When we talk about God, we tend to use words like light, and white to talk about his power and purity. Unfortunately, this terminology can lead to a very dangerous thought that God is not found in the dark. Throughout history, this has lead to a violent theological framework. It was an idea that supported American chattle slavery. It supported Jim Crow laws, and segregation. It’s a theological framework we’d like to assume is left in the past. However, many of us in the modern church have stories of Sunday school teachers who still held on to these ideas, and share them with their young disciples (it’s me, I’ve got some stories).
God’s Holy Darkness by Sharei Green and Becka Selnick is a needed theological work for our churches and families. With a powerful message and illustrations making it accessible for littles, this book shares a message for the whole congregation that God is also found in the darkness.
What I Love
I love that this book is addressing a topic so rare to be touched on in picture books. Though we have seen a rise in anti-racism resources for children, few touch on the theological implications of racism. Through breathtaking artwork of Imago Dei in black and brown bodies, this work combats the roots of white supremacist ideologies in the church.
I also love that this book shows where God has shown up in darkness throughought scripture. That God was there in the dark hovering over the waters (Genesis 1). God spoke to Abraham on a dark night (Genesis 15). And indeed, Jesus’ last supper and the establishment of the Eucharist took place as the day turned to night (Luke 22).
God does not just show up in the light, but in the darkness. And when we embrace this, it helps our faith communities move away from the harmful theologies that have taken root in our congregations (both explicitly and subtly).
What My Kids Love
My kids loved the illustrations. Often times so much more is spoken through the images than the text. They loved the diverse representations offered. My 6 year-old even noted a friend from school wears the same hair style as one of the ladies in the book, showing me she can see her friends represented. And isn’t that what we want? We want our children to see themselves and their friends in the faith resources we offer. When we talk about Jesus as Emmanuel, we are saying ‘God with us.’ And when we offer materials where our littles are represented, we are saying God is with them.
Who Is This Book For
I am not so naive as to believe this book won’t be challenging for some. It really may challenge the theological framework some of us have grown up with. Even if we reject blatant anti-black theology, still the idea of looking at God in the darkness may feel a bit uneasy. However, maybe this is what makes this book a necessary read. I really encourage parents to pick this one up. Sit with it, and where we feel challenged, let’s reflect on why. Then let’s share with our littles. When we offer our children a broader understanding of God, we break the boxes our human minds naturally try to force the divine into. But God is infinitely more than what our minds can imagine. Let’s be brave enough to break out of our own boxes, and venture into offering our littles a more robust theology.