Tag Archives: Oppression

Oneness Not Oppression

Living in the Spirit
July 5, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 45:10-17

Hear, O daughter, consider and incline your ear;
   forget your people and your father’s house,
   and the king will desire your beauty.
Since he is your lord, bow to him;
   the people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts,
   the richest of the people with all kinds of wealth. –Psalm 45:10-13

My first inclination was to skip this scripture. It reeks of centuries of oppression of women worthy only regarding how they enhance their husband. In this case, the future husband is also the king. Heady stuff for a beautiful young woman, the right woman with the right cunning can and has taken full advantage of the role. The legendary Queen of Sheba stands as a positive role model. On the negative side, we have Delilah and Jezzabel. How does one rise above oppression? How does one avoid letting oppression cultivate evil?

Michelle Obama said it well, “When they go low; we go high.” Of course, that responds not only applies to women’s issues but all our actions as followers of Christ. Therein lies the solution. Paul said it this way; There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

Of course, that is a lot easier said than done. Generations of cultural norms intertwine with our rapidly changing world. What do we keep and cherish? What do we kick to the curb? More difficult, how do we find the oneness to which Christ calls us in dealing with such issues?

My fall back always seems to be from another Psalm.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
   and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
   and do not take your holy spirit from me. (Psalm 51:10-11)

We need to allow God’s grace to cleanse our hearts and minds and rid us of the clutter that keeps us from being one with each other and with God.

Prayer:
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
   and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
   and do not take your holy spirit from me.  Amen

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Reconciliation

created in the image of godEastertide
April 16, 2016

Scripture Reading: John 10:22-30

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered, ‘I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. –John 10:22-27

I bristled a bit when I read the email. I had been in a conversation recently with someone regarding reconciliation within the church and throughout the world, a reality that, I do feel, is one of our greatest challenges. The email seemed to me to make the assumption that I was ignorant of oppression and suggested some books to read to get me started on the road to understanding. I am sure I do have a lot to learn about discrimination and other forms of oppression, but I am certainly not a novice. Why did it bother me so? The author barely knew me, has no idea what I know about the subject and was probably good intentioned. My reaction made me think of the movie, Ground Hog Day. I haven’t seen it but I understand it illustrates an endless cycle of waking up each day and discovering it is Ground Hog Day again and again.

I think my response was the result of my thinking that we cannot read or role play or be lectured into reconciliation. True reconciliation results from letting God clean all the filters out of our brains that cause us to react in unfair or untrue ways with the others in our lives. Reconciliation only occurs when we learn to love like Jesus. Jesus learned to love by getting to know someone. “What is it that you want?” “What do you need?” By taking the time and investing the energy into loving the other, he could meet them where they were. They could meet him where he was. They became reconciled and justice and mercy resulted.

I actually have been a bookworm all my life and know reading to be a great way to experience the realities of others in places far from my rather sheltered existence. I really don’t mind doing role play and enjoy good lectures. What causes my discomfort is thinking that my clocking hours in such activities is all I need to do to be reconciled and create a just world.

Prayer: Lord, infuse us with your ability to love like you, clean our filters so that when we encounter others in our lives we first see the image of you in them. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Are We Oppressors?

Tax TimeEastertide
April 15, 2016

Scripture Reading: Revelation 7:9-17

They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
   the sun will not strike them,
   nor any scorching heat;
for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
   and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ –Revelation 7:16-17

From even a quick scan of the Bible it is not hard to see that God has a great place in God’s heart for the oppressed. They will hunger no more. God did not create us to be oppressors. We actually would deny any part we might even be considered to play in oppressing others, but it is the details that matter.

Oklahoma has as a part of its income tax system a provision that allows very low income filers to take a tax deduction on the sales tax they have paid on groceries throughout the year. These folks rarely have a mortgage so they do not get to take advantage of that tax break. They also most likely do not pay property tax so they do not get to take that tax break either. Those are both federal tax deductions and the grocery tax break is a state deduction but our state income is deduced directly from the income taxed on our federal return.

