Tag Archives: Oppression

Loving The Oppressed

Living in the Spirit
August 29, 2017

Scripture Reading: Exodus 3:1-15

But Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you”, and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.” ’ God also said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you”:
This is my name for ever,
and this my title for all generations. –Exodus 3:13-15

What did Moses know about God or even the Israelites? Did he know who Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were? Raised in an Egyptian palace, probably educated in Egyptian schools, was his history of his people complete? He apparently knew he was Israeli, but what did he know of Israel? Note Moses is not asking how to identify God to the Egyptians. His concern was acceptance by the Israelites. The stories of Moses’ birth and adoption by an Egyptian were possibly well known throughout the community, but that did not mean he was to be trusted or followed. He needed a sponsor, and he needed to prove his relationship with the sponsor.

How do people who are not being oppressed help those who are? How is confidence gained? How do any of us prove we are of God? I loved the book Hawaii and the movie created from it. The story of the missionaries was telling. Julie Andrews playing the missionary’s wife fell in love with the people of the island when she met them. She accepted them as they were and they welcomed her. She learned from them, and they learned of God’s love from her. Max von Sydow played the missionary, stern and unbending seeing evil everywhere. He was a scary and sad character dressed in his proper woolen suites on a tropical island.

There is much truth in the song titled; They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love.

Prayer: Lord as we attempt to do your justice, help our lives reflect our relationship with you. 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.

Oppression 101

Living in the Spirit
August 21, 2017

Scripture Reading: Exodus 1:8-2:10

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, ‘Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.’ Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labour. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them. –Exodus 1:8-14

Follow the money is the phrase often included in crime investigation stories. It is also good advice when trying to weed out oppression. Oppression happened in Egypt in antiquity; it is happening in the USA today.  Immigration laws need to be crisp, efficient and based on areas of the economy where there are not enough workers to meet demand. Such laws also must recognize that workers who come into our country and seek to stay, just like those already here, function best within a supportive family structure.

The reason we do not have that crisps, efficient system is the reality that undocumented workers stream into our country to escape all different kinds of hell and because of that are willing to work for less than would be required if they come in legally. It also means undocumented workers can be hired for jobs for which there is no shortage of local workers. Both sets of people, the undocumented and the locally unemployed or underemployed, are being oppressed by those whose only desire is to see their profits increase. The situation is further exacerbated by the principalities and powers turning these two groups against each other resulting in the legislative and administrative stalemate that makes it all possible.

When God created the world and all that is in it, God called it good. Humans created borders. As humans, we certainly are called to use prudently the resources God provides for the good of all. Borders and governments are neither good nor bad unless we make them so. When greed overcomes the love of our neighbor, we fail our calling.

Prayer: God of All, forgive us when we allow greed to overpower our ability to love our neighbors whether we are the direct benefactors of the greed or complacent by ignoring its existence. Open avenues of advocacy for us as we work toward the good of all. 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.

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.