Liberation

Liberation

The transcendent image of a resurrected Christ shines with liberation, even from death, with a promise of life everlasting.  This audacious promise is the heart of our faith.  It is also the heart of our mission of justice and equity for all, because life everlasting begins not after death but in this life on earth.

 Justice and witness ministry is a ministry of liberation:  to free the oppressed, to use power and wealth on behalf of the powerless and poor, and to act boldly for justice.  This ministry carries our Christian faith into the world through action, amply supported by scripture and the ages-long actions of our UCC forebears.

 This ministry, however, contains within it the seeds of its own undoing.  As we work to free the oppressed, we may assume we are free and they are not.  As we give and ask nothing in return, we may flaunt our power, separating us, the powerful, from them, the weak and oppressed.  As we fight for justice, we may focus on a furious fight against injustice, on oppression rather than liberation, and take our eyes off the prize.

 A few months ago, I came across a quotation that rings true to me for justice ministry.  It is often attributed to Lilla Watson, an Australian Aboriginal elder and activist, speaking to a missionary:

If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.

 “Your liberation is bound up in mine.”  What a marvelous phrase.  In a few simple words, the arrogant assumption of being free, the inequitable separation from the other, and the furious focus on oppression, are all replaced by a call to work together for liberation.

 In our justice ministry we are clearly not free.  In the Rev. Dr. King’s letter from a Birmingham jail, he writes “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  We work for freedom in a mutual mission of liberation, with a handshake, not a handout.

 “Bound up…”  A profound intimacy pervades those words, loving our neighbor as ourselves.  We are not separate from each other, any more than the body of Christ is dismembered.  A Jew, Martin Buber, expresses this best for me.  His “I-Thou” relationship is warmly intimate, as is the Bible.  Today, we see the Biblical use of “thou” as formal and stiff, but in the England of King James “thou” was a term used for friends and relatives, bound by kinship and friendship.

 This intimacy is empowered in forgiveness.  The oppressed, and those fighting oppression, are often angry, outraged.  The justness of the cause becomes a justification for anger that can blind us to each other.  Forgive us our rages, as we forgive those who rage against us.  Liberate us to love one another.

 “Let us work together.”  We work together, shoulder-to-shoulder, with our eyes firmly on the prize: liberation.  Of course we fight oppression, but as a gardener fights weeds, as a part of growing a finer garden.  Gardeners of justice work together not for a final prize but for a recurring cycle of sweet, savory prizes that nourish and grow through constant, careful tending.

 Christ did not die for our sins; he rose from death for our salvation.  He came because his liberation is bound up in ours.  As we work together for justice, may we follow Christ.

Will Fuller – Kairos-Milwaukie UCC

Boise pride

Progress in Idaho on Justice for the LGBT Community

by Carol Stirling, Boise First Congregational United Church of Christ

People testified at the Boise City Council meeting last November about the fear of being “found out” at work. They don’t keep pictures of their children at work and struggle to answer questions from coworkers about their personal lives. Dozens of people spoke in a crowded Statehouse auditorium during a public hearing for a proposed city ordinance to prohibit discrimination in the city based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Councilwoman Maryanne Jordan said she was motivated to push for the ordinance with Councilwoman Lauren McLean after hearing people who were targets of hate crimes say they were reluctant to contact police. These people fear being terminated by their employers if they explain why they must miss work for court. McLean said Boise is a city where everyone is treated equally, “and we as a council have the opportunity to make that clear by approving this ordinance.”

The room was packed at the third reading of the ordinance. The final vote was unanimously approved by six City Council members. Each councilperson spoke in favor of the ordinance and how it affected him or her personally. One councilwoman received many phone calls, letters, and e-mails in support of the ordinance. She said the faith community had come together in support of the ordinance. One councilman indicated it was a momentous occasion and probably one of the most important issues he will address during his tenure on the City Council. The audience rose to give the council a well-deserved standing ovation.

transgender awareness

Transgender Awareness Week

The annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) memorializes trans individuals who have died because of anti-transgender discrimination and victimization.  A tradition inspired by the Allston, MA vigil for slain transsexual Rita Hester in 1998, this day has become the worldwide rallying point for a community long under siege.  No one should be subjected to violence simply because of their gender identity or expression.  No one should be denied the basic rights that enable their safety and security.  No one should consider taking their own life to escape harassment and bullying.  Many transgender people experience discrimination on a daily basis in the workplace, healthcare access, public accommodation, etc.

In Oregon, several events are planned for Transgender Awareness Week and can be found here: http://www.basicrights.org/featured/14th-annual-transgender-day-of-remembrance/

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) also has more information about how to be involved in trans-justice and a new video project here: http://www.glaad.org/transawarenessweek.