Confronting White Supremacy In Christianity As A Christian South Asian

If white people (Christian or not) can practice “yoga” with goats and beer, there’s no way I’m giving up the rest of my culture for their vision of my faith.

“Oh, really? I didn’t expect that…” a puzzled reaction plenty of people have had after realizing that I’m a Christian. I can’t say that I blame them, given that even today I don’t necessarily fit the standard ideal of what a Christian looks like on the outside.


Christianity as a practice has long been a whitewashed glorification of fabricated superiority, its history of white supremacy manifested through colonialism and genocide across the globe. Yet, it is in part because of such monstrosities that people like me have been pushed into the Christian circle and remained there fueled by confusion, frustration, sometimes anger, and most importantly, faith.


I was born into a Christian home long after my parents and grandparents had converted from Hinduism. I had a christening, volunteered at my church, and attended Sunday School regularly as a child followed by Youth Group throughout my adolescence. I spent just as much time doing Sunday School projects and assignments as I did my regular homework, memorized Bible verses to win church competitions, participated in holiday plays, sang in the choir, and soaked up as many of Jesus’ teachings as I could. Most importantly, I did so eagerly, not only because it pleased my parents and pastors but because I wholeheartedly wanted to.


As I got older and transitioned between junior church and the congregation, I noticed a distinct shift. Instead of learning how to more accurately follow Jesus I was now required to obey Paul, the Apostle. Depending on the church and pastor, instead of hearing more about the Gospel or understanding the contextual teachings of the Old Testament, I was being instructed on how to convert my non-Christian friends and taught that homosexuality for some, was the reason why the world would end in 2012 (Spoiler Alert: it didn’t). I easily dismissed much of what I’d heard within my own interpretation of the Bible.


I was never convinced that spreading the Gospel meant actively trying to convert others at each and every turn, nor could I ever fathom that Jesus would reject someone simply because of who they loved while on Earth, it fundamentally wouldn’t make sense based on what I knew about Him, and I’ve never wavered from my stance. The issue that I felt most conflicted with personally, was the notion that any reference or adherence to my Hindu background and Indian culture was viewed as both religious and blasphemous.

Christianity in India highlights a violent history of white supremacy through colonization and mass conversion by Europeans including, the Portuguese, Irish, Dutch, Italian, French, and English many of whom hold cultural influence that has remained to this day in places like Kerala, Pondicherry, and Goa. Similarly, there doesn’t appear to be much of a difference in the diaspora. For instance, my family converted to Christianity while living under the Apartheid regime in South Africa, an entire system of white supremacy supported by ‘Christian’ values.

This idea that maintaining a connection to my ethnic background meant that I was committing a sin has consistently challenged me to this day. Why could I not sing songs of praise to Jesus and also find a different sort of comfort in hearing the Gayatri Mantra play in the background of some random Indian film? Was it really such a big deal that some people had both Hindu and Christian wedding ceremonies? How does one just ignore their entire culture based on the Western classification of what ‘religion’ is? Further, it perplexed me that people who were not Indian decided that I essentially needed to be whitewashed and dismiss the very things that God bestowed upon me Himself. Even now, whenever I meet white Christians – regardless of denomination – there is a never-ending attempt to convert because to them my brown skin screams Hindu, Muslim, or Sikh. If I walk into a new church they always assume I’ve never even heard of Jesus before instead of treating me like they would any normal visitor whereas, Christians of color have never confronted me with such racist assumptions.


It wasn’t until I went to university and devoted part of my degree to studying Christianity in the global context while within a supposedly less biased environment that I truly realized the extent to which white supremacy in Christianity transcends church, denomination, and geography. Rather, it is engrained into the Western manifestation of the tradition at its very core. As a student, I was finally able to objectively critique and understand the problematic nature of evangelism in South Asia and could examine how traditional Indian customs were being stripped away in favor of Eurocentric-Christian traditions. However, I also found that I was usually the only non-white person in my classes and at the very least, the only one who would willingly argue against the narrative that, the result of witnessing Indians come to Christ justifies the horrors of colonialism. A position that to my predominantly religious classmates, implied I was certainly not a believer.


