“The Kingdom of God is a mosaic…”
What does it mean when God is presented as male? What does it mean when – from our internal assumptions to our shared cultural imaginings – God is presented as white?
These are the urgent questions Chine McDonald asks in a searing look at her experience of being a Black woman in the white-majority space that is the UK church – a church that is being abandoned by Black women no longer able to grin and bear its casual racism, colonialist narratives and lack of urgency on issues of racial justice.
Part memoir, part social and theological commentary, God Is Not a White Man is a must-read for anyone troubled by a culture that insists everyone is equal in God’s sight yet fails to confront white supremacy; a lament about the state of race and faith, and a clarion call for us all to do better.
I felt a personal connection to this book because I could relate to many of the experiences vulnerably shared, in some cases, it was like I was reading my own life story. Being a memoir, the writing was vulnerable and intimate yet also being social/theological commentary gave a very holistic view to faith, race, and the church, which helped to challenge readers. What I think the author did particularly well highlighted a range of issues related to white supremacy, be it in art, politics colonialism, music, or the media. Painting the picture through her words and research and allowing us as engaged readers to connect the dots and come to our own conclusion.
“Imago Dei – the idea that every human, no matter their colour, has a special quality that resembles the divine beauty of God.” She provides countless examples of where black is considered inferior and as a result undermined e.g., in childbirth, sport, education and in interracial relationships. This quote is a reminder that we are all made in the image and likeness of God, that regardless of how Jesus or God are depicted we are His creation, fearfully and wonderfully made.
A section that stood out to me was in the chapter “Africa is not a country” where she wrote the lyrics to the Igbo Christian song “Imela” in a cathedral rather than giving a speech just indicating that some emotions can’t be articulated but are better sung. Not necessarily a critique but a part I lost a bit of interest was extensive chapters on the “other revelations” such as discussions on the treatment of young black children in education, childbirth for black women, Africa is not a country, black death, black sisterhood. Whilst these are profound topics, they have been covered excessively by other authors and for me personally, the most striking part of this whole book is how Chine McDonald craftily and meticulously demonstrated to us that the Kingdom of God is a mosaic, bursting a lot of myths and reaffirming a lot of readers who may have felt inferior within church settings. Contributions from pastors with multicultural or all-white/ all-black congregations would have been an interesting addition to the book content.
Overall, this book was immaculately written, well researched and heartfelt. Chine McDonald through her command of the English language takes us on a journey of faith, self-discovery and personal revelation. I think anyone who has ever doubted their place in the church due to their race should read this book but also pastors of interracial/all-white/all-black churches, however, anyone looking for an insightful read would enjoy this book.