On Sunday, University of Pennsylvania professor of religion Anthena Butler penned a response to George Zimmerman’s acquittal criticizing what she sees as religiously motivated racism that allowed Trayvon Martin to die and Zimmerman to walk free. Most controversially, Butler wrote that many white Americans worship a racist god who is biased against African-Americans.
"God ain’t good all of the time. In fact, sometimes, God is not for us. As a black woman in a nation that has taken too many pains to remind me that I am not a white man, and am not capable of taking care of my reproductive rights, or my voting rights, I know that this American god ain’t my god. As a matter of fact, I think he’s a white racist god with a problem. More importantly, he is carrying a gun and stalking young black men."
As Butler continued the post, she called out right-wing institutions like the Koch brothers and the NRA as perpetuating a cycle of religiously motivated racism and violence against African-Americans.
"As a historian of American and African-American religion, I know that the Trayvon Martin moment is just one moment in a history of racism in America that, in large part, has its underpinnings in Christianity and its history. Those of us who teach American Religion have a responsibility to tell all of the story, not just the nice touchy-feely parts. When the good Christians of America are some of its biggest racists, one has to consider our moral responsibility to call out those who clearly are not for human flourishing, no matter what ethnicity a person is. Where are you on that scale? I know where I am."
Since Butler’s post went live on Wednesday, it has drawn considerable attention from media outlets like Fox News and the Huffington Post, leading to a large amount of backlash against Butler and her views, which she believes have been misinterpreted.
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On Wednesday, Butler appeared on the Huffington Post Live to clarify her views expressed in the Religion Dispatches piece. She stated that her piece was widely misinterpreted. Butler claims that the literal deity God is not a racist, but that many white Americans worship a racist misrepresentation of the real God.
"First of all they don't understand it's between small 'g' god and big 'G' God," Butler told the Huffington Post. "Big 'G' God is the deity. Little 'g' is different kinds of gods. Anyone who reads Religion Dispatches knows this. ... But this was especially touchy for [conservative Christians] because I hit on some things that are kind of true."
According to her biography on the University of Pennsylvania’s website, Butler holds both a doctorate and a masters degree in religion from Vanderbilt University and a masters in theology from the Fuller Theological Seminary. She is the author of “Women in the Church of God In Christ: Making a Sanctified World,” published by the University of North Carolina Press, and plans to release her next book, “The Gospel According to Sarah: How Sarah Palin and the Tea Party are Galvanizing the Religious Right” with the New Press in 2014.
The University of Pennsylvania has not issued a public response regarding Butler’s comments.