There are days that I do not feel okay. I would blame this on depression, but we are living through a pandemic, horrendous racial injustice, violence against women and children, massive gun violence, an insurrection, and a golden Trump. That is not even mentioning being from Texas and who our leaders are to us; the intentional defunding of public schools; the constant increase in police and military funding; climate change hitting us heavily and people still deny it; and the list goes on. These are days to lament. Is it NOT FUNNY that our government was arguing that sending us Covid-19 stimulus relief as a burden to the budget and sent us an amount that would pay for nothing. The new admin, still, has not sent us more. But when it comes to bombing someone or to buy a robotic police dog–there is no issue finding money. Jesus weeps. This does not mean there is nothing good happening, but let me start with some things that I am struggling to get through right now.
I am tired of violent Christianity. There is no escape from it. The United States of America’s history is also violent. While America’s violent history is not unique to us over other nation, what is unique is our denial of our sins. It would be one thing if it were people who did not believe in repentance as essential to living together who are disregarding the need for repentance, but it is Christians. Repentance is foundational to our faith. We are always repenting and returning to God all throughout scripture. Also, none of the people in scripture are Christians. David Dark has made an interesting observation that calling ourselves Christians is unbiblical. Aspiring to be a Beloved Community is a worthy call, and associating ourselves with Jesus and the prophets. I would also add associating with women. What a missing link in the world, listening to women and our experiences. This is a lot to unpack and I will address it more completely another day. I put it in here to start reimaging what our faith community could look like in public life. What we have now is sad. It is not the way of Jesus in any form or fashion. We look like Pharaoh and Caesar. Yes, there are many of us who are protesting this, but let this humble us. We have asked/demanded other people associated with a religion whose faith in public life looks like violence, but it is actually nationalism and not true to their faith, either, to renounce the violence. Here is a taste of our own medicine. Separation of Religion and State is really important. When they are intertwined it is violence.
We, the USA and Christians, think we have reached a level of freedom no one else has, but that is not true for everyone. Looking only at the prosperity of a nation/religion and not looking at the bottom of that very same society is misleading. We can look at scripture to find that out, too: Egypt, Rome, it is always another empire. We have the largest military presence the world has ever known, and Christians believe this is holy. Christians are using Old Testament to justify violence. That is not a faithful reading of the Old Testament. Interesting how liberation of refugees in Exodus gets overlooked. God asking for their daily discipline to focus on God is not because God is a narcissist–the jealous God thing has been misinterpreted. God is trying to keep them safe and in the arms of love and deliverance. Other gods want them, and those gods require sacrifice the one true God does not demand. God does demand we share and take care of each other, though. The mana from heaven, they were asked to take enough for today, no more, two days before Sabbath. This is the kind of God we serve; a God who takes care of everybody. This is true in the wilderness and true when Jesus came: same God.
The Israelites fear of being in the unknown after experiencing massive abuse, previously, is not surprising they believed God would bring revenge on the oppressors. But that violence rarely ever happened. Reading the whole story you will find out the violence was much less than what was forecasted. AND the violent rhetoric/actions never came from God’s words. Let the hearer hear. It was the voice of the oppressed crying out for justice, and understandably so. Faithful interpretation of scripture is life or death. One of the most powerful analogies about this violence comes from my dear friend Jakob Topper. We can say that God was cruel because God was going to kill the first-born Egyptian boys, but what do you do when you juxtapose it with Pharaoh saying the same thing about the Hebrew boys. The difference is Pharaoh does not need you on his side, only to stand aside. Allegiance to God changes our mindset away from violence to deliverance from evil. People are not evil, it is the system that takes our souls when we are not critically thinking, and we watch our neighbors suffer and call it Good news.
So here are some things I would like to draw our attention to a couple of symbols: “Come and Take It” flag and the Cross. This is milk I buy because it is eco-friendly to buy local and return the glass. We are committing as a family to do what we can to reduce, reuse and buy local. Then this happened: the “COME AND TAKE IT” stamp on the milk celebrating Texas independence. Friends helped me understand this more clearly, but that led me to research more about why this symbol is our symbol of independence, and I do not like what I found out. My mom used to teach Texas History and no one hung these flags in their classroom back then. That is not true now, and the people hanging these flags typically flex their muscles about Texas pride. Texas is currently being humbled nationwide, and rightfully so. “Don’t Mess With Texas” has not served us well. Here are some snippets of what I found out about this symbol:
The Battle of Gonzales centered on American colonists in that town who were refusing to give back a cannon (the one on the flag) back to Mexican soldiers that they had received in 1831 to fend off Natives in the area. They wanted it now to defend themselves from Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna’s increasingly aggressive actions against the colonists.
It has come to symbolize defiance against someone or something looking to grind you down or deprive you of a right or privilege.
Our symbol of freedom is a cannon we used to fend off Natives? Is this good news? I understand history is complex and there is so much to sit with and understand what was at stake. But how long are we going to use symbols of violence as our symbol of freedom? And that freedom came at somebody else’s expense, and we refuse to name it. This land is stolen land.
I cannot help but feel like this was God’s lament, too. Jesus came when Rome was announcing killing people on a cross as good news. It was freedom for the fittest and no one is to deprive you of your rights. This we have to share thing was not good news to the powerful back then, either–to those who benefited from the oppression. Mark 1:1-3 takes us back to the wilderness and a voice crying out:
2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,[c]
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,[d]
who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
Jesus is now the good news, not the cross. We still put the cross up all around our society, and in our homes, as if it is the symbol of good news. That is the symbol that killed good news; Jesus revealed it. But the cross did not have the final word. Jesus showed us how to live, not die–only dying to ourselves to live fully in beloved community with God and neighbor. His radical nonviolent love that believed in equity for all is what got him killed, John the Baptist, too. It was a threat to empire. Jesus being called Son of God was a counter-narrative to Caesar who was named “Son of God” on Rome’s money. Jesus is Lord, Caesar is not.
The sad thing is I have not even gotten to my lament about women. I hear about our Christian faith thriving in nations that actually persecute people for their faith–it is not just Christians, all faiths–and I ask myself: Is that the only way for Christianity to thrive? These underground efforts are also led by women. What is so hard about sharing and living on less materially and living more abundantly spiritually with one another in friendship? We, USA and Christians, have not let the women’s voices speak. We have been demeaned and controlled women, and so much violence has been done against our bodies. I cry wondering if it will ever get better. This tweet, today, was spot on by Kimberly Stover: Good men need to understand that women have experienced violence to their bodies their whole lives, since being in kindergarten, made to wear one piece bathing suits to not “tempt”. Many of us are traumatized. We’ve had our autonomy taken away and our bodies sexualized.
We are also demeaned as people ready to kill babies through the toxic pro-life rhetoric that has been anything but life. Pro-choice is more life-giving. Turns out God was right; the ones who can bear children are to be trusted to know what is going on with their bodies. The sin, if there is even sin going on, is often from the community around them. Poverty, wage-gap problem, domestic violence–when do these issues take center stage? This includes the Trans community. This desire to control bodies is killing people.
Where is Mother God? I hear of God the Father, and Jesus as the Son–in Greek the Holy Spirit is neuter. Where is our story in history (scripture and American History), because we are a part of the good news story to be remembered forever. We are not just whores, mothers and brides.
Every time I cry, Mother God shows up. She is here. Too few know her.