By Craig Hardegree | 

There’s such an absence of melanin in my skin that I can’t tan; the sun turns me pink. My hair is so fine and limp that I can’t wear any of the rugged manly sticky-uppy hairstyles, even if I wanted to, and I don’t. I’m as white as it gets.

And I was Christian when Christian wasn’t cool. Reared in out-of-mainstream fundamentalist Pentecostalism, I was religious in a way and in a time when being uber-religious resulted in ostracization and ridicule instead of entrée into the country club and vain praise of men.

Fundamentalism took very seriously and literally the concept of “come ye out from the world and be a separate people” and the prohibition against “being lovers of pleasure, rather than lovers of God.” Extensive and comprehensive was our “no” list. No ball games, movies, dances, proms, TVs, playing cards, town fair, wearing shorts, flesh-exposing beaches, popular-at-the-time city pool.

So if you were milking every drop of pleasure out of life back when old-time religion wasn’t popular and now feel free to sit in judgment of the morals and lifestyles and choices and heart-contents of others just because you attend church regularly and post vague religious platitudes – now that being religious is en vogue – don’t question my bona fides in the God-department just because I’m an accepting-of-all Obama-loving liberal. I paid my dues in ways you can neither imagine or afford.

My message is not borne out of hatred of white people or Christians. I love both. I am both.

But hear this:

If you ever laughed at a joke about President Obama; if you ever forwarded an email with a photoshopped picture of him sitting cross-legged with a bone through his nose; if you ever found amusement in a photo of Michelle Obama doctored to make her look like a monkey; if you ever participated in spreading the lie that President Obama wasn’t born in this country; if you ever expressed the sentiment that President Obama is “not one of us;” if you ever said that he “hates America;” if you ever bore false witness against him by saying he is not a Christian in spite of his open profession that “Jesus is Lord;” if you ever echoed the false claim that he is a Muslim; if you ever uttered the words, “he doesn’t share our values;” if you ever claimed that President Obama “wants the terrorists to win;” if you ever lamented that “they” are taking over “our” country; if you ever verbalized, emailed, clicked “like” on, texted, posted, tweeted the idea that “we need to take our country back”…

…the blood of those nine precious redeemed-by-Jesus souls, is on your hands.

Because you participated in poisoning the collective psyche of the country.

This young man is not mentally ill. He’s not a monster. He’s not the pure embodiment of evil.

He’s you.

He’s a scared white person who’s afraid white-control of a country which he believes rightfully belongs to white people, is slipping away.

He just wants his country back.

In 2008, we had a God-given opportunity to bridge the color divide in this country. People of color make up only 13% of the population. And only 13% of that 13% voted. Yet, President Obama received more votes than any other president in the entire history of our country. And that was because 43% of the white voters joined with the voters of color to put a black man in the White House. And we didn’t do it just for that purpose; we didn’t do it out of “white guilt” as conservatives dismissively call it – we did it because we saw an extraordinary man of uncommon wisdom and brilliance and we knew he was exactly who our country needed to lead us out of the economic collapse and global loss-of-respect which we had been left with after years of failed conservative policies.

But white conservative Christians couldn’t give it up. The same event which presented us with the greatest opportunity since the Emancipation Proclamation to bridge the color divide, so horrified them that they launched a seven-year character lynching of President Obama, smearing him, lying about him, robbing him of credit for his unparalleled-in-modern-history turnaround of the US economy, saddling him with blame for things which rightly belong at the feet of Bush and 12 years of a Republican congress, repeating over and over and over, “he has taken over our country” and “we need to take our country back.”

The Charleston shooter was only 14 years old when white Christians started drilling into his head the idea that President Obama is “not one of us” and that he has “taken over our country.” It’s not a coincidence that after seven years of you participating in the poisoning of his mind, that he told those nine precious souls that he was killing them because “they are taking over the country.”

And white Christians still can’t give it up. It wouldn’t hurt you to give up your pride long enough to validate the feelings in the community of color by simply acknowledging that this tragedy occurred because of racism and solely because of racism. White Christian preachers, pundits, politicians…all either outright denying that it resulted from racism or admitting that it was partially about racism, while piggybacking-on something additional – something which will allow white Christians to also claim victimhood: “attack on religious liberties.”

We can fix this.

This is not a zero-sum game where you lose a point if you give a point. Giving up your knee-jerk defense-of-whiteness long enough to empathize without agenda, stand in solidarity without condition, doesn’t require you to lose anything except your God-condemned pride and doesn’t ask of you anything except your God-commanded humility.

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