I know many of my followers might be skeptical of the concept of “whiteness” and may bristle at the question, “Can white people be saved?” If that’s you — and even if it’s not — I invite you to read this stellar essay by Dr. Willie Jennings on the subject:

To speak of whiteness is not to speak of particular people but of people caught up in a deformed building project aimed at bringing the world to its full maturity. What does maturity look like, maturity of mind and body, land and animal (use), landscape and building, family and government? Whiteness is a horrific answer to this question formed exactly at the site of Christian missions.

Whiteness as we now know it and experience it emerged at a moment in human history when the world in all its epistemological density was opening up to those we would later call Europeans. Early Europeans entered worlds overwhelming in every way, not just in majestic beauty but also in stunning landscapes, not just with inexplicable animals in their mind-bending variety but with a vast array of differing languages carried by different peoples. These settlers in these new places asked themselves the question, Who am I in this strange new place? This is the right question, the holy and good question. The newness of place should provoke such questions. The question is never the root of selfishness. Selfishness grows from its answer.

This podcast series from Scene On Radio is a much longer exploration of the history that Jennings alludes to:

Posted by Matthew Loftus

Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at www.MatthewAndMaggie.org

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