not serve a god of white supremacy and you sure as hell will not see me dipping my feet in lukewarm water when justice and truth ask me to immerse myself in boiling waters. I’ve learned to navigate my faith in ways ensuring that it is liberated from anti-Black theology and culture.
This looks like not compromising my Blackness (my humanity) by praying for a man who seeks to destroy me.
Christianity and politics clash when we believe that our faith calls us to passivity before action and deed. Especially towards principles that oppress us. Dissonance between faith and politics becomes evident when we believe the force-fed fiction that praying for evil is the way to eradicate evil.
Stop asking me and other Black folks to pray for the president. Moses and Esther were not called to pray for that which oppress their people – they were called to fight and organize against it.
I believe in the power of prayer and meditation, and I refuse to waste breath, energy and head space on a man that does not give a fuck about my life and the life of others. He and his administration are jeopardizing the lives of millions of Americans, and showing Black people that our liberation is the tail of their amusement. I am tired.
Recently, MaryMary’s gospel singer Tina Campbell expressed that she unapologetically voted for the Orange Demon and will continue to pray for him and his administration.
This stems from a culture of Black Christians who believe what white evangelicals told us — that we should pray for our oppressors. With this colonized mindset, we believe that our oppressed prayers can change the ways of the those who are actively oppressing us.
And it seems as if this heightened level of morality is only reserved for Black people. The Jews were not asked to pray for Hitler and the Nazi regime. This is only ever asked of Black people because the stain of anti-Blackness is global and root deep.
The white desire for us to reconcile with them as our oppressors is the direct legacy of slave masters and landless whites who justified chattel slavery on the basis of colonial Christianity. Further, colonial Christianity tempered the Black enslaved by enforcing a white-designed morality that called for grace and mercy over rebellion and retribution.
As such, Black people must remain mindful that there is no power in praying for those who hurt you. There is no power in praying for your abusers. There is no power in praying for white supremacy. White supremacy is cunning in that it knows what it seeks to gain through asking Black people to pray for it.
The “just pray” and “pray for our president” are tools to de-center our oppression and lay in bed with their sins. If we are to “pray” for the president and his administration, then we are complicit in our own oppression. When we pray for the president, we spit in the faces of our trans sisters and brothers of color who are being murdered at a treacherous rate, and allow their names to fade in this chaos.
As a community, we need to interrogate the reasons why we are being asked to pray and reconcile with our oppressors. This idea of praying for evil comes out of a larger idea of “racial reconciliation,” a feel-good term thrown around in many Black faith spaces which they cling to with the belief that it’ll save them and us.
But as we cling, they take food from our mouths, and snatch our babies from our arms. We owe them nothing. We do not have to meet them in the middle with nothing. There is no compromise or reconciliation to be had. White supremacy’s compromises seek to dehumanize us in the process and strip us until there is nothing less. Their reconciling seeks to debase our blackness to uphold whiteness.
We have allowed whiteness and its guilt to cloak itself and sit in our pews and panels in our churches about race. We have numbed ourselves into believing that breaking bread with our oppressors will give us a crown and the cloak of righteousness when we die.
Our forgiveness or prayers will not save them, but more importantly, it will not save us. They are already lost. Black folks, you are not whiteness’ savior. My grandmother always told me to not entertain the works of the devil.
Black Christians must work to decolonize from the idea that praying for this administration will open their minds. The agenda is crystal clear. Choose whom you will serve.
The pastor finished his prayer and I made a personal prayer to myself that I will not get swallowed in the mouth of false ideas of reconciliation, and I vowed to never compromise with the devil.
“Black churches taught us to forgive white people. We learned to shame ourselves” – Kiese Laymon, The Guardian (June 23, 2015)
“A theology of anger: forgiveness for white supremacy derails action and alienates young black activists” – Joshua A. Lazard, Religion Dispatches (July 6, 2015)
“Why America needs to reject the Charleston massacre’s dangerous narrative of forgiveness” – Ericka Schiche, Salon (June 6, 2015)
Rachael the Lord is a writer and vocalist based out of Baltimore. She pens her thoughts on race, politics, faith, blackness, feminism and arts equity and uses too many commas.