Tell The Story Right
It is an American writer by the name of Paul Auster who once said that “the truth of the story lies in the details”. Auster supposes that despite the best of intentions, when a story is told without all of its components, the narrative itself is ruined. The story is never a complete one, if the details are left out of it. Conversely, the story is at its best when all of the specifics are left intact and made visible.
As we find ourselves under the backdrop of another Black History month, I’m reminded of Auster’s words while thinking about a concerning trend in the culture of the contemporary church. In our present day, it is acceptable for many Christians to engage the Bible without acknowledging and affirming the role that Africa (and people of African descent) play in the story. Our descendants, our ancestors, even the principles fundamental to our culture are just as much a part of the Bible story as anyone, or anything, else. Churches, those who lead them, and those who occupy them have adopted a habit that has traveled across lines of time and tradition; a penchant for relaying the Biblical narrative while leaving out parts and perspectives in the text that affirm persons of color.
I don’t believe that this is completely accidental. While one certainly cannot be faulted for repeating a story the way that they heard it, there are those who profess belief in God, claim salvation in Jesus, that benefit from the telling (and retelling) of this story falsely. When the word of a God who loves everybody appears leave out a specific set of people, those left out of the story are passively made unimportant & useless. This oppressive omission compromises the ecclesiastical equality of our God and promotes a doctrine of division visible in congregations all over this nation and, indeed, the world.
When we talk of the Biblical narrative, and the importance of the Bible as it relates to our faith, we must be passionate enough , be committed enough….dare I say be Christian enough, to convey the Biblical narrative correctly; complete with all of the details, nuances, parts and players in their respective places. Regarding the Bible, our responsibility is to allow history & geography to accompany our sharing of these sacred scriptures. For in doing so, we embolden and empower those who may have been previously undervalued. The reality of Africa & people of color in the book that we believe to be holy must be held up as we tell the Bible story. Not for the purpose of creating arrogance but rather a sense of esteem through scriptural affirmation. From Eden’s Gihon river running through Ethiopia & Uganda to Hezekiah and Zephaniah being of African descent. From where Jesus’ family hid after He was born to the man who helped Him carry the cross before He died, people of color, our people, play significant roles in the Bible and need to be acknowledged as such.
What does it say of us when we lift up a Holy Bible that we reserve the right to cut contents out of? What does our faith look like when people who do not fit our preference can be quietly dismissed? Perhaps what is said of us is what the world negatively speaks of the Christian today. Perhaps the inaccurate picture that is painted of our faith (and the book that informs it) is a portrait we have instructed the world to illustrate.
The only way that we rectify this is through a re-introduction of the world to our God. We change this through a re-imagination of the Biblical record. One in which people and places of color are both noted and considered valuable. It is not enough for us to just tell the story we have learned. We must allow our passion for God’s will to prompt us to tell the story the right way.