Locked in my Box

The institution of race broke America at its foundations.  It will not be enough to tinker here that there.  We need to envision a new way of being together. Fundamentally, this will mean the interrogation of all our assumptions about how our society should be.  It will mean imagining a world where everyone –especially the least of these—has enough to thrive….Search. Find. Show Up. Follow…That’s how you become an ally/accomplice to the movement to repair what race has broken. from p. 157, The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right,  by Lisa Sharon Harper.

NOTE: The 2020 Collins Summit, featuring guest lecturer Lisa Sharon Harper, is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 18, at a Portland location to be determined.  https://emoregon.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Voice_2020_Spring_4-pages.pdf )

Harper is writing from the perspective of a black woman citizen of the USA; I read her words while contemplating the ongoing oppression of those refugees seeking asylum in the USA, now incarcerated in our for-profit prison systems.

Hours after hosting the Oregon Idaho Methodist Federation for Social Action on line Immigration ZOOM event, watching LOCKED IN A BOX. https://pda.pcusa.org/pda/resource/video-immigration-detention/ , I settled into my  familiar bog of numb inaction.  

The Immigrants seeking a place for asylum are being locked in a box by the government which I, as a voter in a democracy, am a part of.  My own known and unconscious bias, fear of the other and my guilt and anger lock me in a box as well.  I am frozen and unresponsive, even though I am free and privileged.  I am as useless as a dead body, a zombie, in making any difference to those immigrants locked away.

Harper reflects on Genesis 1:26-31 where God declares that all humanity is made in the image of God, and in that breath of God, all humanity has been given dominion (i.e. the ability to lead).  Then she moves to remind me that all of us have dominion by shining light through that familiar passage of Isaiah 61:1-5/ Matthew 4: 18-19.   Everyone is a a leader!

The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; The Lord has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed….  (3) They (The Oppressed) will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display God’s glory.  (4) (The Oppressed) shall build up the ancient ruins, (the oppressed) shall raise up the former devastations; (The Oppressed) shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.

Harper highlighted verses 3-4, suggesting that it is the oppressed who shall repair the ruined cities!  Harper notes that in the organizing principles from Black Lives Matter, young black people must always be up-front, leading any initiative.   Harper might be suggesting to me, “Brenda, perhaps you are not the one to fix this.  Perhaps God’s word in Isaiah is true: The oppressed shall repair the devastations of many generations.”  I am invited to be a learner, an ally, a follower of leaders.  How might that be true in work with Immigrant Rights networks?

One of my many pastors, Rev. Darren Cushman Wood, preached  May 17 about the Bodily Resurrection   https://northchurchindy.com/worship-and-sermon-audio/

He suggests that the body matters.  The Body of Christ is alive, living and active in the world.  Jesus (nor the church) is not a dead body, not a zombie.  He sighted the Lutheran Churches in central Germany who have installed, in all 3000 of their parishes, windmills as alternative power sources.  Darren used the metaphor of the windmill, as an alternative energy source, to illustrate the power of the Risen Body for us.

We who are baptized into the wind of the Risen Christ, are energized, moved, powered not by the powers of domination that prevail in our culture but by the breath of God.  This is hard, long work and it is not done by our money, hard work, or service (nor our church’s).  

In my isolated musings, I think of my own zombie-like response to Immigration, and the daily news on many fronts.  I try to remember we (as individual followers of Christ or as the Body of Christ/Church) are indeed blown/ powered by an alternative force that is beyond us yet moves through us. 

I learned as a hospice chaplain, that “the dying are our teachers”.  Immigrants are the ones we have been waiting for, who are building up, raising and healing our communities.  I am invited out of the white privileged savior box, where I so often lock myself.  Can I begin to bring myself, along with the resources I have, to learn from the oppressed, the least of these?  

I wonder if I can begin to simply show up, not to lead but to follow, to be an ally of those whom God will use to bring restoration to the ruined cities.  Meeting an immigrant, learning their story, reflecting to them the divine face of God in their being, is enough.  A place to start.  A way to become an ally and let go of the guilt of not being able to transform the ‘The institution of race broke America at its foundations.’  

Carrie Newcomer’s wisdom comes to mind: “Three Feet or So” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93cjFIjO5NI

I also pause to wonder at the natural world around us – outside all boxes!

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