Base Communities: A Vessel for Healing and Decolonization – Francisco Herrera, M. Div., PhD student, LSTC

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Communion Of Saints by Elise Ritter

“After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.” (Revelation 7:9)

To give a brief overview of what a base community is, you have to go back all the way to 1956 in Rio de Janeiro – all the way between the ear and the soul of Roman Catholic Bishop Dom Agnelo Rossi, in the impoverished district of Barra do Pirai, as he listened to the frustrations of “a humble old woman.” Since her local parish couldn’t pay for a priest for Christmas services, it stayed “cold and dark,” whereas local Protestant parishes were “lit up and full of people”(Boff, 3). So these laments provoked the newly-minted bishop to action

With help from his deacons and some Jesuits, then, they created a lay-education program that soon took over all of Latin America. Grounded in the reading and interpretation of Scripture through each community’s context, that community’s joys and burdens, these new outposts for God’s kingdom were called comunidades eclesial de base or “base Christian communities.”

Quickly, however, they would evolve into something far more glorious.

Because the roots they sprouted went so deep into the soil, their first green shoots of growth were shelters to protect abused women and food banks to feed their children.

Because the love they inspired had such potency and flavor, their blossoms and fruit included legal aid societies, literacy programs, and labor unions.

And because their fragrance and seeds were so luscious  and fertile, they scattered through all of Latin America, bringing forth 30, 60, and 100-fold servants of Jesus, the community having such good soil.

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Demonstration in favor of land reform in Brazil, ca. 1970’s – supported and lead by base communities.

And as the 1950’s and 1960’s became the 1970’s and 1980’s they were ruthlessly persecuted, as one oppressive regime after the other – often with full support from the government of the United States – brutally tore up as many of these communities as they could, grinding their leaves and petals into the earth and turning root beds into mass graves.

But in the end the love of the base communities won, sustaining a vital solidarity and hope among the persecuted as dictatorship after dictatorship stomped and burned and raged itself to ash.

When #decolonizeLutheranism had its first official face-to-face programming meeting after our inaugural revival in 2016 we agreed, then, that this would be the model for organizing and mission that we should try. Our would-be reforming partners all over the country were looking for solidarity and direction, and the base community model seemed a good beginning.

Because workshops hadn’t made our churches more welcoming, not many.

Because ‘hard conversations’ had cracked some doors open, but few had taken the next step and walked through.

So we decided to appeal directly to the Holy Spirit and the power of God and wait to see what She did.

But since we didn’t really know how to create a base community, and after a few failed attempts at doing so, the Spirit finally intervened, carrying me into a random house in south central Los Angeles (last March) to share a potluck and lecture with some-time hero, Pastor Alexia Salvatierra. And how did I know la pastora had been given to us by the Spirit to lead us?

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Rev. Alexia Salvatierra (ELCA) at an immigration rally in Los Angeles.

Because sometime during her lesson, after mentioning that she had done her CPE among base communities, in the Philippines in the 1980’s (then under the thumb of another US-proxy dictator, Ferdinand Marcos), she said this:

“When we are very young, we usually receive some kind of curse – often it is said by someone very close to us, even family. What I want to do now is talk about what those curses are – and to share as you’re comfortable – as well as find a line of Scripture that we can use to counter them when we feel their power working on us.”

This made it clear that spiritual direction was crucial to her community organizing work.

Two weeks later I asked Alexia if she would teach #decolonizeLutheranism about forming base communities, and she said yes, but quickly added, “Call Elizabeth Conde-Frazier and ask if she could help out, too. You need someone who can truly lead someone to experience the Spirit and she does that better than anyone I know.”

After some conversation and email ping pong, (Rev. Dr.) Elizabeth agreed. Pastor Alexia wasn’t kidding when she said that Dr. Conde-Frazier was a master of bringing people into the Spirit’s presence. And how did I know, on top of Pastor Alexia’s recommendation, that the Spirit had roped her in too? When she said this:

“It’s a glorious moment when we get our liberation, but we have to be careful.  we carry a lot of anger after we get and if we’re not careful, it will spoil everything we touch.”

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Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Conde-Frazier – Dean of Esperanza College, Philadelphia.

And she was right to point this out – because thanks to the grace of God #decolonizeLutheranism had received a grant to pay the full cost of attendance to every person of color, every trans and non-binary attendee, and every person with a disability that qualified them for public benefits. And these leaders – beautiful and perfect and devoted to the Gospel – for all their power, likely would need healing before doing or talking about anything else.

And that’s how our base community training – #decolonizeTheBase– would begin.

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So on the first night of the training Pastor Alexia and Dr. Conde-Frazier greeted every attendee with a flower, a piece of chocolate, a small bottle of water, and a choice of fruit – delivered from baskets on their arms – walking throughout the meeting space and giving blessing.

It was at that point then, that I realized that my heart’s image of this day (Revelation 7:9) was incomplete. For though a multitude did come – from every tribe and nation, of every gender and sexuality and ability and disability – as the weekend progressed, right there in the middle of Augustana Chapel, Tree of Life itself sprouted and bloomed before all of us (Revelation 22:1-3) “with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” – and the gifts of chocolate, water, flowers, and fruit – were the very first fruits of that tree.

But the Scripture of the weekend? John 10:10 – The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (NRSV)

And it was upon this truth – not the colonizing lashes of racism, the colonizing echo of being mis-gendered, the ominous rumble of the colonizer’s institutions and apathy and violence – that we built a community and welcomed the Holy Spirit among us that weekend, both as liberator and healer. And all-together, with nothing but longing for the power of God in our lives to lead us, the Spirit grafted us all unto Jesus, the true Vine, the Liberator, and his promise of abundant life.

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Helping hands – remembering a friend.

For me, as the chief coordinator of the weekend, this abundant life showed itself most powerfully in the way chapel staff (especially Morgan Gates, bless you friend) taught us how to run the sound-board along with printing, folding, and stapling bulletins – and the way random attendees would help fill in the holes in my planning. The music and worship team provided abundant life too – in the form of last minute changes and shifts, learning four new songs that weren’t in our original hymn booklet, and regularly meeting with the Pastor Alexia and Professor Conde-Frazier to make sure that every bit of information was shared in an atmosphere of constant intercessory prayer – like the smell of charcoal that always filigrees Frankincense. They, too, showed abundance in the fact that our leaders regularly met with attendees to make sure that each part of the training tailor-fit their needs – often shortening or lengthening, or even cutting out, entire parts of the day to make sure that no one left overwhelmed, confused, or lost.