In Oklahoma’s current, I would say self-inflicted, fiscal crisis removing or reducing this tax break on groceries has been targeted for elimination or at least reduction, while our elected representatives are stubbornly resisting rolling back the income tax reduction for our wealthiest citizens put into place this year. Now does that seem right to you?

Prayer: Lord, forgive us when we become complacent to the needs of others. Help us be conduits of your justice and fairness. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

The Great Paradigm Shift

mary-magdalene-meeting-the-risen-jesusLent
March 25, 2016

Scripture Reading: John 20:1-18

Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her. –John 20:15-18

Jesus caused many paradigm shifts in his time on earth. One of the most profound for me was, of course, his acknowledgement of the equality of women in the world. Well really, the equality of all of God’s children and I am in the women category so that is where I feel the impact directly. Mary was also a woman but she too may have been mentally ill. Scriptures say Jesus cured her of seven demons, we know no more than that. Physical illness was also credited to demons at that time. The mentally ill are often caste aside in our world today as are some with physical illnesses.

I too know something about being on the other side of equality, as I am white. Thus, I am in the category of a race that enjoys dominance in our world. I can sit in meetings and readily identify ways of treating women that “put us in our place”. My sense is that most men practicing those ways do not have a clue they are doing them. Many years ago I developed the first adult protective services program for Oklahoma. Spent many hours researching what others had done, wrote several drafts that were reviewed by my immediate supervisor, and finally attended a meeting with him to present the draft for consideration by the powers that be in the agency. The directors barely acknowledged that I was in the room and addressed all the questions they had to my supervisor. I guess, he grew weary of their ignoring me and said, “You know I am not up to speed on this, Marilynn will have to answer your questions” and I amazingly became a part of the conversation. He could have answered any question they asked.

I am not yet fully witnessing whiteness* and I can see it rearing its ugly head at times even in my own behavior. I also, as a woman, am still trying to overcome seeing discrimination in inappropriate reaction to something I do or say. I have found being able to run life by a loving God who is incapable of discrimination is the only way I can clothe myself in the paradigm shift of Jesus in my relationships with others.

I do not know why Mary did not readily recognize Jesus in their encounter at the empty tomb. My guess, is she still practiced not looking a strange man in the eye. He had to call to her by name to make himself known to her. Today, Good Friday, we observe his death on the cross as a final statement of the need for God’s justice and mercy. The paradigm has indeed shifted and we have been called to make God’s justice and mercy the ruling force in our world.

Prayer: Lord, heal our wounds that hold us back from fully being the person that you created us to be, guide us in seeing any oppression we may be practicing, and enable our loving others so that your justice becomes the way of all our lands and peoples. Amen.

*A phrase described in the book Witnessing Whiteness by Shelly Tochluk.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Truth is Coming

black-friday-macysAdvent
November 30, 2015

Scripture Reading: Malachi 3:1-4

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? –Malachi 3:1-2

The prophets look forward to the coming of the promised one, but they almost always met it with a warning: Do you think you can handle the promised one when he comes? The people had plead for a savior, a way out of the oppression they were experiencing. The prophets say a savior is coming but with a strong implication he was coming as a partner. To be saved we must do our part too. Truth arrives with the savior. While the truth might set us free, it is sometimes painful.

When oppression is all we know, learning to be responsible for ourselves and each other is hard. It means making choices that require us to think and feel when we have no one to blame but ourselves. The prophets were speaking to a people whose ancestors had gotten caught up in the ways of the world, which had resulted in their being taken into literal slavery. Getting out of slavery does not happen with the wave of a magic savior’s wand. Getting out of slavery results in wandering in a wilderness of our own confusion until we are ready to be the people God wants us to be.

