Rev. Douglas Avilesbernal
We will gather next month for our annual meeting. Our theme will be part of our on-going Yes We Will! call to follow Christ. This year we will discuss ways to free the captives still in Luke 4:18. Our workshops will help us gain tools to work to end various forms of captivity, human trafficking, incarceration pipeline, and more. We need the time together and the tools to answer Jesus’ call effectively.
In thinking of this problem, I cannot help but think that most of these are symptoms of the fear of the other prisons in which many of us live. Most worrying for me is how that fear shows up in hate much too often in our world. I have also spent months trying to figure out what our role is in all of this. Should we publish our concern and be a visible voice? How much authority do I have to speak on behalf of our churches? Should we encourage our churches to…something? I’m exhausted from worry about how bad things could get, but what can we do?
My strongest desire is to condemn. I want to condemn those in government spewing hate, those who remain silent because speaking out might mean they lose their seat and thus their power. But my strongest condemnation is reserved for all those who minimize our journey to radicalization. All the people who know someone and choose to unfriend them on Facebook. Those who remain silent when they spew the vitriol they learn. All the friends who say, so and so is crazy, just ignore him when he gets on his rants.
The parents and adults who have learned and taught their children to never talk politics with each other. That same community who cannot imagine that anyone who looks like us can be radicalized into unhinged zealotry that leads to murder.
I want to condemn all who want to convince themselves that racism is in the past and that these mass murderers are just sick individuals, that the racist comments coming from our government are not actually racist. All who want to embrace the comfortable blanket of accusing perpetrators of mental illness that frees us from communal responsibility and guilt.
I want to yell out how our casual toleration of racism in private and our silence in the face of it in public do contribute to mass murders, cruel and dehumanizing immigration policies and the flourishing and emboldening of hate.
In the end, I have come to the conviction that one way is to follow Christ into freeing the captives, including ourselves. The how is more difficult. Maybe it is time for organized love. We need systemic love. We need a structure that helps these men (mostly) come to terms with the fact that what they might experience as anger is in fact fear. Fear that is born from our society equating value with supremacy. Fear that if we are not on top they will treat us like we treat the bottom.
I want to condemn yet Jesus calls me to stand in the middle and love. However, I must admit I have not been very good at following Jesus. Perhaps together we can be better?
Join us this October so we may help each other to love all into freedom.
“Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25
Will you join us this October 11-12th?
Rev. Doug Avilesbernal