This is reposted from Mila.
“If I sit silently, I have sinned” (Mohammed Mossadegh)
“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
I keep hearing Christians say “we just gotta love.”
In particular, I hear them say this in response to the increasingly volatile political, social, and racial tension in America both preceding and following the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States.
What I hear them really saying when they chant, “We just gotta love” is that “it’s time to sit down and be quiet.” And more specifically, it’s time to set our emotions aside and comply.
In this rhetoric of so-called “love,” what I hear Christians saying is that your personal emotions ultimately do not matter. But what matters most, above all, is appearing to live in an eternal state of happiness and joy.
Is that truly who God created us to be? Emotionally one-dimensional beings? Is that why we have emotions–ultimately to silence them? Most importantly, is that who Jesus was when he walked the earth?
No. Rather, I believe that during his time on earth, Jesus taught us that emotions exist as a means to an end–to connect us with one another and to compel us to action for the good of each other . Emotions are what ultimately urge us to show compassion, kindness, goodness, patience, and above all, love.
Yet some Christians are saying love = silence.
According to the love I have come to know, that is not love at all.
The love I have come to know upholds and defends the oppressed and hungry, takes care of foreigners, sets prisoners free. The love I know is close to the crushed in spirit and saves the brokenhearted.
The Jesus I know was constantly speaking out against the religious and secular establishment. He certainly surprised (and incensed) religious people with how he challenged religious traditions and with the people he chose to be his closest friends. He also consistently engaged in behavior and action that was labeled as offensive and at times heretical. Jesus did this not because he was a political activist or an advocate for social justice but because he was the ultimate activist and advocate for love.
And this is what his love looked like:
He defended prostitutes and adulteresses. He not only showed compassion to both the physically and mentally ill—he healed them. But he also didn’t hesitate to speak out against the religious leaders of the time, calling them dirty bowls and whitewashed tombs. His love burned with fury when he saw that the temple had become a breeding ground for greed and profit, so much so that in his love he overturned tables with a whip. But that same love showed kindness to a corrupt government official and compassion to a friend who had just lost her brother. That same love compelled him to humble himself, and on his knees, wash the feet of his friends. His love healed the servant of a Roman soldier, whose ranks would soon beat and crucify him to death.
His love was no doubt complex and full of every emotion. But it certainly was not him sitting around being silent, singing “Kumbaya.”
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If Jesus was alive today, I picture a lot of modern day Christians pulling Jesus aside and telling him he has anger issues and that he needs to go see a therapist. I would imagine Christians telling Jesus to submit to the authorities as he spoke out with great passion, even anger at times, against both the religious and secular establishment.
If Jesus was alive today, would Christians have told Jesus he needed to be quiet and just love?
Furthermore, similar to how the Pharisees and other religious leaders of the time often aligned themselves with the governing authorities, Christians today have developed a tradition of equating Republicanism with Christianity. In many ways, Republicanism has become modern day Phariseeism, (i.e., the opposite of everything Jesus stood for), in particular in regards to the poor and oppressed.
Christians as Republicans hold up the rich, and put down the oppressed, even though Jesus taught his followers to uphold the poor and to lift up the oppressed. Christians as Republicans support and perpetuate the majority, the popular, the celebrity. Jesus befriended the minority, the obscure, the despised.
Jesus spoke up, loudly, vehemently and without tiptoeing around religious people’s feelings. He was not afraid of emotion and he certainly did not stifle his own, which leads me to one of my main points:
So much of the Church is centered around protecting the feelings of White people to the detriment and dismissal of the emotions of People of Color. This message of “we just gotta to love” is really centered around guarding the feelings of White fragility.
People of Color and their allies need to stop speaking out against Trump, because it makes White people feel bad. We need to stop expressing our sorrow, our anger, our hurt, because White people don’t like it.
This message of “we just gotta love” oversimplifies the very real pain, fear, sorrow, and grief of People of Color who did not vote for Trump, because of the threatening and intimidating statements not only Trump has made, but the aggressive and at times violent words and actions of his supporters both before and after the election.
When a group of middle schoolers are chanting “Build the Wall” upon news that Trump has won the election, what are People of Color supposed to feel? According to some Christian leaders, we are supposed to think Trump is “good for America”and ultimately, we are supposed to simply accept and support Trump as our leader. Does anyone realize how utterly asinine such an expectation is?
You might as well tell me that it is my civic duty to submit contently to a man who has threatened to rape me and then deport me back to Korea. (And no, that’s not an extreme analogy, because Trump is a man who has joked about sexually assaulting women and ensured his supporters that he wants to make America great [white] again by banning and deporting anyone who doesn’t fit the bill.)