It is interesting that Advent begins immediately after black Friday. Today is actually the so called cyber Monday. Both are opportunities to shop and spend and accumulate stuff that doesn’t mean a thing. The sells tell us we are virtually getting rich off savings received from buying something we most likely do not need. In reality they enslave us to a way of being that just requires more spending and more accumulation and more dissatisfaction because they do not meet the real hungers of our hearts to love and to be loved. Advent is the time we prepare ourselves for the real Savior who came into the world and is coming into the world to bring us hope and peace. To show us the way of love.

Prayer: Lord, focus me this Advent toward the freedom of your chains of love. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Refugee

refugees4Living in the Spirit
October 26, 2015

Scripture Reading: Ruth 1:1-18

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there for about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons or her husband. –Ruth 1:1-5

It is an ancient story told many times in the Bible, leaving one’s homeland to survive. In the story above a family became refugees because of drought. Today refugees are created from war, various climate change events, oppression, and poverty. Our great challenge is to determine the best way to help people dealing with the issues that force them from their homelands. There are no easy answers. Is it better to help people remain closer to home in refugee camps with the hope that they well be able to return home soon or to move them from their culture to a strange land?

We non-native Americans in the United States are the descendants of immigrants some of whom were refugees although they may not have been formally recognized as such. Refugees are people by definitions who must leave their home area for their own safety or survival.* One of my ancestors came in 1630 as a pilgrim escaping religious persecution so technically he could have been considered a refugee, I suppose. I am not sure but one might have come to the US as a result of the potato famine in Ireland. That was the reason many of my hometown German neighbors traveled to the US in the late 1800’s. I don’t really know why my other ancestors came. I assume they were at least looking for a better life.

With refugees pouring out of the Middle East and Africa escaping war and oppression, it might be a good time to come to terms with the ideas of refugees for they are our neighbors and we are called to love them as we love ourselves.

Prayer: Lord, according to the book of Matthew you were a refugee in a foreign land when your parents escape with you to Egypt to save you from the terror of Herod. Help us to see you in each of the refugees we have an opportunity to serve whether near to their homeland or here in ours. Amen.

*http://education.nationalgeographic.com/encyclopedia/refugee/

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Oppression’s Anonym

Not oppressedLiving in the Spirit
June 21, 2015

Scripture Reading: Mark 4:35-41

But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’ –Mark 4:38-41

What are some anonyms for the word oppressed? The unabridged dictionary doesn’t list any. It seems to me that most of the problems among the peoples of God is a lack of understanding regarding what it means not to be oppressed. While some have lived in oppression for generations and know that way of being as their norm, most of us are fairly quick to recognize when we are being set apart for mistreatment and most of us are just as quick to react to it.

It is very difficult for people who have been in prison for years to adapt to freedom. Many return to a life of crime because that was what they knew before prison and they do not know how to be free. Restorative justice works to assist such prisoners in realizing their full potential in positive pursuits.

What about those of us who have lived in relative abundance for generations? Does freedom from oppression mean living our lives in laissez faire, a policy or attitude of letting things take their own course? If it feels good do it. The history of the Israelites indicate that was exactly what they envisioned. Such an attitude kept them on the roller coaster of feast and famine until they lost everything and were overcome by their own failure to take care of business. The resulting greed and misuse of power is what leads to oppression. The abundant life of which Jesus spoke was meant for all. Why are we afraid to live in such abundance when we serve a God who loves and takes care of all of us?

It seems to me, a large part of Jesus’ ministry was dedicated to defining the anonym of oppression as being freed to choose to love ourselves and one another and to take responsibility for ourselves and one another. If there is anyone in the world oppressed God is still working to end the oppression and expects us to be working toward that same end.

Prayer: Lord, heal our fears of not being whole if everyone else is also whole. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Oppressed

OppressionLiving in the Spirit
June 17, 2015

Scripture Reading: Psalm 9:9-20

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
   a stronghold in times of trouble.
And those who know your name put their trust in you,
   for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. –Psalm 9:9-10

As a part of our competitive natures, I suppose, we seem to be suffering from an epidemic of Christians racing to see who are being the most oppressed. If the laws of our land do not support our specific system of belief for everyone, we are being oppressed. Never mind, we still have the freedom to believe whatever we choose, we just are not able to force it on others. This probably arose from an accurate reading of the scripture that Jesus came to set the oppressed free.

