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Chaplain Joe Molina CDR, UMSC / Chaplain to the Corps of Cadets
“What color is God?” That was the question that a six-year-old African-American boy named James McBride asked his Jewish mother. James was the offspring of an interracial marriage. As he became more aware of the important things of life, his thoughts had turned to God. So, as is natural of children his age he started asking questions, which brings us to the question: “What color is God?” In his autobiographical account (The Color of Water, Riverhead Books 1996) Mr. McBride relates that the question came up one day as he and his mother walked home from church. The young McBride wanted to know whether God was black or white. A very wise mother answered the question in the most creative fashion: “Honey, God is not black. God is not white.” Smiling, she continued, “God is the color of water. Water doesn’t have color and everybody can drink it, regardless of color.”
That was a wise response! Her answer did not miss a beat and it came from the heart and lips of one who had captured a teaching/learning moment with her child. Those moments with our children represent great opportunities to pass along eternal values and truths that will plant seeds of understanding for living healthy lives.
The six-year-old was responding to a natural instinct in the human being. He had a need to know. The child was also prepared to start perceiving God through the prism or lens of a particular culture, race or tradition. His mother had set the matter straight by heading off any misconception. She had pointed out the timeless truth that God cannot be placed in a cultural “box.” She wanted her son to understand that if we are to worship and come to know God, it must be unhindered by personal prejudice or cultural stereotype. We must be careful not to categorize God through our own misconceived expectations. God is so much greater than our own, small misconceptions. You see, God’s reality transcends our personal agendas.
What color is your God? What language does my God speak? What ethnicity/culture does my God prefer? Through the experience of a James McBride or a Martin Luther King Jr. we are challenged to examine our view of the Almighty and shatter any and all pre-conceived personal notions of God’s eternal character. The sobering reality is that God is for everyone! God speaks everyone’s language and invites every person to a living relationship.
It is recorded that nearly two thousand years ago a certain woman from Samaria (present day Palestine) approached a young Jewish Rabbi. She too needed answers. She had a need to know the “color of God.” She had felt a sense of awkwardness in worshiping and knowing the person of God because she wasn’t quite sure whether her God had a “cultural/ethnic” preference. The young Rabbi had the opportunity to set the matter straight in her mind and in our minds.
The Rabbi’s insight was compelling in its simplicity. It cut through all cultural, ethnic and racial stereotypes as he addressed the very core of the matter. The Rabbi explained that if we are to know and worship God we must do so unhindered by any form of personal prejudice. He was way ahead of his times in affirming basic civil rights. But his approach and focus was spiritual and always pointed towards issues of ultimate importance. Here’s how he answered the woman of Samaria: “God is spirit, and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth.” In other words, God is spirit, that is, no color (color of water), no material body and no cultural/ethnic preference. “Spirit and truth” are the overriding realities.
Well, let’s do this. Close your eyes. Look into your soul and ask: What color is my soul? What culture is it? What language does it speak? Now, open your eyes. My friends, the family of God is a homogenous race. What this means is that after all has been said and done and this journey of life is complete neither race, language nor culture will be the final arbiter because God is for everyone who know and worship the Almighty in sprit and truth.