To list every single issue with white supremacy in modern Christianity would take far too long and differ greatly, from the lack of diversity within church leadership to problematic mission trips in developing countries. All the while there are a plethora of Christians of color who have to endure it, often in silence. How to navigate this rhetoric openly is another challenge altogether, one that I’m not sure I know how to combat other than by calling it out. If no one admits that there remains a problem then how can we possibly resolve it? In 2016, 81% of white, evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump in the American election which in my opinion, pretty much sums up the existence of white supremacy within the North American context.


My father used to say, “I go to church for God, not for other people” and perhaps he was right. How else can one stomach walking into a space we were brought into based on a racist interpretation of the Bible? Personally, I know there’s more to my life than what’s on this Earth and I’ll continue to uphold my faith while equitably critiquing its downfalls. If white people (Christian or not) can practice “yoga” with goats and beer, there’s no way I’m giving up the rest of my culture for their vision of my faith.


NM Mennonite Church Becomes First in Denomination to Appoint Openly Lesbian Head Pastor

Lea’s hiring at Albuquerque Mennonite comes as she was in her third year of residency at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. She served at Baptist churches in states like North Carolina, Texas and Wyoming. She also served as the interim pastor of Houston Mennonite Church while the church’s pastor, Marty Troyer, was on sabbatical, Mennonite World Review reports.


A Mennonite church in New Mexico became the first church in its denomination to select an openly LGBT person as head pastor. The Albuquerque Mennonite Church announced Monday that it selected Erica Lea, an open lesbian, to be its new lead pastor.

Lea is a graduate of Truett Seminary at Baylor University, where she was introduced to Anabaptist theology, and has served in a missionary and pastoral capacity for over 10 years.  According to Mennonite World Review, the church stated that it stands behinds Lea’s “strong call to connect with and serve people affected by current immigration policies and racial, social and economic discrimination — as well as a call to provide a beacon and safe haven for the LGBTQ community.”

Lea’s hiring at Albuquerque Mennonite comes as she was in her third year of residency at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. She served at Baptist churches in states like North Carolina, Texas and Wyoming. She also served as the interim pastor of Houston Mennonite Church while the church’s pastor, Marty Troyer, was on sabbatical, Mennonite World Review reports.

“She is passionate about strong Anabaptist ministry and brings a heartfelt theological commitment to her adopted faith family,” Troyer was quoted as saying. “While she served at Houston, our congregation experienced the best pastoral ministry has to offer: preaching, caring and management.”

“Erica is also passionate about Mennonite emphasis on peace witness and radical hospitality,” Troyer added. “Her ministry is rooted in the belief that all people are welcome, and that community is the deepest expression of God’s desires.”

According to the Mennonite World Review, Albuquerque Mennonite Church consists of about 150 members and officially became a LGBT “welcoming community” in 2007. However, it did not immediately join the Brethren Mennonite Council for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Interests.

“Our congregation has a majority of attenders who did not grow up Mennonite — who, like Erica, have chosen to join our faith community,” Andrew Clouse, a member of the church’s search committee, stated. “We look forward to finding more ways of articulating and sharing an Anabaptist faith that can flourish in locally derived expressions of Jesus’s call to discipleship, peacemaking and justice. We think Erica is well-equipped to help us do this.”

The website lists over 70 Mennonite Church USA congregations that are “willing to state publicly that they are welcoming to all, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

According to Sojourners, Mennonite Church USA claims over 70,000 adult members and several openly LGBT individuals serving in associate pastors roles in churches across the nation.

In February, it was reported that the Allegheny Mennonite Conference licensed an openly married lesbian woman, who is an associate pastor at a Mennonite church in Hyattsville. The pastor, Michelle Burkholder, became the third openly LGBT minister credentialed for pastoral service in the Mennonite Church USA.

