“Commit to Liberation: Safety” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell

January 31st,2019 Categories: Stephanie Kendell Letters, Weekly Letter

Beloved Church,

What a wonderful month together where we committed to “Be Seen.” Tomorrow you will get an email that outlines the February COMMIT 2019 commitment. That commitment is “Commit to Liberation.” We have sayings, and a book, and a call to action, and a whole set of useful tools to help you as you journey in your faith life and look at what it means to commit. It will be another wonderful month of exploring in depth how we are called to build community. And how lucky we are to get to build this community together. In regard to building community: I wanted to offer a trigger warning for you. In this letter I name a hate crime. As we build community, we will always do our best to hold you and your stories and experience safely and with the holy attention they deserve. Thus, I wanted to give you this warning.

This week one of the most talked about events has been the racist and homophobic hate crime against actor Jussie Smollett. He was beaten, a rope as a noose was placed around his neck, and he was called words relating to both his sexuality and race that I will not repeat. I have prayed for Jussie so many times since I heard about his attack. I pray that he heals and has the rest and recovery he needs. I pray that there is justice. I pray that he knows that who he is, reflects the creator that made him, and that he is so w/holy loved. I finally prayed that he finds a place that feels safe for him going forward.

Jussie’s story had me reflecting on my many privileges and what I might do to support Jussie and the all too many other survivors of attacks on LGBTQIA+ people of color. It got me thinking about what “safety” means and how it relates to the places we call home. My privilege has always allowed my “home” to feel safe for me. This week’s scripture talks about Jesus going back to his home and what that experience is like for others, like Jesus.

All who were present spoke favorably of him; they marveled at the eloquence of the words on Jesus’ lips. They said, “Surely this isn’t Mary and Joseph’s son!” Jesus said to them, ‘Undoubtedly you’ll quote me the proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself,’ and ‘Do here in your own country the things we heard you did in Capernaum.’ But the truth is, prophets never gain acceptance in their hometowns. (Luke 4:22-24)

Patrisse Cullors is one of the founding members of the Black Lives Matter movement. After the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, Patrisse saw the need to mobilize people to become advocates for the safety of black communities. Patrice was building a kin-dom on earth, much like Jesus. Fostering communities and systems of support that brought people closer together-closer to God- and offer a safe of healing and safety for the black community that has been systemically oppressed and targeted for violence. Patrisse was doing good work and her good work was catching the eye of many people in her home nation of the US. She was building the movement to be member-led so that the intersectionality of the black human experience was more fully captured. Black Lives Matter was in person and online, in chants and on signs. It was, and still is, a touchstone of justice.

However, as the movement grew and the threat to white supremacy became bigger, the nation that had been Patrisse’s home turned on her, the other leaders, and the overall movement. Of the many things she  was called (and inspiration for the title of her memoir) was terrorist. Terrorist by its definition aims at being harmful to citizens. The Black Lives Matter movement was about community and building support and safety, while also responding to the systemic violence against black and brown bodies. Or as the “about” section of the Black Lives Matter website says, “Every day, we recommit to healing ourselves and each other, and to co-creating alongside comrades, allies, and family a culture where each person feels seen, heard, and supported.Feeling seen, heard, and supported is what their home used to turn on them. The same way they turned on Jussie. The same way they turned on Jesus.

Friends, commit to liberation and liberative justice even when home is the place that may need that critical examination. Following Christ means to move about life in a way that your are seen as your whole self, liberated from your oppressive structures. Following Christ is helping others gain their freedom as well. Following Christ means to expand your views of home to include space for the people you do not even know yet.  And church, following Christ is being able to confront your past, your paths of privilege, and use the people on the journey with you to cast a better kin-dom building future.

Shalom Y’all.
Rev. Stephanie

A quick prayer for your week: I thank you for the ways I feel safe. May those that don’t have that be wrapped in your love today.  Amen