"I heard a voice from heaven saying, 'Son, let this woman be a bride to you in the restoration of my people. Let her be a mother for these people, regenerating souls through the salvation of spirit and water.'" (Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Black Lives are Sacred Day 12: Jesus Christ, Liberator

Robert Lentz' icon of Jesus Christ Liberator.

More. Purchase.

The justification for this icon lies in the text Christ holds (Matt. 25:31-46). "When did we see you…?" those on Christ’s left will ask him at the Last Judgement. This text reminds us that Christ identified with the poor and oppressed of the world. The lives of the saints abound with stories about how Christ appeared as a beggar or a sick person in need. Christ has suffered in the Black members of His Mystical Body for many centuries -- slavery, exploitation, prejudice, and racial violence. The time has come to depict His solidarity with the Black peoples of the world -- in iconographic form.

The badge for this series below is a Black Mary, Our Lady of Montserrat, and I also posted Our Lady of Ferguson this past Saturday. But it is equally important to show Jesus as Black--both for Black people to see their own power and dignity and for us white people usually caught in our own complacent and inaccurate assumptions that the Afro-Asiatic peoples of the biblcal lands looked like us to be challenged to honor and adore Him in them as well.

Which reveals two ironic weaknesses in Lentz' write-up above--perhaps he would do better today as this was from some time ago. First, he omits the historical and scientific fact that Jesus, Mary, and all the other disciples looked far more like Black and Brown people today than they do like whites--citing only the theological justification that Jesus is truly present suffering in all who are oppressed. So it is the standard Nordic/European depictions of Jesus and Mary that are the creative license.

Second, he sees and mentions only the suffering and rejected and oppressed Black Christ in Black people and fails to see the courageous, brilliant, powerful risen Black Christ in the wonders of their lives, work, cultures, and achievements in the face of the hideous evils of white supremacy, racism, and misogynoir. I only recently came to this realization myself--in part from having more in depth contact with actual Black people here (despite losing the beauty of multiple casual encounters in our Detroit suburb) via the Baptist church I sometimes attend downtown and my amazing supervisor in the abortion healing retreats for which I am presently developing a Spanish team.

The groundwork was laid in my last Sunday before the move, though, at an Episcopal Eucharist in a country parish where I reconnected with a wonderful retired priest from our brief first round in Detroit sixteen years ago. I was praying over the question of my call around racism and ally work and realized the profound egocentrism in the usual paralyzing guilt and condescending pity which have so often caused me to push myself and burn out, judge less aware white people, and then suppress the issue altogether--all in the desperate panic to not be "bad" which so often stops those with oppressive privilege and supremacy from facing their structurally abusive power. Grace opened my eyes to marvel at their beauty, power, and goodness in God's image and the power of Her grace and their cooperation with it to bring about the needed changes. And it helped me realize that though I can hopefully become more and more cleansed of internal bias I will never be free from the more significant issue of racism (like sexism and all other structural injustices): benefiting from a system that unjustly gives power and privilege and supremacy and basic rights to me and mine while denying these to Blacks and other people of color. And that the call is not the illusory quest to become the perfect white person free of this participation (like male "feminists") but to peacefully and humbly and steadily rest in that grace while trying to learn and join in Her and their saving work to transform those structures as much as possible.

It also helps me better understand the resistance to social justice thought and work on all the isms, especially from people in the oppressed groups, when pointing out power imbalances is perceived as branding them helpless victims. Many anti-feminist women sound notes like this and I am increasingly passionate about understanding, honoring, and dialoguing with all my sisters regardless of their strategy for managing the misogynist abuse and oppression we all face on a daily basis.

And it helps me aim at ever more effective use of the "epistemological privilege of the victim" so as to empower myself and others and avoid dismissal of our causes as much as possible. Feminist Current recently had a detailed and powerful piece on the dismissal of women's perspectives on sexual assault unless, and sometimes because, they come with our citations of personal trauma. It is worth a read despite a brief appearance of their frequent misunderstanding and fear around trans issues.

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