And the gathered community, too, showed abundance to each other. In the way we loved each other, carried one another’s pain, challenged each other’s weaknesses, and prayed and sang and embraced each part of us into this abundant life.

“Your experience of this transformation, this change, will be what teaches you more than anything,” Dr. Conde-Frazier mentioned more than once that weekend, “and these are things you can’t put on paper and take away with you. And it is this that you take home with you, and this is how you will begin your communities and your ministries.”

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Hermanas en la lucha – sisters in the struggle, Prof. Conde-Frazier and Pastor Salvatierra.

And from all of this a marvelously gentle and beautiful vine sprung forth, both connecting all assembled more completely to each other as well as to the world around us. For our teachers, our tias, knew that if we wanted to create community that could change the church – let alone the country, or our hearts – we had to do it right there and then, too, experience it right there and then. So much so that by the end of the day, it seemed that all we cared about doing – all we could do, was find more ways to love each other.

And that’s pretty much it.

And I know this post doesn’t give a lot of information about the training itself, because in the end, it wasn’t the most important lesson.

And yes, we did things – we made plans, shared visions, wrote things down and affirmed ourselves, but everything we did essentially had one main goal and everything orbited this goal: to teach each other how to heal and love each other.

To grow those roots like our kin in Latin America in the darkest days of the last century’s tyranny, living water bursting forth from the baptismal fonts in all of our hearts, with richly green leaves for the healing of the nations, with fruit fertile and fragrant as to feed the soul and bring forth a rich harvest, with shade to provide rest and strength for the weary and determined.

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Getting ready for the Eucharist, Jaffa Castañeda Carrera working his pipes and Putting a Praise On It (Tasha Cobbs).

Because when you’ve been healed by the love of God, well, the devil might tempt and try you, but he’ll be hard pressed to stop you – and this is what we need if we’re going to decolonize our church.

And this may sound naïve and sentimental, even foolish, but it isn’t.

For didn’t someone say something about fools for Christ and what that entails (1 Corinthians 4:10-13) – how those most despised by the world were the key to its salvation? Because when you spend your whole life fighting the church you’ve been called to serve, you need all the love you can get. And therefore, praise be praise be for this, God will GIVE you all the love that you need and more.

And if you’re curious to see what it’s all about? Come next year.

Come and see what it is like to have a heart where “nothing accursed will be found… anymore,” to be so filled with the love of God that you “need no light of lamp or sun” since “the Lord God [is your] light” (Revelation 22:3, 5) – and then to be blessed to go forth in service of the body of Christ, knowing that you have just that many new friends praying for you, working with you, helping you to solidify and guide your call and your mission.

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“Because they say that communion is perfect and eternal, but we know communion to be messy and awesome.” Rev. Joseph Castañeda Carrera, from Los Angeles mission start ADORE-LA.

Come see what that multitude of every tribe and nation, gender and sexuality, ability and disability, height and size and woof and warp looks like.

From their bounty, come and take some of their healing leaves for your soul, your body…

…and taste the sweet fruit that is the love of God, given to you from their loving, faithful hands.

RESOURCES

If you’d like more info about future base community trainings, are interested in donating to our work, or just want to chat with #decolonizeLutheranismand see what we’re about, email us at decolonizelutheranism@gmail.comand let’s start talking!

The Gospel in Solentiname – Ernesto Cardenal “In Solentiname, a remote archipelago in Lake Nicaragua, the people gathered each Sunday to reflect together on the gospel reading. From recordings of their dialogue, this extraordinary document of faith in the midst of struggle was composed.” An excellent read into the inner workings of a base community in Nicaragua during some of the darkest days of their struggles in the 1970s.

Faith-Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World – Rev. Alexia Salvatierra and Peter Heltzel A wonderful mix of reflection and praxis, much of what Pastor Salvatierra talked about during the training was also mentioned in this book. So if you want to get a bit more insight into how she leads base community trainings, and the kinds of things base communities do, this text is a good place to begin.

A Many Colored Kingdom: Multicultural Dynamics for Spiritual Formation – Elizabeth Conde-Frazier and S. Steve Kang A popular work co-authored by Dr. Conde-Frazier’s, it mixes research and data with personal stories about working in and creating multicultural spaces. Both her and S. Steve Kang have much to share.

CITATIONS

[1] Dr. Angela Cowser, professor of sociology of religion at Garrett Evangelical Theological School in Evanston, IL lectured on congregationally-based community organizing in the Methods for a Public Church l course on Tuesday afternoon and introduced this concept using Nehemiah, 1-8.

[2] I Cor 3:6.

 


11062145_10152973497325213_4921417369076653093_nBefore coming to Chicago Francisco Herrera studied classical music (viola and orchestra conducting) in his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri and then Geneva, Switzerland. After feeling the call to ministry at his home church in Geneva, The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Geneva, he returned to the US to enter seminary in 2005, completing his M.Div. from Chicago Theological Seminary in 2012. Since beginning his Ph.D studies at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC)  in Fall of 2013, he has also been developing his skills as a seminary instructor, both at LSTC and the Lutheran Seminary Program in the Southwest. And when he isn’t doing any of those things, polymath and scatterbrain that he is, Francisco likes to write worship and devotional music, blogs at www.loveasrevolution.blogspot.com, tweets at @PolyglotEvangel, and travels the country as one of the central leaders of #decolonizeLutheranism.

ULS Student Shares Harrowing Experience with Conversion Therapy

By Carla Christopher
TW for anti-lgbtqia+ so called “conversion therapy,” spiritual-sexual abuse, suicide

I was 18, a Michigan girl who had flown to New York City for college, the dire warnings of “If you don’t leave now, you never will” still ringing in my ears. My nearest family was 3 states away and the comfort and stability of my church family felt like a million miles distant. A hallmate, also rather lonely and seeking community, asked me to go with her to attend an introductory meeting for a campus Christian group. The banal and pop-tinged music was played by a ruggedly handsome boy with a mop of curls, an earnest smile, and an acoustic guitar. There were hugs and warm smiles and free pizza. It felt…nice.

The carb-laden sing-a-longs became Bible study group, Sunday night gathering, worship team rehearsals, and hang-outs. School, even the Big Apple itself, was becoming more comfortable to me. So was spending time with my judo sensei, a strong and charming tomboy-ish woman from sunny California. I enjoyed spending time with her so much, that I mentioned it to the curly-haired crooner, who was also now my Bible study leader. He listened thoughtfully, hugged me with affection and seeming understanding, and encouraged me to attend a winter gathering of fellow students from a few other schools. It would be good to get away, he insisted, to experience some great prayer and praise, and to gain some clarity.

