Tag Archives: oppression

Seven Words of Christmas

Word ArtThe news have reported that the current White House administration instructed the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from using seven words on their budget documents. With seven days left for Christmas, I decided to take the time to write a piece each day highlighting one of the seven words.

In the Christian tradition there is the sharing of the Seven Words. These are phrases that Jesus shared while being crucified. Many Christian churches share and preach on these Seven Words during their Good Friday liturgies. The Seven Words are the climax of what Christian theology calls “the story of salvation.” The last words that Jesus shares are: “it is finished” (John 19.30) and “into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23.46.) After these words, Jesus expires.

According to the timeline of events, after Jesus expires on the cross he is placed into the tomb and on the third day he is resurrected. This is the hope of the Christian person: no matter how difficult the journey is, no matter how painful the culmination of life is, there is always the hope of resurrection. This is the message of Holy Week.

Why am I writing about Holy Week on the season of Advent leading into Christmas? Because the Seven Banned Words of the CDC are a mirror of those other Seven Words of Holy Week.

The current federal administration has been crucifying the remnants of the facsimile of democracy that the United States had. With each carefully orchestrated move, the current administration tries to diminish the people’s confidence and trust on institutions serve the country. They are intentional in the use of words to describe the institutions that keep some resemblance of democracy. The administration’s furious attack on the free press, their obsession with political rallies a year after elections, their systemic appointment of people completely unprepared and unqualified to lead the agencies they are appointed to oversee, their deliberate construction of lies disguised as truth, the unashamed use of FOX News as state propaganda television, and a myriad other big and small actions that undermine democratic processes are just the tip of the iceberg. The United States democracy is being crucified.

Diversity

Fetus

Transgender

Vulnerable

Entitlement

Science-based

Evidence-based

These words represent all that society stands for when they are on their way to progress. French philosopher and founder of Sociology, Auguste Comte, wrote about the stages of human progress. In Comte’s theory, societies move towards progress. There are three stages of society: theological, metaphysical, and positivist. A theological society looks at an unknown occurrence and places all responsibility on unseen beings that control our destinies. Any possibility of progress is thwarted by the society’s fear of angering their mythological beings. A metaphysical society is in the middle stage. Societies in this stage begin to understand that there are certain things that have an explanation. The understanding of actions and their consequences are part and parcel of this society’s natural development. Neither one of these two types of societies is inherently corrupt or ignorant. You cannot know what you do not know. However, these are not ideal societies. The ideal society is one in which members are exposed to a systemic way of understanding truth. To this Comte called a “positivist society.”

Although Auguste Comte’s positivist approach to explaining society is not ideal, it does have merit, especially taking into consideration the banning of words in certain official documents by the current administration. A positivist society understands that humanity is on a journey forward. This journey cannot be contained, no matter how much the powers that be may try to stop it. Resurrection is the conclusion to the crucifixion. Progress is the conclusion to temporary repression.

Democracies are vulnerable entities. They can suffer from the ego of leaders who place power over service. Interestingly, Christmas is the time of vulnerability. In the Christian tradition, Christmas commemorates the birth of a vulnerable child, from a vulnerable family, who was threatened, even as a fetus, with destruction by its enemies – political, economic, societal, cultural, and religious, among others. Christianity proclaims that this child that was born transcended what humanity understood at that moment about the relationship between humanity and its divine sovereign. Some theologians propose that this transcending experience of God made Sophia, the common image of God as Wisdom, take the form of Christ in the person of Jesus, thus making God a transgender reality showing humanity how close the Divinity is to all of humanity. The diversity of opinions that ages of science-based social studies and evidence-based conclusions have shown us, is evidence that societies do tend to move forward towards progress and positivism. It is our responsibility, our duty, and even out entitlement as engaged members of a functional society, to be in solidarity with the vulnerable democracy that we are so desperately trying to save. Resurrection is the conclusion of crucifixion, even during the time of Advent and Christmas.

