"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)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Black Lives are Sacred Day 21: BLM Stations of the Cross, Part 2

Marc Chagall, White Crucifixion.

The seventh post in this monthlong series describes two key moments. The first was my excitement at discovering a Way of the Cross focused on the modern Passion of Christ in his precious tortured Black Body and sacrilegiously spilled Black Blood to use in praying the life-giving penance from a powerful celebration of sacramental Reconciliation. The second recounted my embodied, engendered experience of making those Stations during a retreat later that week when I was sickened by the misognynoir in the ninth station with a supremely ironic title--"Intersectionality"-- and subject--Jesus' powerful exchange with the traumatized Jewish women of occupied Jerusalem keening at his lynching by kyriarchal Roman power.

The station, embedded in depictions of Black men like Eric Garner, equates the powerful white men who mercilessly smothered him with a terrified Black woman popping her son upside the head as she screams at him to put down his brick before the Ferguson police pump him full of bullets. This brands her as a perpetrator, rather than a victim, of both the white supremacist violence the work claims and intends to call out and the gendered violence it totally ignores. It enacts a toxic lie crucifying Jesus the Truth again in her and her sisters. It precisely mirrors Pontius Pilate's vicious taunts blaming his Jewish victims for his torture and murder of their brother and champion--and the crazy-making, victim-blaming response of individual and social oppressors on every axis of unjust supremacy when survivors name abuses and call for justice and repentance.

I invested many hours of emotional and intellectual labor in an attempt to compassionately educate the white cishet male pastor who created the work, and learned a tremendous amount from the process myself. I reproduce my final email to him here as both a resource and conversation starter for readers and a means of reclaiming my power and healing the PTSD triggering that I knew might result when I womaned up and began the process.

Dear Greg,

As my blogpost explains, my experience of praying with your work as a woman, a survivor of clergy sexual abuse, and the mother of a dangerous son was “visceral trauma and sacred rage.” This is true on my own behalf, and my young daughter’s, in our constant physical and emotional danger of male violence in a misogynistic rape culture unchallenged by the churches. And it is doubly so on behalf of our Black sisters–above all the mother so unjustly vilified in the deeply problematic ninth station—who face even more danger than us, and in most ways than their brothers, yet are often neglected in the very movement begun by three black queer women.

It took tremendous courage and emotional energy to take the risk of graciously reaching out to you with my concerns and then agreeing to the even more vulnerable situation of a phone conversation. That no longer seems wise, so you can free up your calendar on Monday and I will do the same. My initial optimism about your repeated promises to “listen and learn from my wisdom” has turned to disappointment and distress as you first ignored and then refused my requests to do that by reading the blog series giving context to the post. And I was stunned that you could read both the anguish the work occasioned, and the cogent feminist/womanist theological analysis of its hurtfulness, without being moved to either compassion for my pain or repentance for its sexism and emotional endangerment of all women, especially Black ones, where our unique sharing in the Passion of Christ should have been most honored. Your naming of your reading of my words as “privilege” is indeed true, in both senses.

The most important thing I would like you to take away from our interaction is your responsibility to make lived amends to those most dishonored by the work, Black women, by listening to and learning from their profound wisdom. An ideal way to begin is with the work of the Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney (blog, twitter, and books) who has been a profound influence as I have wrestled with my own white privilege. Her website is a great starting place, as is the hymn I dedicated to her and the Morenita of Montserrat which inspired it and serves--to come full circle--as the button for the blog series. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book linked in my blogpost, Between the World and Me, contains the insightful reflections on child discipline which I cite there. It is also a beautiful example of a man speaking to his own and his son’s particular oppressions while acknowledging the even deeper danger of Black women.

It would also be appropriate and courageous to make direct amends by editing your site to acknowledge the flaws in the ninth station, either there or in the introduction, and/or via a comment at my blogpost. And it would be wonderful to discern the creation of another “Passion” piece next year focusing on violence against women, which would no doubt lead to much learning for you and your community.

May our powerful, wise, and loving Mother God bless and guide you in that adventure and always.

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