There is a famous Black theologian who was a great influence on Martin Luther King. When I was in divinity school I devoured everything of his that I could find, because it was food for my mind and my soul. One thing about his writing bothered me, though. He was brilliant in recognizing the oppression of Black people and in seeing that Jesus stands with the disinherited: but at the same time I saw in his writing a constant, unconscious sexism. He could see clearly the wrong that was done to people because of the color of their skin, but it seemed to me that he did not see the assumptions he had about the natural order of the world as it pertains to men and women.
When I saw that, I wondered --- in another fifty years, when people look back at us, now, what will be glaringly obvious to them, that we can’t even see? What prejudices do I have that I’m not aware of?
In feminism it’s the same thing! White women began the feminist movement in the 1960’s. Pretty soon, women of color were saying, “hey! This looks different to us! You have to hear our voices, too!” and so the womanist movement was born. Latina women, too, had a different perspective; theirs is called mujerista theology. But there was more awareness to come. In a book called “Sexuality and the Black Church: a Womanist Perspective,” Kelly Brown Douglas challenged the Black church to grow in its attitude toward homosexuality. There’s always someone else to be included.
So who are we leaving out, now? What attitudes are we not even aware of? Who is next to open our eyes to their exclusion?
I think the next barrier is classism.
Last week, someone posted something on Facebook that said, “ Feeling ugly? Go chill in Walmart for 2 hours. You’ll feel a LOT better.” Even a few months ago, that wouldn’t have bothered me. But I’ve been spending a lot of time in Walmart, lately. Walmart is where the poor people shop, because whatever you need, it’s probably there, and at a price less than other places. It’s where you go to look for bottled water if you don’t trust the water coming out of the tap in the shack the farmer is letting you use for the winter. It’s where you go to look for rubber gloves to protect your hands while you’re washing and sorting potatoes each day in the bodega, or for baby clothes to send to your sister in Mexico. And in my case, it’s where you might go to look for a comal so you can cook tortillas… a comal that will be lined with pieces cut from a Walmart bag so the tortillas don’t stick.
So with that new awareness, I noticed in a way that I wouldn’t have before, the offhandedness with which we educated, middle class people laugh at people with less education and experience. People were “liking” that post who would never laugh at a joke about gay people or Black people, or women. A friend of mine who is a Presbyterian minister says that she goes to Walmart to pray. She walks around, looking at people and praying for them. I like that. Given the people that Jesus chose to hang out with 2,000 years ago, I think it’s actually a pretty safe bet that if Jesus were in Upstate New York right now, these are the people he would be talking to. The people on the bottom, those people he said were blessed and would inherit the earth.
…those people who work ten hours a day, six days a week, doing work people who are born here won’t do, living in unhealthy spaces, then getting punished for being here. Please pray this week as we head again to immigration court. Wednesday, the young man in our community who was detained in September will go before the judge, most likely to get a date to reappear some time in 2013. He also has a court appearance next week related to the traffic stop at which he was taken by the border patrol. He’s carrying more responsibility and worry than any teenager ought to have.
So pray, please.
Blessings and peace to you. May your Lent be a time of growth and new life!
Love and light to all
Oscar Romero Church
An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Worshiping in the Catholic Tradition
Mass: Sundays, 11 am
St Joseph's House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620