From Where I Sit: The Myth of Neutrality and The Way It Causes Harm
A few months ago I wrote a piece called: John Legend, Jollof, and Jesus- On Decolonizing Our Approach To Bible Study and in it, I talked about the need for developing a hermeneutic of suspicion so that we can embrace the perspectives of others and have a more robust and informed view of God. I also talked about "social location" but didn't go into much detail. Due to an increasing number of requests, I decided I would write a follow up to that article.
What Is Social Location?
Social location forms the lenses through which people read and interpret Scripture. All people come to the text with certain assumptions and experiences that are, to a great extent, based on the groups with which they identify and into which they were enculturated. No one comes to the hermeneutical task without preconceived assumptions, life experiences, or cultural biases. Social location affects what we see or don't see in the text. It affects our notions of power and privilege; it affects the questions we ask the Spirit while reading. That's why it is extremely unfortunate that, for the most part, American Christianity has been shaped, propagated, and disseminated by those who are white, heterosexual, evangelical, male, protestant, and politically conservative. I will be using the acronym WHEMPC (pronounced wimps) for the remainder of this piece.
At Sub:Culture, we understand “racism” to be a general term that addresses the human-made hierarchy based on skin color. Those without melanin are at the top of this social order and those with melanin are at the bottom, with everyone else in-between. “Racism” describes how people in this hierarchy treat each other (as individuals or as groups). Instead of being one human race, we now are different races. In this new race-based world, we use melanin as a reason to steal, kill, and destroy one another. While it is important to address racism in general, our curriculum focuses on the root problem of racism: Whiteness.
At the outset, I feel like it is important for me to say that whiteness is not an ethnic identity. In other words, no one person can be whiteness. In the same vein, everyone has the potential to be affected by and infected with whiteness. But what is whiteness? Why are people talking about it so much all of a sudden? My team and I have done a lot of thinking about the concept of whiteness because we recognize it as one of the primary barriers facing Black college students. In fact, of the four categories our organization has identified as focus/target areas as we seek to remove barriers, whiteness has its tentacles in all four of them.
Whiteness gets at the lack of self-love White people have had for themselves ever since European colonialism began half a millennium ago. Whiteness is a mindset that says that White people have loved themselves well by making the world bow to their economic, political, and social needs. But this mindset has been a lie. True love of self leads to humility, but Whiteness has given us arrogance. True love of self leads to dependence on one’s neighbor, but Whiteness has instead encouraged European peoples to manipulate their neighbor, both their human (e.g., African, indigenous) and non-human neighbors (e.g., trees, chickens, soil).
Whiteness puts White people at the center of the world and says that what White people want and fear should be the standard and that the rest of the world should want those things as well. White people might have set up hierarchies in which they are the ones chiefly able to manipulate the earth and other peoples, but in our estimation, this does not mean that they are loving themselves well. Whiteness actually hurts those it claims to help. 
So, When it shows up in theology, as the exclusive epistemological framework, it is really dangerous.
Whiteness assumes that it is objective, and thus statements WHEMPC make become a universal truth. This lack of diversity in interpretation and platform has resulted in a kerygmatic gospel that is completely foreign to the very origins of the faith, in terms of interpretation being defined by social location. Thus, what has been preached here in America, for the most part, was not Christianity so much as a sort of Patriotic Christendom. Patriotic Christendom makes Jesus our Lord an object used for manipulation and control rather than the subject of adoration, meditation and worship.
Laying the foundation for social location, helps the reader to understand why it's problematic for churches shaped by unchecked and unchallenged WHEMPC to make definitive declarations about sacred spaces like Standing Rock, or Minneapolis or generalized statements about "what God is doing” in a given scenario.
In light of all this, once one begins to take into account the volume of literature, music, institutions, platforms, conferences, scholars, pastors and para-church organizations that have been led by WHEMPC, it is not hard to see the correlation from there. It helps us to see not only why from a theological standpoint, WHEMPC find it necessary to speak into societal issues. From there, it isn't hard to understand why:
1. they so confidently speak into issues that affect communities they have no proximal relationship to. For them, the gospel is all "they" need.
