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

What I learned at General Synod 29 – July 2013

by John Hickox, Dufur, Oregon
I thought “bullying” was about high-school cheerleaders making fun of the girl with a bad complexion or 8th grade boys pushing around 4th grade math whizzes.

That is, of course, one dimension of bullying, but there is much more!

I didn’t REALLY understand the issue until a woman who, shall we say, doesn’t quite fit our image of a person in a leadership position in the church, stood up and said, “I was bullied in kindergarten, I was bullied in grade school, I was bullied in high school, I was bullied in college, I was bullied in seminary, I WAS BULLIED 5 MINUTES AGO WHEN I APPROACHED THIS MICROPHONE TO SPEAK!”

Oppression

Oppression

Oppressionby Will Fuller, Kairos-Milwaukie United Church of Christ

At our last Justice & Witness Ministry meeting, each person listed the areas of justice where he or she felt special passion. The list was long and varied: racism, child abuse, sexual and gender-diverse marriage, hunger, homelessness, human trafficking, hate crimes, Jubilee, legacies of empire in the Philippines, Haiti, environmental survival.

Varied as the passions were, they had a common theme of oppression. A set of people is deprived of life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness so that the oppressor may have these in excess. More than marketplace success or greed, oppression is a system of enrichment akin to the Devil’s offer to Jesus on the mountaintop, “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor,” in exchange for blind worship.

And that was no empty offer; Jesus really could have had all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. The Devil always delivers.

What rich rewards are delivered through oppression! Empires of wealth. Ships groaning with gold and all the riches of Asia. Cheap immigrant and slave labor to till the fields and mine the earth. Land stretching from sea to shining sea, grabbed from “savages.” Cotton, coal, copper. Clothes, computers, cabbages. All for the taking, without question. The Devil always delivers.

As we know, however, the Devil is a trickster. Not so benevolent as Coyote, the Devil puts rich temptations before us in gleaming abundance, lit by the gleam in the Devil’s eye. The Devil always delivers a little bit more…and it’s that evil “bit more” that bedevils our souls.