Clarity was apparently waiting for me in the knee-deep snow of a middle American state. A place I was transported to in someone else’s car, long before the days of cell phones being affordable to broke college students. I was assigned a metal bunk bed in a room of several other strangers. Breakfast came before dawn, the next day and for several days after. Days of hours of long prayer in crowded rooms with uncomfortable chairs. Days of repetitive music on speakers louder than thought. Days of testimony of “changed lives” and “surrendered sin”. The talk was vague. I was separated from my friends and anyone else I knew, except for my group leader checking in on me each day at dinner. I was cold. I was hungry. This place made me uncomfortable. I wanted to go home. Instead, I was told I was ready for “the prayer room”. A special seminar, he said. Sexual Healing.

A small group of us, indicated by group leaders and pointed fingers and hushed whispers. A darkened room with a concrete floor. Frigid cold, empty of furniture except for metal chairs and crosses. A circle of murmuring humans surrounding us. A laying on of hands that pushed me to the floor. Pressing that became restraint, then pain. Cries of prayer that became louder with every ‘no’, with every ‘stop’, with every ‘please stop, just let me go’. A separate, even smaller room for each of us. Still-near-children, now alone, cries of prayer that continued long after our very real tears had stopped.

They prayed in shifts. There was no one to relieve me. I broke in less than 12 hours. To this day, my weakness shames me. I begged God to take away whatever had made me deserving of such shaming, needful of such prayer. I ate, slept, spoke like a robot, moved slowly and mechanically throughout the strange space throughout the next day. I was allowed back to my metal bunk, to the mass sessions of prayer and song. My group leader smiled approvingly at me from across the room. I rose without conscious thought. I walked without feeling or intention. I knew I was dirty. I was aware only of an uncontrollable compulsion to get clean. I made it back to my bunk, to the industrial, open showers. In the metal stall, under scalding hot water, I suddenly realized I was fully clothed. And still gay. That’s when I wept. The kind of slack jawed, snot-releasing, hiccup-causing, soul-deep howls that reveal a broken soul.

I had prayed. I had obeyed. I had surrendered. Hadn’t God promised that if I prayed, if I believed, that I would be heard? I must truly be beyond hope, beyond saving, outside of God’s grace. All the pain of my childhood, my broken family, the weight of my every failing, real or perceived, fell upon me at once. Because hope died in that shower stall. There was no heaven for me. No relief that would ever end this pain, even in death. There was only this life, and an aloneness I hadn’t known since praying the prayer that made the Holy Spirit my best friend at 5 years old.

The rest of that night is blurry for me. I know my mother and uncle drove through a snowstorm on New Year’s and found me in a diner with a pay phone after a 5 hour drive. I know I left the church for more than a decade, punishing my body and my spirit every way I knew how, until God reminded me that if this was who I was, it was who God created me to be, knit together with the beauty of Psalm 139. I know that I made it out alive, barely, but my duet partner did not. He turned to drugs and needles and HIV then AIDS. I know that my first “boyfriend” did not. He took a fistful of sleeping pills and duct taped a plastic bag around his neck rather than live to see his disappointed family. I know that this is the cold, chest-gripping fist I feel on the rare nights I still wake up in a sticky sweat, 20 years later. I know that, as a proud and unapologetic queer person, this is a memory I must carry with me into board rooms and court rooms as very public and very media-accessible fights for conversion therapy bans, and non-discrimination protections, and adoption rights are being fought in America, in Pennsylvania, in 2018.

So many broken souls at the feet of the church. Souls you would have to dig six feet into hard-packed earth to make reparations to. And mine is just one of the thousands of conversion or “repairative” therapy realities still healing, still being prayed through, within our repenting and rebirthing church.

Carla Christopher
Carla Christopher is a culturally Jewish, Episcopalian-raised, Lutheran AF, Black/German/Hint of Mexican queer community organizer and cultural educator turned first-year seminarian at United Lutheran Seminary – Gettysburg.

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Student Organizations at Luther Seminary Call for More than Words about Racism on Campus

The following letter is from ReCharge and Dismantling Racism: Beloved Community (DR:BC)–two student organizations on the campus of Luther Seminary. ReCharge and DR:BC wrote this to the Student Council Executive team in response to their invitation to attend recent listening sessions about concerns of racism at the seminary. This is published here with the permission of the signatories. Decolonize Lutheranism stands with these students in their call for action.

A majority of the minoritized/marginalized students will not be attending this meeting. It was brought to our attention that President Steinke might interpret our absence as if we do not care. To that we would like to respond by saying: We have been creating safe spaces, table conversations and talking circles for the last 2 years addressing the problems that we all have been experiencing. During these 2 years President Steinke nor any of her representatives have attended any of our meetings. The staff/faculty members that have showed up are the same staff/faculty members that are still showing up and helping to create the space and conversation along side us. During these two years we have come to the conclusion that President Steinke does not care about our experience in this institution. Within the last year racism has elevated to an all time high, the passive-aggressive racism within the faculty, staff & students have become way too familiar.

From our perspective, their injustices go unanswered and unpunished while any black/African American staff that gets hired lasts less than 6 months because of their failure to “do their job”. Talking has been the theme since we began attending in this institution. It has been occurring for decades before we got here. We talk & talk until we graduate and move on and nothing really gets fixed. We decided not to attend this meeting because we are tired of listening to empty promises, words without meaning and with no intent of action. We do not want to talk if it will not be followed by action. We do not want to hear you say or promise change, we want you to show it & prove it; We are visual learners. In the meantime, we will continue to pray for God’s presence in this institution; That the spirit’s grace turns hateful hearts into loving ones, and that our creator provides courage to the ones in positions to make Luther Seminary a proper representation of Christ’s love knowing that our redeemer forgives those who trespasses against us. We will pray for God to give us the strength to persevere as the oppressed, as the chosen ones and as children of God. May Justice prevail.

Sincerely,

ReCharge & DR:BC

Joseph – A sermon for Trans Day of Remembrance 2017

By Asher O’Callaghan

Grace, peace, and mercy are yours in the Triune God. Amen.

It is an honor and a joy to be joining you all here today. Three years ago during this fall semester I wrapped up my time here at Luther as a Master’s of Divinity student. So it’s fun to get to visit my alma mater here and form relationships with the next wave of public Christian leaders who will be transforming the church. It filled me with hope for the church to spend time with the students here throughout the day yesterday, especially a few of your classmates who are gender diverse and do not identify as female or male. In my work with seminarians on this campus and throughout the church, it is clear to me that the reformation movement is alive and well in Christ’s Body.

