Respect the Image: Racism Dishonors God

Why is white supremacy so horrible? Why are racially motivated, unjust killings so detestable? Racism is wicked because when you deny my humanity, you disrespect God.

People are Special

In Genesis, we learn that human beings are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). People are not God. The line between creator and creature must never be blurred. However, people are not trees or dogs or fish. All creation reflects the glory of God, but humanity reflects God’s image in a unique way.

Imagine a bear is attacking a human and you have a loaded gun. You must choose to shoot – and possibly kill – the bear, or let the bear kill the human. Most of us would agree that, although it would break our heart to kill the bear, the right choice is to save the human.

Most of us would also agree that there is a baseline of decency with which every human should be treated. This is why the Declaration of Independence speaks of “inalienable rights.” It’s also why we have prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment and debates about torture. There’s something about humanity that demands it be treated with a certain basic level of respect.

In secular discourse we call this human dignity. From scripture, we know this to be a result of how we were created: in God’s image.

Racism is Wicked

Racism is a denial of this basic, apparent truth. Simply put, racism is a system that creates privilege for some while denying the full humanity of others. When we justify the murder of black people and talk about black men like rabid dogs that need to be put down, we deny their humanity. When we objectify the bodies of black women and put them on display like freaks of nature, we deny their humanity. When we reduce Mexican immigrants to drug smuggling rapists, or treat every brown person like a terrorist, we deny their humanity.

White supremacy and racism aren’t just attacks against non-white people. They are attacks against humanity, and ultimately against God. 1 John 4:20 says that we are liars if we claim to love God but hate our brothers and sisters. We show that we honor God by how we live, and especially by how we treat those created in His image. When you dehumanize me, you disrespect the God who made me.

I am a human. I demand to be treated as human, not because I am awesome, but because my Creator is.

Respect me. Respect the Image.

Post Script

You can listen to two excellent talks on this topic that are infinitely better than what I’ve written above. One was released recently by Jemar Tisby (@JemarTisby) on the Pass The Mic podcast. The other was released by Ekemini Uwan (@sista_theology) on the Truth’s Table podcast. I highly recommend both talks and both podcasts.

Post Post Script

You can also order T-shirts that say “Respect The Image” from my store. Yes, I made and am selling the shirts. Yes, this is a shameless plug. And, yes, I could really, really use the support.