17- God is for the other.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
37 The Israelites traveled from Rameses to Succoth. They numbered about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. 38 A diverse crowd also went up with them along with a huge number of livestock, both flocks and herds. 39 They baked unleavened cakes from the dough they had brought out of Egypt. The dough didn’t rise because they were driven out of Egypt and they couldn’t wait. In fact, they didn’t have time to prepare any food for themselves.
Exodus 12:37-39 CEB
I used to excitedly scribble in my journals. It's true. I'd frantically read my bible, see something amazing, and get it down on paper as soon as it would come to me.
When Fig Tree first became a platform I wanted to joyfully share those insights. As I had not read them anywhere else, I wanted the world to know what I saw.
But then I saw counter arguments to my points, without any citation to my original work. The Tower of Babel was the worst offender. I wrote about Pentecost being an anti-Babel. It was a bringing back of the people once they were ready to be a people again. Then, multiple writers started counter arguments, but as I read each one, they each refused to cite me as the reason they were making the counter-argument. "Some say," they wrote. I became I stepping stone for their own platform, without pulling me up in the process. I was plagiarized in a way where I couldn't fight the plagiarism. It hurt the most when someone made money off their counter argument by publishing a book. Here I was, struggling to have enough money to buy groceries, and he had published a book.
It broke me.
I guarded my thoughts. I didn't want to be used. I wanted to be a partner. Rising waters raise all ships, unless your ship has been bolted in place. Then you sink as everyone else rises. Soon, new ideas didn't come to me anymore. God was calling me to share, even if what I shared was misused. If I wasn't sharing, I wasn't going to be given the knowledge.
So, that being said, I'm pulling out my journal and sharing something from that time of excited scribblings. I understand it can lead to my work being misused and abused again. It's not fine, but it's better to get it out there. It's meant to be out there. If this gets too heady, I'm going to put a divider below. You might want to skip to the actual point.
We are called to the "other." For Cone, the other will, and always will be, the oppressed. That's why he says Jesus is Black. In American and global history it's the Black person that has been continually oppressed. The oppressor can only seek God through contrition.
There is a counter argument to this theory.
Counter arguments are good on two levels. First, it means the first statement is valid enough to deserve a counter argument. Part of the reason process theology hasn't been sufficiently reworked is because theologians either think it's junk theology or they fully believe it. Until someone takes it as a serious theology, we won't be able to rework it into something stronger, or dismantle it for what it might be. Secondly, it strengthens the initial theology. We are partners in this journey towards Divine understanding. Each of us are capable of drawing us closer to understanding God, and push us away.
In counter, only saying the oppressed has a voice means oppression becomes something special. It becomes bad to overcome oppression because then one is no longer special in the eyes of God. It keeps a people down. Worse still, this is a unwritten counter argument. Voiced and told countless times, but never written. At least as far as I'm aware. There has to be a third way. The oppressed, the oppressor, and the redeemed. A third group that has triumphed over oppression by either no longer being oppressed, or accepting their role as oppressor and moving beyond. As Rev. Jamie Brame once told me, "You have to give them a way out, or you will completely lose them." (He was talking about scary stories, but it works here too.)
God is for the "other." This is not an easy statement, and if you see it easily, brace yourself, it's about to get uncomfortable.
We choose who the other is. During the Civil Rights movement, the other was the African American, and those who stood with them. During the Holocaust the other was the Jewish people, and everyone else sent to the gas chamber to die. Those are easy "other's" to throw our weight behind. I can stand behind those who are disenfranchised with ease.
The other is anyone a group of people knowingly choose to exclude from the greater whole. The French did it to the elite, and rich. They started a revolution that led to death and destruction. Yes, the ones in power can be "othered." Doesn't feel so comfortable anymore, does it?
Jesus never excluded anyone. The door was always open in some way for anyone who wanted to enter. Any time someone elite came to him asking about the Kingdom, he was always careful to let them exclude themselves. You are not "othered" if you willingly choose to leave the group.
This isn't some trick to keep a group of people outside of God. Jesus wanted them included too! God's story is continually about giving second and third chances at redemption. Abraham wants to go back into Sodom and try again, and God lets him. Jonah is called to tell the oppressor, the Ninivites, that they could be saved too. When the Israelites leave Egypt, there are Egyptians that come with them.
As the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have made their statement, "All means all," we can't help but feel the tension there. When we get down to brass tacks, if you can't see how uncomfortable that statement truly is, you're doing it wrong. There will always be a group or a person or a people that makes God's universal inclusion (even if they ultimately choose to exclude themselves) uncomfortable. Where the other is, no matter who we have made the other, there God is. God is with the other.
Let us pray:
Dear Lord, Keep me from exclusion, and draw me to healing. Amen.