Choose to love
January 14, 2024
“The moment we choose to love we begin to move against domination, against oppression. The moment we choose to love, we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others.” — bell hooks (Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations, 1994)
Freedom: the quality or state of being free: such as 1. the ability to fully participate socially, economically, and civically in society; 2. the ability to navigate society with agency and authenticity without fear of persecution.
We all live in a world shaped by colonization and white supremacy. A world that allotted few “freedom” while systemically oppressing the majority. As a Black woman, my ability to be free is hindered by being coerced into conformity, through the shaming and criminalizing of my culture, the defunding of my communities, and the silencing and invalidating of my voice and experiences. The impact of these acts of oppression is at the least life-altering and at the worst fatal for those of us at the margins:
- As of November 2022, at least 32 trans and gender nonconforming people were killed.
- Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women
- Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders have the highest rate of homelessness, 109 out of every 10,000 people, compared to 11 out of every 10,000 for white people.
- Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police, yet 1.3 times more likely to be unarmed compared to white people.
- Indigenous women working full time, year-round typically are paid only 58 cents for every dollar paid to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts, leading to a lifetime loss of $977,720.
Statistics prove that those who are not cisgender, male, heterosexual and/or white are more likely to experience negative life outcomes. Those outcomes stem from individual bias, interpersonal violence and structural or systemic oppression. Because of anti-Black racism, statistics also prove that Black people at all our intersections (Black women, Black queer people, Afro-latinx folk, Afro-Indigenous folk, etc.) face the brunt of this violence. We are still not free. As Christians, if we are charged by God to love, and freedom is birthed out of love, then the continued oppression of our siblings in Christ suggests that we have fallen short.
The liberation of God’s people requires us to ACT, to act justly and to love mercy and walk humbly (Micah 6:8). Christians especially must ACT. We especially must declare that Black Lives Matter; both because God calls us to and because Christianity plays a dominant role in the violence Black and other marginalized people face. The ugly truth is the Bible was and is used as a tool of oppression in our homes, in our churches and in the laws of this nation. We have been conditioned by the man-made interpretations of the Bible that justified the acts of the enslavement of African people, the theft of Indigenous land, the suppression of women, and the violence of queer and trans people. We must acknowledge that truth. We must differentiate the teachings of God from our own biases. When we do not, the conflation of the two perpetuates systemic oppression and serves as a conductor of hate and violence that marginalized people experience daily.
The freedom God intended for us is possible. The ways in which to move toward it, though trying, are not unknown or futile. Isaiah 61 gives specific instructions on what the work of liberation looks like.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
God is clear in God’s directive. Our obligation to love one another and to seek justice means we are also obligated to take on the work of the liberation of God’s people. I charge each of us to take these steps within our individual power:
Intentionally learn and acknowledge the ways in which our own actions cause harm, uphold white supremacy culture and perpetuate systemic oppression;
Identify, evaluate and overcome our implicit bias;
Center and affirm marginalized people in all our authenticity and humanity; and
Speak out against injustices. Being silent is being complicit with violence. Staying neutral is being complicit with violence.
I charge you to reflect on what moving toward freedom looks like for you. What does it sound like, what does it feel like? In your own microcosm of the world, where can you choose to love?
Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, January 14, 2024, the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
Today’s Focus: Racial & Intercultural Justice — Presbyterians Affirm Black Lives Matter
Let us join in prayer for:
Let us pray
God of justice, hope, love and mercy, help us to continually live into the church that you have called us to be. Compel us to stand against injustice wherever it may be found. Provoke us to hold firm to the gospel message of inclusion and equity. And empower us to continually be salt and light in a world that so desperately needs more representation of your Spirit. We love you and strive to love others in the same way. Through God’s grace, in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen and Ase.
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