Guest Post: The God Who Speaks English
Today's guest post comes from perfectnumber628. Perfectnumber628 grew up evangelical Christian in the northern US, and is now trying to move to China. She blogs at http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ about Christianity, feminism, Chinese, and everything else.
I thought God was white.
Of course I didn’t actually think God was white. If someone would have asked me, “is God white?” I would have laughed and said of course not. God doesn’t have any race, because God’s not a person, obviously.
But I still subconsciously thought God was white. And American. And a lot like me.
I grew up in a white, Protestant, suburban church in the northern US. It’s a great church, but the lack of diversity seems to have given me a very skewed view of who God is. I subconsciously assumed God was like my pastors and Sunday school teachers- white, American, native speakers of English.
But everything changed when I went to China on a mission trip.
I encountered a culture totally different than anything I had ever experienced- and a God who was already alive and active in that culture. I encountered a language I couldn’t understand- and a God who was worshiped in that language by my Chinese brothers and sisters. I encountered cultural differences and misunderstandings- and a God who understood everything that I couldn’t.
But more than that, I felt like I had discovered a whole new world. China was so different that it was hard for me to even believe that both China and the US could exist at the same time. So amazing, so fascinating, that I felt I had no choice but to dedicate my life to learning the language and culture, and hopefully someday I’d go live there. (And “learning the language and culture” is exactly what I’ve been doing in the years since then.)
But how could God understand what I was feeling?
In China, I’d seen another side of God, but I still had this subconscious assumption that God was like the people at my church. People who thought it was brave of me to go on a mission trip to somewhere so weird and different. People who reacted with surprise when I told them I planned to move to China. People who, after I had learned Chinese, were astonished that it was possible for someone like me to learn Chinese. People who thought that obviously I was supposed to live in the US, and the only reason to move to China was if God forced me to go there as a missionary. People who thought the US was obviously the best country.
(And actually, for some of those descriptions, I’m not really talking about “people from my church”- I’m talking about ME.)
I thought God was a white American man, with headquarters in the US and a plan to send people out from there to the less awesome parts of the world, because apparently God’s required to love those people too, even though they’re not American. I thought God’s first language was English and he learned the other ones in school. I thought God visited all the other countries and had a good time, but spent most of his time in the US. (And like I said, all of these horrible, racist, blatantly wrong ideas were totally subconscious. I totally didn’t know I thought of God that way- until going to China changed my life.)
The truth is, my God is the God of the whole world. But subconsciously I still fear that it’s not true. I fear that God doesn’t understand- because it seems like nobody understands. Because I don’t even understand. I just know I need to go to China.
My God is the God of the whole world, with absolutely no special preference toward the white American English-speaking subculture that I come from. According to Christianity, this has to be true- but I still struggle with it. I still struggle with this image of a God stuck in a white American church.
But that fake God won’t stop me. Soon, I’m moving to China, and I expect to find God already there.