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Monday, August 12, 2013

Is God Colorblind?

If you're colorblind, you can't find God 
Sometimes we like to see ourselves as colorblind citizens in a 'post-racial' society. But does that
attitude conform with God's heart?

God is not colorblind.  God rejoices in colorful creation, and wraps Himself in rainbows of color. Not only is God not literally colorblind, neither does God blind Himself to the cultures and nations of the people that worship Him. God created a world that would be inhabited by many races and peoples. Color is God's good intention.

In John's vision of heaven, he notices that "there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb" (Revelation 7:9). How would John have known this if they had lost their cultural identities upon entering heaven? John could have simply written about the unity of people praising God. But our cultural identities are important,even in heaven, and John affirms this with his words.

Would we really want to live in a world where we were all the same? Why shouldn't our racial identities be affirmed as part of what shapes us, and how we relate to God?

All eyes = no good
diversity of cultures is essential to the Body of Christ. We are not supposed to be 'colorblind.' If we pretend as if 'we are all the same' then we miss the richness that God gave us. God has designed the Church to be a body that is unified, but that has unique parts that need each other—we are not all eyes or feet. "For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others" (Romans 12:4-5). Our many cultures allow us to bring a variety of gifts to bear for God's work on earth.

I understand the sentiment behind colorblindness. It tries to convey the idea that God loves all of us, which God certainly does. It also tries communicate that God does not judge us by how we look, which God certainly does not. But a colorblindness mentality misses the mark when we pretend that our differences do not exist or do not matter.

And the reality is, no matter how much we say it, we're never actually colorblind anyway. We do see differences between people. We notice when someone's hair is different than our own. We notice when skin is a different shade. The problem isn't in seeing difference. It's in acting negatively toward that difference.

We say we are colorblind, but we lock our car doors only in response to some types of faces. We clutch our purses when certain hues of skin enter the elevator, but not for others. We assume some people are citizens, while presuming others are not.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Kerry Washington
We all have implicit associations based on skin color, whether we want to have them or not (see post: Testing Racial Bias). Our minds automatically try to categorize people. It's better to acknowledge that fact and to combat it, "You can’t heal a wound by saying it’s not there!" (Jeremiah 6:14)

Modern racism owes its success to our ability to 'turn a blind eye' to the racialized inequalities in front of us. 'Post-racial' racism depends on everyday people harboring prejudices that are too subtle to outright repudiate, but that are strong enough to affect how we select jurors, who we send to jail, to whom we rent property, and who we hire for jobs.

Colorblindness is actually a form of denial. Indeed, there is so much racial disparity in the world, one surely must be blind not to see it. Colorblindness is not the solution. Kerry Washington notes of race "if it’s the only thing you focus on, then it’s a danger, and if you never talk about it then it’s a danger."

A lot of brokenness in our world results from our racial division, but race itself is not the enemy. Our racial identities can help bring one another closer to God. We can rejoice together in the richness of God's creation, and affirm the identities that God gives each of us. We can experience renewed intimacy with our Savior when we experience God in conjunction with the many different kinds of people God loves, and we can discover aspects of God's nature that we would would not have uncovered on our own.

When we learn to love the colors God created, we offer a witness of more holy Christian unity to the world. A unity that does not homogenize, but rather glorifies God through our heterogeneity (not in spite of it). Thus, we bear witness to the colors of heaven arrayed in splendor on earth.


  1. Our neighbors will know that we love them, not because they are just like us, but because they are exactly as God made them to be.

  2. Thanks for this post! I agree that it is better to acknowledge our racial bias than pretend it doesn't exist. I do think it makes sense that all the tribes be present and God doesn't ignore our differences. Still, how do you reconcile the separateness of racial identity with Paul's statement saying in Christ, there is no Greek nor Jew, but all are one? Essentially, if John saw all the tribes, did he see them hanging out with their own tribe as is so often the case on earth, or intermingling one with another? I'm picturing a bigger scale Epcot here where everyone just stands in their little world, prepared to talk about their culture. :) Also, if our identities separate us one from the other in important ways, then how does Christ bring all back to the oneness in Him? Thanks again for this post!

  3. Thanks for your comments, Mel! These are important thoughts that many have wrestled with. I probably should have made sure to include commentary in the original post.

    The verse you refer to, Galatians 3:28, also mentions 'neither male or female.' Do we not recognizes there are difference between sexes? Beyond the obvious biological differences, we still have women's groups/retreats/bible studies. We still discuss what our gender means for our identities and interactions in the world.

    Paul writes these things in support of his mission to the gentiles. If being intentional about affirming different entities within the body of Christ wasn't important, why would he travel so far around the known world to be able to reach those peoples? It was important to include many identities in the ministry of Christ, and one can't do that that without a color-seeing intentionality.

    I think the issue isn't in the seeing differences themselves, but in the division resulting from those differences. I believe we are all one body, as Romans 12:4-5 describes, different parts all functioning together. So yes, as the Galatians verse states, we are all one. But that's not the same as been 'one and the same.'

    I don't believe John saw a segregated heaven. I believe he saw many different kinds of people, all praising God together. There different identities, unique but unified (just like the Holy Trinity), makes the worship all the sweeter.

    Your last question is a beautiful one. When Christ died on the cross, he did so for the redemption of individuals, but I also believe it was an act of healing of an entire broken world. It was a means or restoring God's intention of unity, even in the diversity of creation. We can live into that model while we are on earth, by following his instructions for love, humility, and grace with one another. And I believe we will see the completion/perfection of those restored relationships in heaven by God's power and grace.


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