But as Sojourners points out, “The membership guidelines of the MCUSA define marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman, categorize ‘homosexual…sexual activity as sin,’ and forbid MCUSA pastors from performing same-sex marriages.” Sojourners notes that the denomination has no plans to revisit its guidelines until 2019.

In 2015, Mennonite Church USA passed a resolution stating, “We acknowledge that there is currently not consensus within Mennonite Church USA on whether it is appropriate to bless Christians who are in same-sex covenanted unions.”

“Because God has called us to seek peace and unity as together we discern and seek wisdom on these matters, we call on all those in Mennonite Church USA to offer grace, love and forbearance toward conferences, congregations and pastors in our body who, in different ways, seek to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ on matters related to same-sex covenanted unions,” the resolution, titled “Forbearance in the Midst of Differences,” states.

[written by Samuel Smith]

Pentecostal Pastor Seeks Asylum in Germany, Fears Being Declared a Terrorist by Russia Gov’t

“Practically speaking, we are back in the same situation. These anti-terrorist laws are some of the most restrictive laws in post-Soviet history.”

(PHOTO: REUTERS/DAVID MDZINARISHVILI)A man passes a church during a sunset in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, July 11, 2017.

A Pentecostal pastor has applied for political asylum in Germany and is living there as a refugee with his family, saying that he is fearful of being arrested and treated as a terrorist back home in Russia.

“It is very dangerous to return to Russia. There, I will be declared a terrorist and put behind bars,” pastor Alexey Kolyasnikov said in an interview with Germany’s Deutsche Welle.

Kolyasnikov, his wife and three daughters have been living in a refugee camp in Leverkusen since July. The pastor explained that he chose to go to Germany because “the Protestant Church here is strong.”

The pastor alleged that he has been investigated by Russian authorities simply for practicing his faith. He revealed that one evening back in 2014, he held a gathering with his Pentecostal congregation at a cafe in Sochi, since they do not own a church building.

Kolyasnikov explained that police officers and members of Russia’s main intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service, appeared during the Bible reading, and accused him of holding an unauthorized gathering.

The pastor said that one young woman, who six weeks prior to the incident started attending the meetings, turned out to be aiding an FSB member, and later testified in court against him.

Kolyasnikov was punished with a fine for  organizing “an unauthorized gathering,” which led to him filing an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights.

A letter sent to the public prosecutor’s office of the southern Russian Krasnodar region revealed that Kolyasnikov was also accused of being part of “pro-West Protestant religious movements” and supporting Ukraine in its ongoing strife with Russia.

The pastor insisted, however, that he condemns all forms of violence and bloodshed, and said that he does not understand why he is being mistreated.

He recalled another incident back in 2012, when an FSB major spoke with him in relation to terrorist investigations in Russia, and demanded that he provide a list of his congregation members, along with their personal details.

A number of Christian pastors have reportedly been arrested in Russia after the country’s notorious “anti-missionary” laws, officially aimed at tackling possible terror activities, took effect last year.

Sergei Zhuravlyov, a representative of the Ukrainian Reformed Orthodox Church of Christ the Savior, was one of the first Christian leaders arrested last year while he was preaching before the St. Petersburg Messianic Jewish community.

Zhuravlyov was accused of “fomenting negative attitudes toward the Russian Orthodox Church,” and of having ties to the Ukrainian nationalist political party called Right Sector, which is banned in Russia.

The controversial law, which bans evangelism outside of churches, led to thousands of churches in Russia fasting in opposition back in July 2016.

“This new situation resembles the Soviet Union in 1929. At that time confession of faith was permitted only in church,” said Hannu Haukka, president of Great Commission Media Ministries.

“Practically speaking, we are back in the same situation. These anti-terrorist laws are some of the most restrictive laws in post-Soviet history.”

Norway-based group Forum 18 reported in August that evangelical Christians make up the majority of the 181 cases that have so far been prosecuted by Russian authorities under the law.

The report noted that officials have cracked down on prayer meetings at homes, and on posting worship times on a religious community’s website, which police have interpreted as  banned “missionary activity.”

written by Stoyan Zaimov