It is also an honor and a joy to be speaking with you today as a transgender Lutheran pastor. You see, when I was born I was named Mary Christine and raised as a girl. My parents dressed me up in pretty dresses and took me to modeling auditions. At Church, I learned about Hell and homosexuality, and what it meant that I was a woman. I learned that women were to be silent at church and that God made women as the weaker vessel to be men’s helpers. And I was taught that was what the Bible said so it had to be that way. Funny enough, that was actually the one reason I was grateful to be a woman – I thanked God that I would never have to lead worship, it was so dreadfully boring. I think God’s still laughing.

When I was about 5 years old I began hurting myself on purpose. I would do things like scrape my knees and elbows on purpose. No one ever suspected anything because I as a tomboy I was always skating and climbing trees and doing all sorts of things that could result in scrapes and bruises. Eventually I was cutting and burning myself.

It became a pesky habit that I didn’t know how to quit. Truth be told, I didn’t want to quit so it continued through my teenage years and into college. There was something about the blood, the pain, the open wounds that was comforting to me. It’s uniquely comforting to take the pain that you’re feeling internally and make it tangible and visible, even if only for yourself.

I knew that something was deeply inexplicably wrong. But there was nothing in my life to affirm that. Everything was supposed to be fine. Everything was fine. Except for me. So I looked around for something that might help me understand why what I felt on the inside didn’t match what was going on the outside. Church didn’t help with all the smiling faces.

I had never heard the word transgender and I had no language for what was going on inside of me. What I couldn’t do with language, I did with my body. All those feelings of pain, and shame, and self-hatred had to go somewhere, but when I looked around I found nothing on the surface of my life to show or express them. My body was the only thing I had to help me make sense of things. The physical pain was the only means I knew to affirm the inner pain I couldn’t name or explain. Others might not see it or understand it. I may not understand it. But my body was doing what it could to show me that my pain was no less real than my wounds.

And then later on as I kept trying to understand myself, I started thinking that I must be crazy. When everyone treats you like someone you’re not, you eventually start to feel crazy. So I went to go see a therapist to help make me more normal, more straight. She tried to convince me that I was a beautiful daughter of God. And I tried to believe her. I was suicidal, I nearly dropped out of college, I overdosed on sleeping pills, I stayed with a man who yelled at me and hit me because I figured no one else would ever be attracted to me.

Now I am a wildly privileged white person. I grew up with access to quality education, affordable healthcare, and access to safe housing. So I don’t say any of that to make you feel sorry for me. But just imagine. If as a privileged white person I have encountered all of this, can you imagine what it must be like for transgender and gender non-conforming people of color who don’t have easy access to the resources that I did? You can begin to see how people might become sex workers, or become addicted, or stay in abusive relationships, or end their own lives.

The vast majority of names on the list we talked about earlier of the 325 of our transgender siblings killed during this past year both within the U.S. and around the world belong to transgender or gender non-conforming people of color, particularly ones outside of the United States. And so that is part of why I chose the reading about Joseph from Genesis.

You’ve all probably heard of Joseph’s “Technicolor Dream Coat” from Genesis. The word there used for the robe or the garment that Joseph wore is also the word used for the garment that Tamar wore in 2 Samuel. So it could be translated coat of many colors. It could be translated robe. It could be translated princess dress. Who knows?

So I heard this slam poem written by a queer person of color named J. Mace III. And I’d like you to listen to it.

“Josephine”

She asks if she can talk to me about Jesus at 3 a.m. on the C train
because something about my queer face means
clearly I’m on a path straight to Hell
I’ve come to expect this type of reaction
from strangers
at least once a week
since the first time I was exorcised at 16
But today
I’ve grown tired
and I’ve decided it is my turn to proselytize
So before you do any of that
I want to know from you
Have you heard the good word about
Joseph of Genesis?
See
Joseph
Josephine
Jo of Genesis
favorite child of Jacob
Aka Israel
when asked
what you wanted
you desired one thing:
a kethoneth passim
Pastor called this a royal coat
And
Jo
I had never read the Bible before
found you and kept reading
Josephine
I got to 2nd Samuel
and realized your coat of many colors
was a princess dress
Joseph
your father must have really loved you
Because he got it for you
and you wore it with pride
Jo
when your brothers saw you
in your flowing dress
in your glory
they became enraged
I am sorry for the beating you received
Sorry they destroyed your dress
and smeared it with the red paint of your swollen veins
Josephine
did you know they told your father you were dead
so he’d never come looking for you
Never knew your brothers
sold you as a slave into Egypt
and once you were stolen from your home fields
the earth dried up
Jo
the very ground on which you walked
mourned the loss of its genderqueer child
and all the plants died
and the animals no longer had the will to live
Josephine
your family nearly starved
Saw the formation of ribs
where once grew flesh
and belly fat
And they
hungry and desperate
traveled into Egypt
And what must they have seen, Jo?
See, in Egypt people discovered you
not as fag
not as tranny
They saw you in totality
You went from slave
to leader over lands
there you were Josephine
You looked magnificent
As you
Your family couldn’t even recognize you through the glare of divinity
But you saw them shivering in fear
waiting to hear what this regal leader might say
Wondering if your spirit might see fit
to grant them the grain needed to survive
and Joseph
love broke through
the darkness of resentment
And for the first time
your family saw you
as you
as Magnificent
for it was your word
that saved them from starvation
Dear Joseph of Genesis
aka Josephine
aka Jo
I am claiming your story
for every queer kid told
they are unholy
for every queer told
in order to love
we must let our faith die
I am going to put it in a pocket
over my heart
next to Ruth & Naomi
next to David & Jonathan
next to Hegai & Deborah
and seat them at the last Passover
with Jesus and Lazarus
Yes
I am taking Jesus with me too
Dear pastor
To you who claim your words are from God
but whose book is pledged to King James
know what allegiances you keep
You’ve been lying about my people for too long

Beautiful. Isn’t it? It can be beautiful when we see history in a different light. And these stories of reconiciling. These stories around the world not only of transgender people who have been murdered but of transgender people who are living and thriving, these are stories that need to be raised up. Because ultimately we’re in a church that needs reconciliation. A church that doesn’t want to talk about difference, doesn’t really want to talk about diversity.

Christ ultimately will not be bound by any person’s conscience, nor by the pages of history. Christ will not be bound by bathroom laws. And the Body of Christ will not be divided against itself. We learned from Jesus that a house divided against itself cannot stand. And we learned from Paul that as parts of the Body of Christ we are members of one another. We don’t always understand one another. We certainly do not look like one another. We all bring different gifts and function differently. And in spite of what the world tells us, the Holy Spirit has taught us that as members of one another, our differences are gifts. We need one another.

