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the offense of the poor, of the midwives, of the black folk, of the local prophets

September 16, 2014

On Sept 11, h00die_R (Rod) wrote:

God’s kindness and compassion are not restricted to ever-fluctuating rules of civility that give those with privilege the advantage. Rather God’s lovingkindness for all persons shines through in God demonstrating God’s preferential option for the poor. It is in the bodies and experiences of the oppressed that have the greatest knowledge of what human wickedness looks and feels like.

He rightly focuses on kindness and compassion, as these are God’s, as “in the bodies” of “the poor.”

Notice what else. He is reading Exodus and is reading a contemporary context where he himself is not the most othered other:

When Pharaoh asked why infant boys were living, the midwives satirize the essentialist logic of the [majority, privileged] Egyptians, “declaring” Hebrew women to be stronger (therefore, more capable of reproducing more children, thus the population growth). The Hebrew midwives played with the fears of the oppressor. And in turn for their acts of mercy, Exodus 1:20 says that YHWH was kind to the heroic midwives.

I observe the harassment that Women of Color educators/activists face everyday; trolls creating multiple accounts to make racist diatribes and violent threats against persons like Mikki Kendall, Sydette, Trudy, Suey Park, and others. I don’t think I can claim to have encountered a microcosm of what these brave women deal with every day 

On Aug 15, Wil Gafney wrote:

The Church does not have a good track record of responding to holy rage – particularly of black folk. It kills prophets.

Notice what else. She is reading Job and is reading a contemporary context where she herself is not necessarily the most othered other:

And I am complicit….

I have been stunned into silence by this summer of horror. I could not blog. I could not shape a paragraph. I don’t know if I could have preached. Instead I tweeted, I prayed, I raged – keeping vigil in the age of social media.

On a day, in a summer, two years earlier, Wil Gafney wrote:

We have these ideas about who can be God’s messenger: men, white men, heterosexual white men, with long beards and robes, projecting our notions about race and gender and sexuality onto the text. So many think of Charlton Heston but not Harriet Tubman or Toni Morrison or Maya Angelou when we imagine prophets. We don’t think to look to our children for a prophetic word, not always to our elders, especially when they are no longer strong and vibrant, to people whose bodies don’t work like ours, or to people who don’t live and love like we think they ought.

Notice what else. She is reading the gospel of Mark and is reading a contemporary context where she herself is not the most othered other:

[I have to say here that I am guilty of this (i.e., this “not thinking to look to our children for a prophetic word”), thinking that today’s guest musician must be an adult, and I was wrong and happily so! Thank you Abigail, for sharing your gifts with us.]

And so today let me write others’ words:

No. I haven’t the heart to go and see the sufferings of my people played on the stage. I’ve heard Uncle Tom’s Cabin read, and I tell you Ms Stowe’s pen hasn’t begun to paint what slavery is as I have seen it at the far South. I’ve seen the real thing, and I don’t want to see it on any stage or in any theater.

“Once upon a time there was an old woman. Blind but wise.” Or was it an old man? A guru, perhaps. Or a griot soothing restless children. I have heard this story, or one exactly like it, in the lore of several cultures.

“Once upon a time there was an old woman. Blind. Wise.”

In the version I know the woman is the daughter of slaves, black, American, and lives alone in a small house outside of town. Her reputation for wisdom is without peer and without question. Among her people she is both the law and its transgression. The honor she is paid and the awe in which she is held reach beyond her neighborhood to places far away; to the city where the intelligence of rural prophets is the source of much amusement.

That’s right—all of my history as an African-American woman, as a Jewish woman, as a Muslim woman. I’m bringing everything I ever knew [and all the stories I’ve read]—everything good, strong, kind and powerful. I bring it all with me into every situation, and I will not allow my life to be minimized by anybody’s racism or sexism or ageism. I will not. So I will take the Scandinavian story of the little princess, I will take the story of Heidi in the Alpine mountains, I will take the story of O-Lan in Pearl S. Buck’s book The Good Earth, I will take them all. I take them, and I know them, and I am them. So when I walk into a room, people know that somebody has come in—they just don’t know it’s 2,000 people!

….Yes. Some think, “If I marry this guy who’s two inches taller than I am and who has a nice bank account, I won’t die. If I buy six cars, I won’t die. If I hate Jews, I won’t die. If I hate homosexuals, I won’t die.” They think they will increase their life by shunting misery onto somebody else, but it’s just the opposite….

Freedom and discipline. Freedom and responsibility. Freedom and a path. Freedom and a row to hoe. Freedom to do something, not freedom to be idle. And the hardest part for me is to realize that while God loves me, and I am a child of God, I have to see the bigot and the brute and the rapist, and whether he or she knows it or not, I have to know that that person is a child of God. That is part of the responsibility—and it’s hard….

I had to get to a place where I could forgive the man who raped me when I was 7 years old. And that was a matter of incredible mental gymnastics. I had to think of what I had done to other people and how I’d been forgiven. Whatever I’ve done, I’ve been forgiven. I won’t—I don’t—forget. And I will not put myself in a situation where that can be done to me again. But I understand.

Notice what else. We are reading the words of scandal of other prophets and are reading a contemporary context where we ourselves, very likely in the local locale, are not the most othered other.


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