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Filed under Academy, Creativity, Culture, discrimination, Human Rights, Identity, LGBTQ, Philosophy, Queer, resistance, Sociology, Theology, trans, transgender, United States, USA

Ministry Errors: Not the First of Many that Have Been Made and that Will Come…

(NOTE: This is a really hastily written post… so, please forgive me this one! Thank you!)

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If you are a minister and you are not full of yourself – which unfortunately, happens a lot – you must know that we, pastors, preachers, ministers, priests, church leaders, make lots of mistakes. Here is something that happened to me recently and that I thought appropriate to share. This is not the first mistake I have made, nor will it be the last. I know this because, well, I am human and we all make mistakes. But I have been thinking a lot about this one and decided that it was good to write about it.

On Tuesday, the first email I sat down to write went something like this:

“Dear X, I am so sorry for my attitude on Saturday. I was rude to you in my response to your question, and for that, I am truly sorry. I am not opposed to join you and others [in the project the person had asked me to join.] But my way of answering you was not the appropriate way of letting you know how I felt, and for that I ask your forgiveness.”

The note continued with some other details on the project I had been asked to be part of and on how I wanted to be involved.

I kept thinking about my reaction to this person. What was I thinking when I answered her question so rudely?!

You see, we all make mistakes. We all get caught in the moment and let our feelings take the best of us. In this case, when I was asked about participating of this specific project, the “asking” was more of a “command.” I had not really been invited as been signed up without even knowing it! That, of course, caught me off guard and I didn’t quite like it. But – and here is where my mistake came in – my feelings had nothing to do with this person! She was not even the one in charge of the task. Instead, she was just the “messenger” if you will. She had informed me of my being on that assignment, but she had no idea what was behind it or how I got on the list of “volunteers.” My reaction to her was wrong. Period. I was rude in the way I responded her question when she approached me. I was also caught on some systemic flaws that I have fought for decades and yet I was replicating! This is what brought me to write about this experience.

Here is the problem. I am a Latino/Hispanic, openly gay, Protestant (which within my own cultural milieu is a minority) member of the clergy who grew up as the child of a poor family. I have been a minority my whole life! Yet, I too have power in certain circumstances. In fact, my own culture tells me that, because I am a man I am more entitled to things than the women around me. Moreover, my culture also tells me that, as a member of the clergy, I am above those who are not clergy. The larger American culture tells me that, because I have two graduate degrees, I am entitled to more power than those who do not have graduate degrees…

In my conversation with this woman, some of those positions of privilege came into place. She serves as the assistant to a colleague and she is a woman. My biases – which I try to overcome every day – made me approach her from a place of power on my side. I made assumptions about what her “role” ought to have been and how she should have approached me. It did not occur to me that in my interaction I was actually falling for those powers-that-be which have also oppressed me! I was being sexist, elitist and classist. I was using my privilege in our context to belittle her. That, of course, was wrong.

But here is the great news… Because of my own experience with oppression in many different forms, and because I have worked really hard in recognizing where I have been the oppressor, I was able to see my mistakes during this interaction. Moreover, I also realized that I had to apologize for my rudeness during our interaction.

Talking in theological terms, I can say that the experience reminded me that indeed none of us is free of sin. However, the important thing is not to just recognize it, but also amend our actions, ask for forgiveness and commit ourselves not to sin anymore. A friend and theologian and ethicist, Dr. Valerie Dixon, taught me once that we all are both oppressed and oppressors. Valerie always reminds us that oppression has many overtones and that we have to be always mindful and recognize when we are being oppressed or when we are using our own power – whatever that power might be or wherever that power might come from – to oppress others.

After I sent her my note, I received a reply from her with kind words. She also understood my concerns regarding the task I was assigned/volunteered, and she also let the door open for more conversations and more collaboration, in spite of my having been a jerk to her! (What a relief!)

We all are humans. We all make mistakes. But I am grateful that my experiences of making mistakes have helped me grow as a human being and as a minister. I look forward to continue working on my mistakes, on amending them, on “sinning no more” and on building a better environment for everyone around me.

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