Fr(act)ured. Genesis 9:5b.
Our guest author is Jessica Vazquez Torres (aka JVT), a coffee drinking, craft beer loving, BBC watching, overthinking 1.5 generation Queer Cisgender LatinX Woman of Puerto Rican descent who cooks when not traveling around spreading the gospel truth about white supremacy: IT’S EVIL!
Fractured by Anger. These two words most aptly describe where I am as we enter the season of Advent.
The shadows of this season seem insurmountable. As a person who makes a living building the capacity of institutions to face and address their complicity in white supremacy, I am not surprised by the results of the election. What tore me apart was the realization that goodness and decency are a fallacy. How easily so many everyday folk used their vote (or lack thereof) to declare not all people are made in the image of God and are thus expendable.
I am angry at the people who held their ideological purity in higher esteem than the safety of Muslims, immigrants, people of color, women of color, children, transgender peoples, the LGBTQI community.
In Genesis 9, Noah, his family, and all those living beings inhabiting the ark are preparing to enter a new stage in the journey. The Creator is outlining the covenant that will inform their relationships with God and each other. The shadows of the creation story linger at the edges, inviting us to remember how badly it all went before this moment, when the relationship between Creator and Creation fractured. The chapter opens with the usual optimism of a new beginning and then the Creator says unequivocally:
For your own lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning: from every animal I will require it and from human beings, each one for the blood of another, I will require a reckoning for human life.
And because God wants to make sure that Noah is not confused about the implications of this demand, Noah is reminded, “Whoever sheds the blood of a human, by a human shall that person’s blood be shed; for in his own image God made humankind.”
It is obvious that most of us don’t quite live up to our end of the agreement. We justify the extrajudicial killings of black and brown men and the poisoning of water in Flint and the Navajo Nation. We willfully resist recognizing and affirming the presence of the divine in the lives of trans persons. We ignore or explain away sexual assault. We tell ourselves we can’t do anything about American drones killing people daily halfway around the world. We walk about not giving a fuck about anyone but ourselves; choosing charity over justice because we want to feel good but not lose our standard of living or our privileges.
How do I wait for the light to break through the shadows? Would we recognize the child we await? God did not come to us with blond hair, blue eyes, and wealthy parents. God came to us in the form of a brown, poor, illegitimate, refugee, uneducated, lower class Jewish child. We are waiting for one of those we just resoundingly said is not welcome here.
I fear how this fracturing anger and paralyzing despair wraps itself around my heart as the deadly machinery of white supremacy continues to churn. I want so desperately to hope, to love, to find joy, and to believe that justice is not an empty idea. How do I mend my torn heart? How do I collaborate with others to restore the fractured world in which we live? How do I push the church in which I make a home to face the fractures that co-opt it?
How do we wait among those whose votes made a hostile declaration to the humanity of so many?
All day the words of Denise Levertov in her poem “Beginners” have been nagging at me:
How could we tire of hope?
— so much is in bud.
How can desire fail?
— we have only begun
to imagine justice and mercy,
only begun to envision
how it might be
to live as siblings with beast and flower,
not as oppressors.
Surely our river
cannot already be hastening
into the sea of nonbeing?
Surely it cannot
drag, in the silt,
all that is innocent?
Not yet, not yet —
there is too much broken
that must be mended,
too much hurt we have done to each other
that cannot yet be forgiven.
We have only begun to know
the power that is in us if we would join
our solitudes in the communion of struggle.
We have 40 days to figure out how we join our fractured solitudes into the communion of struggle. Maybe if we can figure that out, then we will have the courage to remind all of us that God will require a reckoning for human life.
And if we can do that, maybe we can begin the work of giving witness to the love that breaks open among us.