Christ’s Body is wounded when we pretend that other parts of the body are not there. Christ’s Body is wounded when we can’t name the other parts of the body because we’re embarrassed.

But here’s the good news: Creation didn’t stop in Genesis, it kept going. Whether Joseph was queer or not, God is still re-creating and reforming us. When we do see one another, when we affirm one another, when we name one another in all our glorious differences, the Word becomes flesh once again. In our flesh, we behold the glory of God, when we name one another and our differences as gifts for our work together.

This is our witness of healing, of reconciliation, and of wholeness. God’s creation did not stop in the Garden of Eden in creating Adam and Eve. In Jesus Christ, God has made a new Body, a new creation even more glorious than the first. And in this Body, we have the most precious grace of becoming ourselves. Amen.

 

Great Thanksgiving

God is with you. And also with you.

Lift up your hearts. We lift them to God.

Let us give thanks to God. It is right to give our thanks and praise.

 

It is indeed right our duty and our joy

that we should at all times and in all places

give thanks and praise to you,

Life-giving God.

 

We thank you, divine Seamstress

for you never stop creating.

From the dawn of time, to our mother’s womb, even in the age to come,

your creativity is as endless as eternity.

Today you are knitting us your people

into a garment of many colors.

 

We thank you, Holy Spirit,

for you do not allow us to grow complacent.

You stir up dreams and visions within us

making us restless for a new Heaven and a new Earth.

You clothe us with power to bring these dreams to life.

In you, we are beginning to see all things anew.

 

We thank you, Christ our Savior,

for your wondrous transformation,

Word made into flesh.

You challenge us with foreign experiences

teaching us that those we thought were strange and cut off

are members in your holy body.

And so with all your people of every time and place,

the church on earth and the hosts of heaven,

we sing your praise and join the unending hymn:

 

“Holy, holy, holy”

Trans Day of Remembrance 2017 – A Reflection

By Reed Fowler

Planning worship this year was different.

We had to add new names to the list of those siblings lost too soon while planning.

For a total of twenty-five.

Not counting those unknown to us, erased in death, who died alone, due to addiction, mental illness, poverty, more cycles of transphobia and violence.

 

I want to wrap my body around the cross.

Clinging with all my strength.

When I press my cheek to the wood it feels like blood and tears.

I cling harder and the woodgrain imprints on my body. Or my body carves into it.

This space of lament and fear reaches deeper —

Like a caretaker or lover holding my heart.

Risking splinters is the only way I feel safe.

 

I’m angry and sad and exhausted at how often I feel those things.

 

My heart sings when it hears about shifting language

(from he to she to zhe)

(remembrance to resistance)

(but I can’t rest in that)

 

I want my tears to sprout buds on the cross

I want my siblings’ blood to sprout buds.

And let our cracking ribs

Breathe in the scent of flowers.

And rebirth.

 

Until then,

I will interlace my veins with yours.

And cling harder to the splintered cross.

I Am Not Broken

This post was written by the Rev. John Longworth for ACE/ARO (Asexual/Aromantic) Awareness Week

When the well-meaning 7th grade classmate turned to me and said “do you think I’m cute?” and I honestly said “no’, and thus provoked she asked me , “well, do you think Nate is cute?” and I honestly said “no”, I was not broken.

When I was bullied and gay-baited as a youth, and my own denials left me more confused and alone, I was not broken.

When I talked and played cards with my date on prom night, I was not broken.

When I had my first crush on a guy, then on a girl, and mostly on no one at all, I was not broken.

When I got dumped after a few dates more than once because it wasn’t “going anywhere”, I was not broken.

When I survived a bad relationship with terrible boundaries, I was hurt, but I was not broken.

When I cherished consent so much that I asked my current partner to hold her hand on our second date, I was not broken.

When I married my best friend who is phenomenal at boundaries and consent, I was not broken.

When I finally discovered the community that used language that described my life with startling accuracy, I was not broken, I was whole.

Even so, my church has not always been so sure. From the candidacy committee member who was worried that my multiple piercings would mean that we needed to have “the talk”, to the countless church members in my first call who wondered when a baby would be on the way, to thousand insinuations that only married adults with children properly constitute a family. Something seems to give away that my experience and my being are not typical, and yet since my experience isn’t easy to name, the uncertainty turns into erasure.

Roughly 1% of the population identifies as asexual, sometime represented by the shorthand term “Ace”. I do not and cannot purport to speak for the whole spectrum of people who lay claim to this identity, which includes people who experience sexual attraction only with intense emotional bonds (demi-sexual), or only rarely (graysexual), or not at all. This is different from celibacy, which is a behavior choice. It’s the difference between not getting anything out of drinking coffee, and choosing not to drink it to cut down on caffeine even though you might like coffee.

Aces can have varying attitudes on sex itself, from sex-repulsion to sex neutrality to sex positivity. Some engage in sexual activity with a partner to care for that person, others do not. Not experiencing or rarely experiencing sexual attraction might make it harder for an Ace to understand the way sex works in sexual people’s relationships, but this doesn’t mean we can’t be strong proponents of consent and healthy sexual expression for others.

Aces describe a variety of romantic sensibilities. Some long for close, loving and affectionate (though not sexual) relationships with people of the same gender (homoromantic), a different gender (heteroromantic), more than one gender (biromantic) or irrespective of gender (panromantic). I would imagine that a pansexual person would quickly correct the assumption that they are sexually attracted to literally everyone, and as a panromantic I would echo that basic sentiment. Being able to form romantic attachment to people regardless of gender doesn’t mean falling for everyone.

In addition, there are a people who experience themselves as Aromantic or Aro for short. They don’t experience the longing I have described here. At the same time, some Aro folks derive great joy from closely bonded platonic friendships.

How can the church honor and welcome Ace and Aro people? First and foremost, trust that they are children of God and that they aren’t broken. Celebrate Asexual Awareness week which is October 22-28 in 2017 and usually falls in the second half of October each year.

Don’t assume that everyone is dating or married to someone or that it is tragic if they aren’t. Don’t assume that all couples, including romantically bonded couples are sexual or will have children. Never again use the term “only friends” as a pejorative for a relationship. Find ways to celebrate and honor singleness as a valid relational calling. Find ways to lift up long term friends and platonic couples to honor their loving care for each other. Practice healthy boundaries and consent with all people.

John Michael Longworth is an ELCA Pastor, Brother in the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans, dog-walker, earth mystic and poet residing in Vermont. He tries to decolonize his mind through Holy Listening.

