Unity that requires us to put away our trauma for someone else’s comfort is not healing. What would conversations in our churches look like if we stopped talking about division and started talking about oppression?
Before our Summer hiatus, Vine & Fig community member Teresa wrote this breathtaking piece. A few months on, her words are still so relevant to all of us. Today, we're sharing them with you.
From one Black Catholic to all my fellow Black Catholics – peace be with you. In these Ordinary Time days following the Ascension and Pentecost – Christ’s peace I leave with you. In these extraordinary yet all too ordinary days of mourning after the extrajudicial killing of Ahmaud Arbery, the murders of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and George Floyd by police, public faces of unjust Black deaths too numerous to all name – Jesus gives peace not as the world gives. Across America as police cars burn, store windows are smashed, curfews are imposed, and protesters are assaulted, pepper sprayed, and tear gassed – do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
God is always for us and with us
In this nation built with the stolen lives and labor of our ancestors, God sets a table for us in the presence of our enemies. God gathers us together virtually in prayer to share our hurt and anger, and grants us connections with each other as we shed tears. Mother Mary shelters us as we continue to show up for work and are expected to suppress our grief and act “professional”, and holds us in the moments we find to rest and care for ourselves. In the shadow of death we find God as we protest us in the streets, demanding just responses to the killings of George and Ahmaud and Breonna and Tony. May God protect and defend those whose right to assemble, whose right to simply exist while in public, is disregarded as they find themselves beaten by billy clubs, shoved out of the way by riot shields, crushed by officer boots.
Cast down the mighty
God has promised to lift us out of our humble conditions and cast down the mighty from their thrones. Jesus’ promise of peace calls us to insist that we are worthy of lives that are not haunted by fear, profiling, dehumanization, vigilantism and lynching. Jesus’ death on the Cross, the victim of an unjust and hegemonic state, inspires us to tear down mass incarceration, militarized police, and all racist institutional structures in order to build God’s kingdom.
“Division” vs. oppression
During these past months, I’ve heard many white Catholics express platitudes from our faith that are well-meaning, but misguided. They urge unity, saying Jesus came to heal divisions. But unity that requires us to put away our trauma for someone else’s comfort is not healing. What would conversations in our churches look like if we stopped talking about division and started talking about oppression? They say we are all God’s children; one in Christ. This reveals a failure to listen – centuries of history have created conditions where Black people feel like we do not belong in America, we do not feel like we are all one.
Christ in the margins
What would it mean for our faith if we finally acknowledged that Christ today would have been born as someone dark, someone disenfranchised, someone who doesn’t belong? White Catholics have reacted strongly to some protests which have had rioting and looting, unfairly demanding we uniformly present as rational, unemotional “good victims”, calling for “peace”. Let’s not forget that Jesus also low key started a riot to confront injustice when he drove money changers out of the Temple. The very reason protests and riots are happening across America right now is because peace does not exist for us.
Too many white people have shared the video of George Floyd’s death on social media. There are few moments more intimate than the end of the life, and now it has been circulated for the world to see. Many have excused this as a means to raise consciousness, as if a news report on the event were not vivid, visceral, vicious enough. Black people should not have to keep dying over and over on your phones to save America from the sin of racism. One account of this horrible form of death should have been enough for anyone to come to believe.
A year of favor from the Lord
The evil of this nation cannot stand and will not prosper. It’s easy to get dismayed by another high-profile Black death, more outrage, another cycle of protest – we have seen this harm so many times before. And yet we continue the lineage of the civil rights era, Reconstruction, the Underground Railroad and abolition because it’s the Lord’s work. I do not know what America will look like after 2020, but I know where we must begin. Start at the edge of our accumulated history. Start at the pain. Start with resolving to tell the truth, start with the courage to allow yourself to be cared for. Start by knowing our power, and demanding to make known our God-given worth. Peace be with you, do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. The great work continues, all glory be to God.