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But, you say, I’m not like that. I’m a Good White Christian. And you may in fact be a Good White Christian. A decent, law-abiding citizen, who has stopped to help a Black person with a flat tire or who has donated clothes to Syrian refugees.
Because the truth is that there are a lot of Good White Christians in America. I can say that based on my own personal experience. There are plenty of Good White Christians that have shown myself and my family kindness. Good White people whose kids have played on a playground with my children. Who have struck up a conversation with me while eating dinner with my kids. Who have smiled at me, held a door open for me.
But it is these same Good White Christians whose children chased my son around the playground yelling at him, “Look out, it’s the Chinese dude,” while one of them poked and hit my son with a stick. These are the same Good White Christians who, while I tried to have a meaningful dinner with my daughter, had to insist that I was not truly American because I was not born in America. These are the same Good White Christians who while smiling at me, asked me where I learned to speak such good English. These are the same Good White Christians who while holding open a door for me, tell me “They love Orientals.”
Just because it’s not regularly dressed in white hoods and burning crosses, doesn’t mean racism no longer exists.
Hence, these are the same good White people who deny the reality that my friends of color and I face everyday. These same good White people think somehow because of their kindness (although rooted in ignorance), racism no longer exists.These same good White people think that their “good deeds” somehow magically erase the pervasive and ongoing consequences of institutional and systematic racism. They think their individual kindness nullifies a dark history of racist oppression that still bleeds into present day and taints every aspect of the lives of People of Color.
So while these Good White Christians may say they are not “racist,” they voted for a man whose coded language validated and ignited White Nationalism, so much so that he was emphatically endorsed by the KKK, and other White Supremacist groups.
And it is these same Good White Christians that even if they did not vote into power a man who built his platform on racism and xenophobia, on hatred and rage, remain silent as he is about to take office.
Many good White people say they are not racist. And you know what? I believe that they are sincere, and that they believe this to be true. But I also believe that they are so unaware of their own subconscious bias–so blind to their “colorblind racism“–that they are inadvertently complicit in holding up the institutions and attitudes of racism that infest this country. Their sincere, well-intentioned ignorance leads to complacency, which ultimately results in them being unaware accomplices to those they say they abhor.
And that’s why these same Good White Christians stood idly by while slavery persisted. These are the same Good White Christians who sat silently, eating in White restaurants and washing their hands in White bathrooms–allowing legislated segregation to oppress and marginalize their fellow brothers and sisters. These are the same Good White Christians who sat quietly in their homes while their fellow Japanese American citizens were ripped from their homes and imprisoned, even beaten, in internment camps.
These are the same Good White Christians who do nothing when they see their fellow Black American being strangled to death on a New York sidewalk. These are the same Good White Christians who yell out at a fellow Asian American, “Go the f* back to China!” These are the same Good White Christians who do nothing when a Muslim woman has her hijab ripped off.
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So, you can tell me you are not a racist or a xenophobe or a bigot. And I will give you that. But if you voted for Donald Trump, you cannot tell me you are not complicit in propagating a system of oppression and racism that continues to benefit you while hurting and marginalizing your fellow Americans of Color.
And if you did not vote for Trump, but you yourself remain silent as he comes to power, or furthermore, you condemn those who are resisting his fascist platform, then you need to know that you are complicit in empowering Trump and propagating the oppressive and autocratic ideas that won him the election.
I say this not to accuse you or shame you, but to plead with you, to appeal to the goodness that I know is in you. I know you care. And I know we all love this country.
I say this because it’s not too late. It’s not too late to change. It’s not too late to show “what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness you have to see justice done.”
It’s not too late to choose to be an ally. It’s not too late to choose to use your power and privilege to raise up the voices of the oppressed, the outcast, the poor, the sick—all those whom Jesus served and loved while he walked this earth.
It’s not too late to refrain from telling us that we are being too political, and imposing upon us the idea that love means keeping our mouths shut and our emotions stifled. Instead, you can choose to listen. You can choose to let our voices be heard.
But whether you do or do not, I am done with being silenced. I’m done being told Churchianity’s version of love as silence is the “right” way.
Because, the love I know does not silence. Rather, it protects. It perseveres. And while it does not easily anger, it does engage in righteous indignation. And because it cannot help but hope, love also never gives up.
I cannot remain silent. Because I care. Because I love my children. Because I love my Family and Friends of Color. Because I love all the people who have made this country great from the original inhabitants to the vastly diverse myriads of immigrants.
Because the gift given to America by France proclaims, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Because this is who I believe America is meant to be, who America can be.
And hence, I will not stand idly, silently by while a narcissistic, fascist demagogue attempts to destroy what truly makes this nation great.
Not in spite of the Jesus I follow or the love in which I believe.
But because of it.