 To learn more vocabulary and participate in the world’s largest online forum for the Aro/Ace community visit AVEN (Asexuality Visibility and Education Network) at asexuality.org

Defining Identity

By: Rev. Tuhina Rasche (San Carlos, CA)
Rev. Tuhina Rasche walking along the separation/security wall in Bethlehem, Palestine.

As a second generation Indian-American woman, I often times struggle with my identity in multiple spaces and how my story is told into these spaces. This is both tragic and comical, as much of my work and ministry deals with the perception of identities within church settings. But identity is extremely complicated; what are the labels with which we use to self-identify, but also, what are the labels that are then placed upon us by outside forces? Who gets to tell our story? As a person who longs for a sense of place in the world, how a story is told and who tells a story matters a great deal to me.

But what happens when your identity is controlled by outside forces that strip away your humanity on a multitude of levels? What happens when the words that define your flesh are taken away from you? When your sense of place becomes literally dislocated and your own home becomes a place of wilderness? What happens when your narrative, the ability to tell your story, is taken away from you?

My first exposure to this came, of all places, on the shuttle from Tel Aviv to the West Bank. I told the driver of the shuttle that I needed to get to the Lutheran guesthouse at Augusta Victoria Hospital on Mt. Scopus near Hebrew University. In my naïveté, I asked one of the trip leaders for the address to the guesthouse so I could give it to the shuttle driver. The response?

“LOL address. There aren’t addresses in the West Bank.”

The first time I was in the Holy Land back in 1996, I was in places that had addresses. During my stays in Arad, Netanya, and Tel Aviv, I had a physical sense of location. I had a place with a street, a street name, and a postal code where I could tell friends and family my location. But this trip was to the West Bank; everything was now different. With my previous trip to the Holy Land and my experiences with having a physical address in the United States that I call home, I was entering into a new narrative.

This is how you start to strip away a population’s identity. Take away what names you, take away parts of the world that help tell your story. Then tell a singular story of who has access to land, thereby silencing a cacophony of voices desiring to be heard and recognizing the complexity of histories. Control the narrative. Control how information is used and distributed. If you take away the physical identifier of location, could a person, a community, a population reside there if their very existence and claim to the land is in question? What happens when the place you call home… is not deemed or deeded to be your home? What happens when you start to believe the stories placed upon your identity, being fed words, thoughts, and ideas that are no longer your own? Elias Chacour, former archbishop of the Melkite Church, a person passionate about reconciliation between Palestinians and Jews, and a Palestinian dislocated from his home in 1948, asks, “What was the true story of Palestine?” In addition to that question, I wonder, who gets to tell the story that is heard by the masses?

There is not one single way to tell stories. If you have to fight for your story to be shared with the world, sometimes storytelling has to happen in a subversive and surprising way. I experienced identity and narrative in a way I wasn’t anticipating while in the Holy Land; yet they felt oddly familiar to me as a former parish pastor in Oakland, California. I saw narratives written and drawn on the walls of the West Bank, telling so many stories of resilience, of lamentation, and of existence. These narratives, while not verbal, represented a cacophony of stories wanting to be acknowledged by the greater world. The ultimate cacophony of these narratives, these stories, came at the security wall in Bethlehem. Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, where on Christmas Eve so many sing, “Oh little town… how still we see thee lie” is not still, but stifled. The town is located in the West Bank and it is almost entirely encircled by a concrete security wall and caught between two bypass roads giving Jewish settlers easier access to Israel. While one side of the wall was pristine, the other side was filled with stories. These narratives had a physical location where they could exist, an actual mark on the land that made a claim that the storyteller existed in this space at this time.

This was the proof of being, the proof of “I AM,” the proof that there are multiple stories in a land where there is an immense danger in telling one sole story.

This post originally appeared on Rev. Tuhina Rasche’s website as Defining Identity and is shared here with her permission.

When guilt, shame, and blame transform…

When guilt, shame, and blame transform to curiosity, grief, and humility, a door to liberation flies open.

For the past year and a half, the congregation of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Seattle has been on an intentional journey of humble learning and intentional AntiRacism training. This is not the beginning of their work. In many ways they have been immersed in the work for years as part of their ministry with refugees, people living on the streets, folks in recovery and advocacy for justice in the areas of poverty, food distribution and gender equality. But what has been new is the formation of an intentional team of people who call themselves the AntiRacism Team.

For a year the team led monthly forums for the congregation, providing baseline education on terminology such as; Whiteness, White Privilege and Intersectionality. They facilitated conversations to clarify understanding of Gender Identity as a spectrum just like Sexuality. They made space for stories to be told about the disparities of the criminal justice system and police brutality. They accepted an invitation to share their experience as a workshop for other congregations. All the while, they humbly claim no particular level of expertise, simply a desire and willingness to be accountable to one another and to continue to challenge the congregation.

The congregation has been warm and receptive to the work, seeking more than just 1-hour monthly forums. So the time came to do more. It was time for a retreat. The team, decided it was time to dive-in to the depths of #decolonizeLutheranism.

As their pastor, it is my humble joy to shepherd them in this work. So when they asked me to invite my beloved collaborator of holy chaos at Churchwide Assembly to come to Seattle and co-lead the retreat with me, there was only one possible response: HELL YEAH!

And so it was that this past Saturday that, the itinerant preacher, Rev. Tuhina Rasche, and the veteran youth minister with a social justice lens, Rev. Priscilla Paris-Austin, were reunited for a workshop titled: The Liberating Love of the #decolonizeLutheranism Movement.

PRISCILLA:  Tuhina, Thanks for joining us in Seattle. My family is always happy to host you when you visit. But what were you thinking when you accepted this invitation to be here on your birthday weekend?

TUHINA: The Spirit works when the Spirit works. When I visited Seattle in March to meet with communities to talk about #decolonizeLutheranism, I mentioned that these are conversations that need to take place over time. I made a commitment to the people of Immanuel Lutheran and other communities where I spoke that I would return if they wanted to continue the conversation on what it meant to seriously work toward decolonizing the ELCA. The people of Immanuel wanted to continue that conversation, and they wanted to invite their ecumenical partners who are also invested in this work. The date that worked happened to be my birthday weekend. You promised me cake (I got two, as a matter of fact), but the work of liberation and love is a daily practice. I knew that I would be surrounded by my siblings in Christ to celebrate my birthday, but to also do the continuing work to profess the full inclusivity of God’s love in the world.

PRISCILLA: What surprised you most about your time in Seattle?

