If you’ve never heard of the Sparrow Conference until now, you’re not alone. I hadn’t heard of it either, until just last week, when I heard about Ekemini Uwan’s disturbing comments about how ‘whiteness is wicked’. The video was pulled already, so I heard about it on The Dividing Line, hosted by Dr. James White. Dr. White managed to find the audio, and I’d encourage you to listen to his remarks, which cover aspects of the issue that I don’t plan to focus on, because this is a blog post, not a novel. Seriously, there are a lot of problems with her claims.
First, let me start with her claim that whiteness is wicked. This claim is pure, unabashed racism. She defines ‘whiteness’ as a ‘power structure’ that is rooted in ‘violence, in theft, it’s rooted in plunder, it’s rooted in power, and privilege”. In her mind, that’s what it is to be white; that’s a heck of a stereotype. By her logic, then, Abraham Lincoln was a horrible awful oppressor, based solely on the color of his skin. The same would be said of David Livingstone, who spent his life as a missionary, bringing the gospel to unreached people in Africa, and was integral to ending the Arab-Swahili slave trade (yes, non-white people enslaved people too; shocker). This is textbook racism. She defines whiteness, which, according to the dictionary, is literally being white, as something bad. This is just like someone equating ‘blackness’ with gang violence, drug abuse, or criminality, which we all know is racist. The actions of a person do not matter to a racist, they judge others based on the color of their skin, rather than the content of their character. I seem to remember someone had a dream about that. Who was it?
That’s right, Martin Luther King Jr., the leader of the civil rights movement. In claiming that ‘whiteness’ is rooted in the aforementioned laundry list of evils, Ekemini Uwan does the exact opposite of what Dr. King dreamt of. I would expect an ‘anti-racist public theologian’ to know better, but I guess I’m an optimist. It’s ironic, really, as she said herself in that same Q&A that race is not a biblical category. That is correct; race is not a biblical category. Neither is whiteness. I checked.
As concerning as Ms. Uwan’s blatant racism, if not more concerning, is her odd, almost worshipful fixation on ethnicity. She talks about how God will give white people their ethnic identities in the new heavens and the new earth, while she has her ethnic identity as a member of an African tribe. So much is wrong with this idea, starting with her idea of what ethnicity is.
An ethnicity is a social group that shares a common culture, language or other characteristic. She is correct that a tribe would be an ethnic group, but she completely denies the existence of a massive ethnic group sitting right in front of her face: Americans. I am not an Irishman, even though I can trace my family tree back there. I have never been to Ireland and my family has been in this country for many generations. Beyond liking Irish music, speaking English and an Irish surname, I have no ties to that group of people. On the other hand, I share a great deal with other Americans, by virtue of living in the same country, sharing a common history, and unique cultural values, such as freedom of speech, right to bear arms, equality of all people before the law, and other unique hallmarks of American culture. I find it odd, and more than a little hypocritical, that she would implicitly deny the existence of Americans as our own unique ethnicity (an ethnicity that includes people of all colors, by the way), and claim that God will, at the end of time, divide us into groups we weren’t part of in this life. What passage of scripture does she get this idea from? Her ‘sanctified imagination.’
The emphasis she places on our ethnic background is concerning to say the least. I have written on this before, that Christians are unified in Christ and no difference of heritage should divide us.
Furthermore she misunderstands the purpose of ethnicity in the new heavens and new earth. Our genetic characteristics, personal history, everything about us, indeed every part of the new, unfallen universe that God will create serves one purpose: to glorify God and showcase His attributes for all of eternity. Indeed, there will only be one ethnicity in the new heavens and new earth: those who were redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice; it is this common trait that unites us now and will unite us in eternity. Our unique histories will each serve to show the unsurpassable grace and mercy of God in saving sinners from every tribe, tongue and nation. We get a peek of this in Revelation 5:9-10, where the Lamb (Christ) is being worshipped for saving people from every tribe, tongue and nation. Jesus didn’t die to give us back our ethnicities, he died to save us from our sins, so that we could glorify God.
To sum up, Ms. Uwan’s comments reflect a thought process informed not by Scripture, but by the racist and borderline-incomprehensible theories of grievance culture and the cultural left. There is a dangerous movement afoot in the church that, wittingly or not, seeks to set Christians against each other by spreading racism and resentment through the body of Christ, and we must heed Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 4:1-3 to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.