2. the solipsism that permeates whiteness, and the whiteness which permeates theology makes the idea that sin can be in systems and institutions seem ridiculous. Theology riddled with whiteness can't imagine another source for oppression and wickedness than individual people, making the solution to the problem: individual conversion and baptism as opposed to protest and civic action.
3. they cannot see abortion, for instance, as a supply and demand issue. This causes them to mercilessly judge and assassinate the character of those seeking to apply their pro-life values to the demand side of the issue, as opposed to simply hoping the government removes the supply.
4. They can elect a racist, misogynistic leader with a clear conscience, defend the choice biblically, and comfortably keep the critique of this choice in the realm political differences rather than prophetic discernment.
On Changing Narratives
It sounds nice, but changing the narrative, assumes there was something wrong with it, to begin with. Often, WHEMPC will make presumptuous comments like this without realizing that it implies that they are deeply aware of the plight, deeply engaged in the fight, and deeply connected to the people who started it, when usually they are not. The narrative is not theirs to change, but they think it is.
A.W. Tozer Wasn't Lying
All the problems of heaven and earth, though they were to confront us together and at once, would be nothing compared to the overwhelming problem of God: That He *is*; what He is *like*; and what we as moral beings must *do* about Him. - A.W. Tozer
Brother Tozer wasn’t lying when he said that the man who comes to a right belief about God is relieved of ten thousand temporal problems. This means that conversely, the men who come to problematic conclusions about God, will create A bunch of problems too.
The problem with "white" theology is that it assumes objectivity. That comes from a superiority complex created by white colonialists. The idea that I am just about the "gospel" or I just "preach the word" or I am all about the "kingdom" all of these ideas are abstract and unhelpful when a person has not done the work of understanding how their social location plays into it. Social location means where you live, who you surround yourself with, what sector of society you are accustomed to, whether or not you are a minority. All of those things play into the reading of the text, but since whiteness has been "normalized," it causes most Americans to believe that their theology is objective and biblical.
For instance, often, we say that John piper or Matt Chandler preach sound biblical theology, and in the same breath, we say James Cone or Howard Thurman preach subjective black theology. See the difference? There is biblical, and there is black, now if you are someone who takes the Bible seriously, which one would carry more weight? From that vantage point, black theology can be taken less seriously, when in actuality, black and indigenous peoples have a social location and experience that is much more familiar to Israel and the Historical Jesus of Nazareth. The problem is that whiteness has imbedded in us a belief that women and/or people of color are only "sound" when they interpret the Scripture from a perspective that is foreign to them.
Food For Thought
If all the leaders, all the pictures, all the authors all the worship leaders, all the "heroes," all the revivalists, all the theologians who represent God, look the same—is it any wonder that, if social location is real, right belief about God could've been conformed to the image of a white male? This is not to say that there is anything wrong with being a white male; it was an intentional, deliberate act by a good Creator, who makes beautiful things. The point is that in our nation's history, being white and male comes with a social location that has eluded everyone who was not white and male. This social location has most certainly been projected onto their interpretation of the text, meaning that what most of us have been taught as sound, biblical theology never went through a process of acknowledging that perspective. That’s why we’ve been given an evangelical container that can’t handle the weight of all these dead black bodies that are continually being piled upon it.
Having said all that, I leave you with a question.
Is it possible that since historically and for so long, WHEMPC have controlled the flow of theology (having had more money, more resources, more access to seminary, as well as a monopoly on publishing, on pulpits and ministry platforms) that there might be cause for an examination of what may be reticent in what we've come to believe about God, and what we've come to reject; about what we call justice, and what we call socialism, about what we call revival and what we call rebellion?
I myself am on this journey, and while it has not been easy, it has been emancipatory.
 Excerpt is taken from a Different Kind of Communion: A Historical & Contextual Guide for Effective Ministry to Black Students.