What does it mean to choose love?

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My timeline this morning is full of quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And it should be. I’m encouraged by this as this year has far more participation–at least online–in my circles than previously. Many of my local friends are braving the cold today to march in one of the several marches in local cities. (I’m under the weather and bummed to not be able to join in).

I would like to encourage us all to pause today and choose to go deeper. As one friend reminded us, Black Lives Matter has a higher approval rating right now, than Dr. King did when he died. A dead Dr. King is a safe person for the white moderate–that King himself spoke reprovingly of–to lionize. So many of us are sharing his quote about choosing love because hate is too great a burden to bear.

And choosing love is a powerful thing to do, but it is not a fluffy, feel-good sentiment. What does it mean to choose love from the standpoint of the oppressed? Too many of us sharing that today as our token of tribute to Dr. King will never know what it feels like to stand where he stood, or to stand where our siblings who are black, brown, indiginous, people of color are standing still.

Dr. King choosing love over hate was powerful and sacrificial. If our love is not likewise, then it does us no good to share that quote. We cannot use this day to try to pacify feelings of guilt by throwing up a token that we are comfortable with. Love is not comfortable. Love is not easy. Love always seeks the betterment of the person or people being loved.

And we as Americans of white, European descent cannot say we love our siblings of other descents and origins if we are not seeking their total well-being in all spheres of life. To love is to put the needs of the loved one above our own needs, but all too often we don’t even seek to bring the needs of those who don’t look like us up to the same level of importance as our own.

How long will we ask our siblings to wait for equality? How long will we be content to benefit from the systems of white supremacy that have been in place from the foundations of the nation without questioning them?

I’m not asking us to feel some sort of ancestral guilt for people’s actions that we did not know or see. I’m asking us to take responsibility for the systems of oppression that are currently in action. I’m asking us to realize that white people are the system and that all it takes is the inaction of the many to promote the active supremacy goals of the few. We must tear these systems down in order to promote the mutual thriving of every resident of this nation. None of us are free until all of us are free. None of us have true justice until all of us have true justice. And a love that is comfortable and isn’t calling us deeper isn’t really love.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Ruby Woo Prep Call 3–On Grounding and other spiritual practices

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I have to say again how excited I am to approach this trip. Just in the space of the three prep calls we’ve covered some theology, some history and culture, and now spiritual practices to take into the experience of pilgrimage. A lot of us were feeling scattered and overwhelmed at the start of the call tonight as the days before we leave tick by with so much left to accomplish on our lists. Teresa Mateus led us through some grounding exercises that refocused us on our breath and inside our bodies, allowing us to release tension and stress and other things we were holding onto.

I had a realization in the middle of exercise two that I really am a five on the enneagram. I feel like I’m all about feelings and intuition but I can’t actually access any of that until I can mentally process it. I can be in a space of contemplation and feel complete blankness and until I start writing about it, I can’t tell you what I experienced or saw. It’s an interesting thing to sit with and see where that takes me.

There were two separate exercises, the first, the word I heard was just “whole.” That isn’t surprising as it’s one I’ve been sitting with for a couple years now. It’s behind the story of the Sitka spruce tattoo on my forearm. I got that to embody embracing my whole story so I could write the ending. And that embracing is an ongoing practice as I process trauma and memories and the like, but if I don’t embrace the whole story, I give power to the past that prevents me from writing the end of this story as the primary actor instead of someone being acted on.

In the second exercise, people are seeing color and hearing things and I’m like, I was just still and empty, but as I thought about it (she didn’t call on me first, yay!) and jotted some notes I realized that what I was feeling was open, and an image came to me then: one of standing on a rock on a mountain, overlooking a valley with my arms outstretched, waiting. Not too sure what that’s all about just yet, but I’m open to finding out.

In four days I’ll be in NY getting started on this great adventure!

Ruby Woo Prep Entry 2–On Tables, Kingdoms, and Zero-sum games

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Tonight’s call was a deep dive into the world of women, race, and the church. Lisa lead us all in a series of reflections on what the kingdom–or kin-dom–of God looks like vs. what we’ve been taught that it should look like. If the kingdom is about justice and shalom, what have I internalized that church should be as a white woman? Culture and the church has presented seats at the table for woman and people of color as though it is a zero sum game. The white men don’t give up their seats and therefore we are put in competition with each other. White women have been far too fast to trade justice and freedom for everyone for seats at the white man’s table and white men have leveraged white supremacy as a tool to keep white women from joining forces with people of color to overturn the white, male assumption of power.

And this isn’t just in the secular world, it is very much mirrored within the church and much to our detriment. The assumption of whiteness as leadership in mainline churches for example is one we really need to take a hard look at. Why is it that when we in the Episocopal church say we are “inclusive” on our church profiles, what we mean is LGBTQIA+ friendly because we’re still a majority white denomination? Why is it so hard to get our church as a whole to do more than lip service to repenting from the sin of racism? How can we hope to transform the culture when we are so busy mirroring the destructive aspects of it? And what would it look like to turn these structures on their heads and change up the seats and make the table big enough for everyone?

I don’t have answers to all these yet, but these are important things to ask as we move forward into the next year. I know I want to commit to justice for everyone. I don’t want a seat at the table if I had to elbow someone out of the way to get it because that’s not how God’s table works. God’s table is big enough for everyone and thriving in God’s kingdom is not a zero-sum game. If there’s competition for the seats, then it’s not God’s table.

One more call tomorrow night then it’s laundry and packing time to get ready to head to NY on Sunday afternoon! I’m going to try to keep informally typing up thoughts like this, sort of like letting you all peek at my journal so to speak and feel free to jump in the dialogue as we go!