TUHINA: This is hard work. These are vulnerable spaces in which to reside. This is a work that will truly continue until Christ comes again. Yet the time that we spent together as a community wrestling with the brokenness of the world was a holy time… and it is a time that passed quickly. I often see tired faces following such retreats; at this retreat, I saw a look of yearning, of people wanting more and wanting to continue to explore these difficult and vulnerable conversations to make them into embodied action. I had people come up to me following the retreat stating they’re ready for even more.

PRISCILLA:  I was deeply appreciative of your vulnerability as you shared your motivations and perspective on the history and origin of the #decolonizeLutheranism movement. Can you talk about what it means for you to share that story, not for the first time, but for the first time with this group of folks?

TUHINA: One of the aspects of my ministry with #decolonizeLutheranism is to model the sharing of holy stories. Many times, holy stories come from places of extreme vulnerability. Oftentimes, I am incredibly scared to show such vulnerability in front of people I do not know, and in predominantly white spaces. I have to remind myself of the theology of the cross, realizing that power can be found in vulnerability. If I am able to honestly invite people into a vulnerable and brave space, if people are invested in the work of love and liberation, I trust that they will follow. Part of sharing my story is talking about embodiment. When I share the story of my motivation for this ministry, I want people to know there is flesh attached to the words, that there are real lives that are risking their candidacy, their ministry, and their lives for this work. I am grateful that the story was held as holy within this community. I am also grateful that people were able to share parts of themselves and where they could see themselves within the narrative of #decolonizeLutheranism and parallel stories within their denominations.

PRISCILLA: One of the things I found most helpful was the conversation around permissions and invitations.  The group was so deeply engaged and hungry for learning that we found ourselves jumping into stories that we thought wouldn’t come up until later in the day. Instead the Holy Spirit was totally in control of our day. It was so fruitful and unplanned.

TUHINA: Absolutely. No retreat or workshop I’ve ever led has been the same. I continue to marvel at the communities that continue to be formed through #decolonizeLutheranism. I also appreciate that people were so willing to be vulnerable and to come with a sense of wonder. I loved that so many questions came so early in the retreat; it was evident that the group was so ready and eager not just to learn, but also to embody love and justice in the world.

PRISCILLA: On a personal note, I want to thank you for sharing your birthday weekend with us. There are moments in my life when I find myself feeling cynical or jaded by the world, even by the routine of the daily grind of ministry. But I stay in it because of moments like this weekend. Sitting next to you in worship, hearing you proclaim the word and watching you delight in praising Jesus was like a revival to my soul. Plus, without your visit, I might have never gone out to find the statue of Jimmy Hendrix. Traveling and partnering with you in ministry and life is such a blessing.

The Rev. Priscilla Paris-Austin

 

 

I Hope You’re Somewhere, Praying

Originally published at Pastor Jennifer Preaching

I Hope You’re Somewhere, Praying
A Meditation on Kesha’s “Praying” Music Video

“Why did I not die at birth,
come forth from the womb and expire?
Why were there knees to receive me,
or breasts for me to suck?
Now I would be lying down and quiet;
I would be asleep; then I would be at rest…
Or why was I not buried like a stillborn child,
like an infant that never sees the light?”
Job 3:11-12,16

“Am I dead?
Or is this one of those dreams?
Those horrible dreams, that seem like they last forever?
If I am alive, why? Why?
If there is a God or whatever, something, somewhere,
why have I been abandoned by everyone and everything
I’ve ever known, I’ve ever loved?…
God give me a sign, or I have to give up.
I can’t do this anymore.
Please just let me die.
Being alive hurts too much.”
Kesha, “Praying”

 

A victim’s story is only theirs to tell. No one else—not the victimizer, not a judge, not a jury, not the court of public opinion—can tell it. No one else can tell a victim how to react, how to move forward, how they should or shouldn’t behave.

Unfortunately, all too often, we do just that. We blame victims for what was done to them and refuse to hold victimizers and abusers accountable. And then, when we have collectively decided it’s ‘over,’ we demand that victims forgive and forget, that they move on. We expect them to fit a specific, saint-like mold of infinite patience and beatific smiles. We don’t want them to be angry. We don’t want them to show us their scars, physical or emotional or spiritual. We don’t want to be reminded of what happened—even if they are unable to forget.

Last week was completely upended for me when Kesha released her new music video, “Praying.” I will be honest and say I never expected a music video to have such an impact on me. My first reaction when I saw the link was, “Oh, she’s back! I’m so glad she’s finally able to make music again.”

Then I started watching the video. If you haven’t watched it yet, if you’re not sure what the buzz is about, go watch it. Right now. This piece will wait ‘til you get back.

It begins in a twisted parody of a funeral, no music. Kesha asks, “Am I dead?” Floating on debris in an empty ocean, she says, “If I am alive, why? Why? If there is a God or whatever, something, somewhere, why have I been abandoned?”

I don’t know if Kesha meant to create a lament in the ancient tradition of the Hebrew Bible, but that’s what it sounds like. It is a voice that cries out from the deepest, darkest places in the human experience. Like Job, like the lament Psalms, she questions God and begs for an end to her suffering. “Please just let me die,” she says. “Being alive hurts too much.”

There is a reason the ancient laments still resonate in our modern ears. We know suffering. We know darkness. We know what it feels like to cry in the dead of night “Why God, why?” and mean it as an accusation.

On the cross, Jesus cried out in the words of Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He died a death of pain and humiliation and injustice. His body was laid in a tomb. His disciples grieved. This was not the end of the story.

In “Praying,” Kesha does not stay in that desolate, black-and-white ocean. She does not stay in the hellish funeral. She wears a feather boa and angel wings and a veil of butterflies, and covers her face with brightly-colored paint.

It’s a resurrection story. An Easter story. Or in the words of the Psalms, “You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” Kesha moves from death to new life. She starts out in lament, but she finds her voice and sings (and my God, does she sing). [1]

This is a resurrection story. It’s also a reconciliation story. Not in the simplistic, simpering way we want victims to reconcile with their victimizers. Kesha doesn’t forgive and forget, she doesn’t move on, she doesn’t make nice with the man who tormented her. She doesn’t apologize to us, her audience, for making us uncomfortable or for not being a ‘perfect’ victim (as if there were such a thing). She is beautifully, brutally honest, and it’s powerful to watch.

How do you forgive someone who hasn’t asked for forgiveness? How do you forgive someone who is unrepentant, who perhaps would deny that they’ve done anything that needs forgiving? How do you reconcile with someone who abused you and could abuse you in the future? There are no Bible-school answers for these questions.

