Jesus was privileged. I know that statement goes against the popular trend to find the historical Jesus. Yes, as a human he was a carpenter, his mother gave the poor person’s offering (a dove) after his birth and on top of that he was born in a barn to teenage parents. Now, if we take the fundamental notion of the Christian faith seriously, then we have to acknowledge or accept that Jesus was God. As God, (in the flesh) Jesus had access to God (the Father, or for the purposes of gender inclusion, God, not in the flesh) in a way that other human beings had not up until his earthly arrival. This access allotted Jesus a particular privilege in the cosmos. And in line with the biblical narrative whatever he came to God (not in the flesh) for was granted. So, it wouldn’t be outside the realm of reason to think that Jesus’ privilege played an incredible role in the work of reconciling humanity and God.
Reconciling humanity and God would first be an acknowledgement that God and humanity were separated. Separation, in the case of classical theology would have started when Adam and Even ate the forbidden fruit. But I would suggest that this separation started the moment God put limitations to the kinds of interaction Adam and Eve had with God and the garden. Classical theology would suggest that these limitations in the forms of rules were boundaries meant to protect Adam and Eve by providence of God’s omniscience. I think that’s crap. When God put these restrictions on the way they related to God and the earth, God was explicitly saying “we can only be in relationship if you abide by these rules.” These boundaries were essentially a separation in their own right. One wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that God had the right to test God’s relationship with Adam and Eve. After all, God created them and in the words of some of my friends God “didn’t know them like that” to fully trust them with all that God was or the fullness of God’s creation. So, when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit they were testing the limits to God’s relationship with them and in doing so discovered the fragility of that relationship. If we take this supposition seriously then reconciliation between humanity and God assumes responsibility on both parties 1) God, for creating initial boundaries of separation, constraining the God human relationship and 2) Humanity, by pushing beyond the limits of God’s constraints, causing the subsequent clauses of God’s relational contract with them to be activated.
Fast forward to the life of Jesus. Being the human incarnation of God (not in the flesh) his ultimate goal was to provide a path that reconnected God and humanity. Jesus was the reconciler. Full God and full human, he had what it took to bridge the gap. He could fully grasp what it meant to have the power to set the rules that protected his privilege. He also knew the importance of civil disobedience because he realized the structural problems associated with constrained relationality and power imbalances. What he did next was perfect. He used the privilege associated with the part of him that was God to make the cosmic God-human relationship whole again. It was Jesus’ humanity that helped him fully grasp the problem, but it was the part of him that was God that was able to fix it once and for all.
Now in the context of our time one might see how the privilege white people experience places them in the role of Jesus. They are human, but they are connected to a higher power (the government, which structurally privileges whiteness) in a way that folks of other ethnicities are not. I’m definitely not saying that white people are God and it is their role to save us. Not even close. What I am saying is they have a privileged part of them that is associated with the structural power imbalance in this country/world and that since Christianity is the dominantly expressed believe system of those who actively hold these harmful ideologies (yes, even apathy is harmful) to those who do not look like them. I think that if Jesus as privileged reconciler was utilized more often as the example for those who embody white privilege (knowingly or not) then there would be no denying how much sense it makes to use that privilege to bring true reconciliation that destroys structural power imbalance and introduces the liberation people of color need. Because if we’re honest, Black folks have been screaming at the top of our lungs for a while now (400+ years) and things are starkly the same.