There is power in calling things by their right names. Those who named Jesus as the Christ were healed and freed from whatever held them bound. Jesus recognized demons and unclean spirits for what they were and expelled them. Paul writes extensively to more clearly name what Jesus means in our lives. As disciples, we are likewise called to name reality, discern truth, and call out evil.
I find that this is particularly important in our world right now, when positions are given free reign that in the past would have been immediately named as racist, xenophobic, misogynist, and more. Women are told that to resolve on-line abuse, they should just log off. Immigrants, regardless of their legal/political status and even if they are refugees fleeing for their lives, are told to “go home”. Groups of white men who declare that this country was built by whites and belongs to only whites are given unprecedented press coverage and find their ranks growing. People who fear the imposition of a different religion on the legal system strive mightily to impose their own religion on the legal system. It seems that we as a society are allowing and even promoting abusive, discriminatory, prejudiced, and intolerant language and actions.
As Christians, we must name and combat these things. And we have to start with ourselves. The examples I gave above are blatant. But they can start to seem acceptable only because there are lingering threads of racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and other prejudices within our own hearts. This is especially true for those of us born and raised with the privilege and benefits of being white. When I was growing up in rural Iowa, I never encountered anyone from another race, religion, or culture. Living in the Chicago area, that is definitely not the case. I have always worked to be open, accepting, curious, generous, and kind. Yet I catch myself. I have to constantly examine my reactions when, for instance:
- The person on the phone has a non-European foreign accent
- I drive into a neighborhood populated by another race or culture
- I see a woman wearing a tight-fitting low-cut outfit
- I see a women wearing a burqa
- A person living with disabilities slows down the checkout line
- A young black man wearing a hoodie and low-slung jeans walks toward me on the street
Your list is likely different than mine, but all of these situations trigger emotions inside of me that I work and pray to understand and eliminate. It is all too easy to succumb to the emotions, especially when surrounded by people who feel the same things, but that is not the way of Christ. I need to continue naming these realities, calling out their anti-Christian nature, and working with others who are committed to helping the reign of God come to earth.
Perhaps that can be our New Year’s resolution. Let’s work together to fight injustice, oppression, and prejudice in all its forms. In the face of a wave of resistance that grows bigger by the day, let’s do whatever we can to birth, embody, and promote the reign of God and the compassionate love of Jesus Christ.
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.corgenius.com/.