Find Me All These Places:
This work is licensed by Rev. Jessica A. Harren under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Here’s what I learned in my Week 2 journey of #decolonizeyourspirit. Click on the two links above to see the first and second installments of the series. Also, if you wouldn't have gone into a Speakeasy during prohibition, this might not be the place for your hang out online. Things get really honest here.
Note: The word “we” in this article refers to white people, mostly the ones who have been part of maintaining the institution of the church for generations. This is the only context from which I am qualified to share.
Although Christianity started out as an oppressed faith and group of people, when it became legal, Christians became the colonizers. That is, people who took over other’s cultures and lands in the name of “saving” them. The rub, of course, is that most often the people who were being “saved” (read: oppressed, stolen, harmed, hurt) were perfectly happy before we used our faith to “save” them.
Jesus was from an oppressed minority. He lived in an occupied land. Romans were controlling his land – out of town people who told the people there how they should live and what they should be.
Jesus was a political radical in that world. When talking to kids, I say things like “Jesus wanted everyone to share and to have enough money and food and clothing and shelter and love to have a good life. But the Romans, they wanted to be greedy and take all the money for themselves.” (When there is so much talk about taxes in the New Testament, it is largely money that is sent to Rome or used to pay for the oppressor’s army.)
Jesus held a protest parade against this oppressive occupation on Palm Sunday. He rode through the streets while people called him “King.” He has been preaching, teaching, and healing. He has been saying that the oppressed could go free, and have a good life without Caesar, and without the worship of Caesar.
Jesus was tried and convicted of treason. It was treason to say anything other than that Caesar was God. Jesus said God was God. He was guilty of violating the laws of his land, and he died for it.
God did something amazing with it, though. God took this death, and created new life. A promise that death isn’t the end, New Life, Hope, and Resurrection are always the best part of the story – in this life or in the next.
So, I’m frustrated. I’m frustrated that my faith that started out as so radically freeing got domesticated. We created a meek and mild WHITE Jesus who holds lambs and loves kids. We imagine that we can never be the Romans occupying the land, or the Pharisees performing religion instead of having a relationship with God, ourselves, others, and creation.
Except we have been. In Europe and the US, our faith has been used to support slavery, Jim Crow laws, the KKK, and the current enslavement and overincarceration of mostly people of color. Jesus caused a protest march, do you really think his highest priority was “law and order”? Jesus was always disrupting the system.
We colonized this land by taking it over, and often other countries. Our “missions” involve bullying people into accepting Jesus to get food and clothing. Our “Crusades” hurt untold numbers of people, families, and Holy sites, and are part of the mess the world is in today.
I’m ready to start being honest about the harm the church has caused over generations. I’m ready to have a Jesus who disrupts the systems of power that keep some as the haves and some as the have nots. I’m ready for a Jesus that fully embraces the humanity of all, including calling those with power into being more fully human and to stop oppressing others.
There are so many things in our history that have been used to oppress, and there are so many things that can liberate.
We can liberate the story of Jesus to see him as he challenged the Roman and Jewish institutional authorities.
We can liberate the story of Jesus wanting everyone to have enough, and stop hording.
We can liberate the full created humanity of everything God made, including all kinds of people and creation.
We can offer ourselves the forgiveness of God to move forward to action. A way to let go of the white guilt, white feelings, and shame that often keeps us from seeing the big picture and the harm we are causing. We can rest in the knowledge that God forgives those who “turn around” (the literal meaning of repentance). Therefore, we can give up on ever expecting or wishing for forgiveness from the communities we’ve harmed. That is not their job, it is God’s. And both those communities and God require that we work to undo some of the harm that we’ve caused, even if it was before our lifetimes. Jesus wasn’t just about feeling good about ourselves as church going people, Jesus was about the liberation of humanity.
Can you get on board? What is the hardest part for you learning to #decolonizeyourspirit? Although being honest is painful, it can also bring liberation, and the promise that after the pain, comes healing. After staring at death and the tomb, we always have the promise of New Life, and that is the most liberating concept of all.
Pastor Jess, Author
Loves Jesus, Loves and Hates the Church at the Same Time, Calling Us to Honestly, ELCA Pastor