If we, as partners in Christ service, are called to join him in setting the oppressed free than identifying our own life situations as oppressive, frees us from having to see much less deal with the true oppression spread throughout our earth. I particularly loved the logic of the people (not necessarily identified as Christians) I heard about on the news recently who feel they are being picked on by being fined for over use of water in a draught ridden area where farmers cannot produce the very crops we all need to eat without such conservation measures. It was these people’s opinion, if they are willing and able to pay the higher cost of the water, they should be able to use as much as they like.

We become oppressors when we succumb to worshipping our beliefs or an elevated self-worth rather than God. Idols are not all made of stone.

While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary.-Chinua Achebe

Prayer: Lord God, open our eyes to see the oppression in the world and our hearts to dong something about it so that all can know the fullness of life you desire for us. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Injustice

Scales out of balanceChristmas
December 29, 2014

Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 31:7-14

Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
   and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,
   and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.’
For the Lord has ransomed Jacob,
   and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. — Jeremiah 31:10-11

First the Northern Kingdom, Israel, and later the Southern Kingdom, Judah, were overthrown by mighty empires. These countries were not just overthrown, but their best leaders were taken into slavery. Exile they called it. Almost three thousand years later we now watch on the evening news how people overthrow people, force them into joining their armies, requiring them to denounce their faith, or raping and killing them. We are appalled by such behavior but it is just the worst state of injustice. It does come in smaller doses more palatable to our sensitivities and easier for us to ignore.

Even before King David died the country of Israel was full of intrigue. The King himself took another man’s wife while sending the man to the front lines to meet sure death. After King David was gone the country fell into outright civil war. It finally split into two nations that both got too full of themselves and lost sight of their covenant with God. There was lack of justice in both Israel and Judah before they were seized. It was not a surprise to the prophets that these governments were eventually overthrown.

It seems to me that all oppression gets its start from people who have a need to achieve power and property well beyond what they need. In so doing they knock out of balance the scales of justice and nothing is right when the home, the community, the city, the state, the country, or the whole world is without justice. Doing justice is a choice. It requires a commitment to delve into life and identify what is right and work to sustain it. It is work we as followers of Christ have been called to do.

Prayer: Lord cleanse our hearts and our minds so that we can see your justice. Grant us the courage to work toward it. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Turning the Table Around

God's kingdom

Matthew 6:33

Advent
December 16, 2014

Scripture Reading: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house…. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established forever. — 2 Samuel 7:10-11, 16

The Kingdom promised to David in our scripture today is the same Kingdom promised to us all. The book of Matthew takes great pains in listing the genealogy of Jesus tying him, not only back to David, but all the way back to Abraham.

In our scripture today, the One God, Creator of All People, Ruler over the Universe turns the table on David who wanted to make a house for God, but God in response promises to make a house for David and all his heirs forever. And God is building that house through his Son, Jesus Christ, who was also a son of David. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (John 3:16) Our legacy through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is to be a part of the Body of Christ in the world today continuing that building project as we are actively engaged in developing the Kingdom of God now, while awaiting the fulfillment of this promise.

In such a Kingdom God’s people will live in their own places so we strive to help the refugees while trying to return their homelands to places of safety; evildoers shall affect God’s people no more so we work to combat oppression and injustice wherever we find it; and God’s people will rest from all their enemies so we work to assure that all people have opportunities to be self-supporting and self-sustaining, earning a living wage and laboring in safe environments away from hunger, disease, and lack of hope.

Prayer: Creator of all, if we are so privileged to not see the oppression all around us, open our hearts to the needs of those being oppressed. If we are among those who are hungry, thirsty, strangers, without clothing, sick, or in prison, give us the gifts of hope and perseverance. Make all of us whole and make all of us one. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.