Kesha sings, “You brought the flames and you put me through hell. I had to learn how to fight for myself. And we both know all the truths I could tell. I’ll just say this as I wish you farewell—I hope you’re somewhere, praying. I hope your soul is changing. I hope you find your peace, falling on your knees, praying.” This is probably the kindest message she could possibly send to her abuser. She’s not interested in making him feel better. She’s certainly not interested in sharing the burden of guilt. But she hopes that someday, he realizes he needs to repent. She hopes that his soul changes. And when that day comes, it’s not her whose forgiveness he should seek: “Some things, only God can forgive.”

In the depths of hurt and betrayal, it may be impossible to offer forgiveness. Our culture tells us “forgive and forget,” and if we can’t forgive, can’t forget, it seems like a personal failure. Yet even Christ on the cross didn’t tell his murderers “I forgive you”—he prayed, “Father, forgive them.” When we are unable to forgive, the only thing we can do is turn forgiveness over to God. When we cannot forgive and forget and move on, maybe we can move forward by handing the responsibility of forgiveness over to God.

What is so powerful about “Praying” is that it’s not about the abuser. It’s about Kesha. It’s about her healing, her new life. She hopes he’s somewhere praying. But what we get to see is Kesha, praying. Standing up, breaking free, clothing herself in color. Moving from death to life. Walking on water, looking towards the sun.

 

A Postscript on Religious Imagery

I could go on and on about the religious symbolism in this video. In addition to what I’ve already said, I’ll just add two more observations—one in the form of critique, and one in the form of appreciation.

I love this music video. I think Kesha misstepped, though, in appropriating elements of Hinduism. I’m assuming Kesha is not Hindu. But the font she uses for the title card and at the end of the video is an anglicized version of Hindi. And the multi-colored dust she throws looks like the dust from a Holi festival. I’m not Hindu, either, but as a Christian in the United States, I think we need to be very careful about using cultural and religious markers that aren’t our own. The bigger our platform, the more careful we need to be. As of this writing, “Praying” has over 12 million views, so that’s a pretty big platform. (Bigger than any audience I’ll ever preach to!)

I’ll end with one last image that spoke to me powerfully in this video. It’s the scene shot at Salvation Mountain (it’s a real place in California). This is where Kesha is wild and free and alive. It’s her Easter garden. Over this rainbow-colored monument rise the words, “God is love.” In a world where Christianity serves to abuse and enable abusers, this is the message we need to come back to again and again. God is love. If we need new life, then we need to turn to God who is Love. If we need forgiveness, then we need God who is Love. If we seek reconciliation or peace or a world where we don’t inflict violence on one another, then there are worse places to look than Salvation Mountain.

 

[1] For further reading, check out The Message of the Psalms by Walter Brueggeman. Brueggeman identifies three types of Psalms: Psalms of orientation, Psalms of disorientation, and Psalms of new orientation. They trace a movement from a comfortable status quo, through a crisis, and to a new equilibrium. The Psalms of new orientation reveal the Psalmist coming to a new understanding of themselves in relation to God and the world. After a crisis, a new life is rebuilt. As Kesha moves from lament to finding her voice, she is re-orienting herself and her identity.

 

The Rev. Jennifer Chrien

Pastor Jennifer is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). She served her first call at Our Saviour’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Oxnard, CA, before being called to serve Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Simi Valley.

A Response to Sean Spicer

“In this room, also men were executed if they were deemed no longer useful to the Nazi. The methods of execution were varied. Sometimes a bullet was used, but our guide informed us that his captors had said many times that a bullet was too expensive a price to pay for the death of a slave. Poison gas or starvation was much cheaper.”  — Corporal Norman Paschen, describing his experience of the Buchenwald concentration camp during its liberation in April, 1945

It is likely that you have heard White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s remarks today in which he falsely asserted that Adolf Hitler never utilized poison gas during the holocaust and Second World War, and his subsequent apology in which he admitted that Hitler had murdered people with poison gas, but not “his own people,” and in which he refused to publicly name the concentration camps, referring to them instead as “holocaust centers.”

Prisoners liberated from the women’s camp in the Buchenwald concentration camp.

As Spicer is engaging in a maniacal spin campaign to attempt to mitigate the harm done to his career and the reputation of the White House by his remarks, it is crucial that we examine carefully what he actually said, and why his remarks carry historic impact.

The setting of his remarks were to defend recent American airstrikes of a Syrian airfield, and in doing so, he argued that Bashar El-Assad’s recent use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people was inexcusable, and needed to be punished. In doing so, he remarked that “You had someone who was as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” In his attempt at an “apology,”he doubles down on his claim, remarking that “I think when you come to sarin gas, [Hitler] was not using the gas on his own people.”

Press Secretary Sean Spicer making a personal apology to CNN announcer Wolf Blitzer, whose parents escaped the Nazis and whose grandparents died in Auschwitz.

As an American, a Christian, and a student of history, it is imperative that I speak the truth as loudly as I can in the midst of Spicer’s vile lies. Lest there be any confusion, I must make plain that Adolf Hitler most certainly did use poison gas on his own people. He did so tens of thousands of times, resulting in the deaths of millions. Sarin gas was invented, militarized, and utilized by Hiltler’s regime, though it is true that it was quickly replaced with cheaper and more effective substances, such as hydrogen cyanide and Zyklon B. Spicer’s remarks to the contrary are not accidental use of “insensitive references,” they are blatant and inexcusable lies.

For him to tell such lies on any day is appalling, but for him to do so during the commemoration of the Passover and on the very day of the completion of the liberation of the concentration camp at Buchenwald is inexcusable. To commit such an act of holocaust-denying and anti-Semitic theater on this day of all days is to do political and theological violence against the Jewish people.

As Lutherans we must be extra sensitive to the subject of anti-Jewish violence. During World War II, Millions of German Lutherans were complicit in the massacring of Europe’s Jewish communities, and Martin Luther himself wrote a significant treatise that is filled with unmitigated violence and vitriol – “On The Jews and Their Lies” (1543).

As an American and a practicing Christian, who has been “grafted into the side of Abraham’s tree,” and who worships a Jewish savior, I must categorically demand Sean Spicer’s immediate resignation. I must also fervently request that all those in this country who carry the title of “Christian” join me in educating Mr. Spicer and the White House about the history of our nation and that of the Jewish people. The time for half-hearted and ham-handed apologies has long since passed. It is time for action. On behalf of the Jewish people, the Syrian people and all of G-d’s beloveds who are oppressed.”

Written by decolonizer Jess Davis on behalf of #decolonizelutheranism