A dying man muses on God’s race

I ran across Alexander McCall Smith’s delightful novels several years ago. Some are loosely designated mysteries. The chief delight for me, though, is in McCall Smith’s warm humor and intellectual depth. It’s a bit like drinking a hot cup of tea laced with antioxidants; the health benefits are present, but disguised by the pleasant warmth of the tea that sinks right down to the soul.

His No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series revolves around Precious Ramotswe, a single female detective in Botswana. She’s feisty, opinionated, and destined to kick the butt of the wannabe bad guys in her path.  Early in the first book of the series, her dying father reflects on his life. And country. And God. And his daughter, Precious.

And as I read his musings, I came across this passage:

“They gave me pills–large white ones–and they told me to take these if the pain in my chest became too great. But these pills make me sleepy, and I prefer to be awake. So I think of God and wonder what he will say to me when I stand before him.

Some people think of God as a white man, which is an idea which the missionaries brought with them all those years ago and which seems to have stuck in people’s mind. I do not think this is so, because there is no difference between white men and black men; we are all the same; we are just people.

–Alexander McCall Smith, The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, pg 19.

Can I have an amen?



14 thoughts on “A dying man muses on God’s race

  1. Yes! Amen! I am always astounded at how Jesus conferred such worth and value on those society despised, whether for ethnic, gender or socioeconomic reasons–and how slow we are to imitate Him in this. I think not only the Galatians verse, but the verse which proclaims the curse of sin is broken–yet we still assign women inferior roles because of Eve’s sin. We are such an obtuse people–and yet declared holy and dearly loved. What magnificent grace!


  2. I thought God was a spirit or spiritual omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient being, and Jesus was God in the flesh. I don’t think Jesus looked like any of the paintings, or stained glass, or piece of flannel I’ve ever seen of him – all done by white people. I don’t know what he looked like in the flesh, but I picture him as dark(er) than most portraits and rugged with his beauty pouring out from his soul through his eyes. But, I also believe Jesus looks like the people who know him and that beauty shines out from their souls and actions. This is my perspective anyway. Yes, grace. One-Way grace. Amen


    1. Annette, I think your observation is good. Keep in mind that McCall Smith doesn’t appear–from my readings, anyway–to believe in God, but he does show respect for those who do believe. He’s also trying to capture the perspective of an elderly black man in Botswana. The character goes on to describe his true spiritual beliefs, which are more animism/pantheistic than monotheistic. So there are limits to what quotes from fiction can accomplish in regard to theology. I just found his observation about God not being “white” interesting.

      I agree with you that Jesus didn’t look like the traditional (white) view of him. He was a middle eastern Jewish man, so he wasn’t the blond-haired, blue-eyed person often shown in paintings. Gorgeous paintings, but historically inaccurate. In the end, it doesn’t really matter what Jesus really looked like, but it does matter what Jesus did: extended grace to us.


    2. Sorry, I don’t know any of Smith’s writings. I just thought because a scripture was quoted, it had become theological. My bad.

      I read a book once that a friend had loaned me. it’s called, “Footsteps to Freedom.” I wanted to read the book again, but couldn’t find it anywhere until I looked it up in the Library of Congress.
      The jacket explains in part, “The story centers around Mulumba, a highly respected pastor in a thriving diamond mining town. In strong emotionally loaded vocabulary…he overcomes to a certain degree the psychological burden of his past, and how his fellow tribesmen seek another avenue…political independence. In all its humanity the black soul is laid bare.,,,(Set in 1964) Literally tens of thousands were massacred. “Footsteps to Freedom” views this…from the inside out.” (The back cover quote from, Jane Nelson says), “Besides a very real understanding of the African perspective, an implication appropriate for racial problems in America emerges.”

      As you can probably guess, I love true stories, or memoirs. That’s my genre. Sorry I prattled on. I was inspired to share this because of his last quote.

      Thanks Laura for your wonderful posts.


      1. Don’t feel bad. I was thinking of some of the theological implications of the fictional character’s words but not all of them.

        Footsteps to Freedom sounds fascinating. I’ll have to look for it. I can always use more insight on racial issues. (I’m kind of stuck being white, so I can’t experience what a black woman of my age/demographic might experience.)


      2. Reading memoir is like stepping into their skin. Just a little plug for my genre.

        I have a grandson who is bi-racial and a daughter-in-law who is Jamaican-American and black. My grandson struggles with those issues more than she does, but of course he’s a teenager. My daughter-in-law is highly educated (MBA) and refined like her mother who is from Jamaica. Many of her relatives are from England, but her dad is from South Africa.

        Liked by 1 person

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