We must stop pretending that "thoughts and prayers" are a good substitute for actions and begin by first acknowledging where we have failed to take responsibility for the state of the world today and begin to heal those failures.
Matthew 6: 25-34 Collective Edition (CE)
25 “Do not stress out about your life, or about how much money you have, or about any health conditions beyond your control, and of your external appearance. Living authentically in the world with joy surpasses wealth, vanity, and materialism. 26 Just explore a day in the life of a bird and see how the birds do not get lost in the stress of their own created need to amass the things freely given by nature. Are we not also blessed by nature's abundance? 27 Stress does not produce joy, only sorrow and health troubles. 28 In that same way, why do you live enslaved to consumerism? Embrace the natural beauty of plants, how they consume only what they need to produce the life-giving air we breathe and the food we eat. 29 No human enterprise has managed to construct such a perfect system of life and rebirth. 30 Yet, nature grows, adapts, evolves, and sustains life. So why would the One, who spoke, and light enveloped the darkness, not also inspire in us the ability to grow and evolve-- after all, that is our authentic nature. 31 So do not stress over things that only serve to trap your authenticity in self-destructive loops. 32 For those that stress, are seemingly never satisfied and fail to fill the emptiness in their soul. 33 We must instead collectively seek to embody Hope and Love for all humanity, by embracing righteousness and justice for all. For once we are awakened to that Truth, we will break free of our created self-destructive loops and embrace life to the fullest. 34 Therefore, live in the now and savor every moment of your life whether good or bad. Knowing that tomorrow will be a new day under the sun and will undoubtedly bring new joys and concerns.
Micro-aggressions lead to Macro-resentments.
In July of 1994, my parents and uncle put me in a boat alongside two other families and two fishers, and we set off to the land of hope, freedom, and opportunity. Once we were here in the United States, I was amazed about how diverse Miami was, when it came to the school that I started attending. In Cuba, my exposure to other people was limited to Cubans and the many variations in Cuban culture. But here in Miami, I was in a school with white children, black children from all over the world, Hispanic and Latin children from every corner of Central and South America. Yet, even with the number of variations of cultures and ethnicities that exist in Miami, there was also an underlying current of prejudice and aggression that was present between almost every ethnic group that I came into contact with.
I remember that on my first day of school, I was called a derogatory word to describe Cuban immigrants that came in a boat from Cuba by a Nicaraguan girl, whose parents crossed into the United States via Mexico without papers. I was seven at the time, but I remember going home sad and upset because I did not understand how someone that shared a similar origin story as me, could turn around and become an aggressor to those whose caretakers were also seeking a better life for them and their family.
Even though I continued to face various levels of discrimination in the public-school system by both students and teachers, these were usually harsh and almost infantile. For the insults that I received were macroaggressions made towards me, all based on ignorant and comical preconceived notions of what it means to be Cuban or Hispanic, that had nothing to do with who I was as a person. I was the Cuban refugee to some, the English as a Second Language kid to others, and the privileged Cuban kid that got all his papers and government handouts, taking American jobs to the rest.
Yet, in all of my years in Public school, the most aggression and prejudice I faced was when I became part of and began working within the white mainline liberal protestant institutions of today. These are made up of progressive thinking people who look down on conservatives and their macro-aggressions towards others yet turn around and look at those who are not like them as projects, or someone to be saved out of the backward nature of which they came from. I have been told statements such as; "Everyone in Miami speaks English; therefore, there is no need for Spanish language programming." Or, "Wow, you are Hispanic, I thought you were white, no wonder we get along." And, my favorite, "I am glad you are not like those other flamboyant gays; you are normal, very straight acting." All of these are examples of statements made to me by those in positions of authority and leadership, who would be severely offended if someone were to call them out on their prejudice.
It is funny how people use labels and created personas to hide the nature of their white privilege and prejudice. The interesting part of this story is not the words that they used to ensure that I was put in my place when it came to their fragile egos. No, the interesting part of this story is that those are the same people who stand up on pulpits all over the United States and speak of a brown man from the Middle East, who started a movement that matured in North Africa and Asia Minor, only to become whitewash by those who are unable to identify the Christ in them, turning them blind to the Christ in others. Therefore, how can any righteous movement for justice emerge out of a people who are unable to look in the mirror and identify that under the pretense of liberalism, exist a deep well of white aggression and hatred towards anyone not considered as one of them?
The Prophets and Righteousness
At the core of many of the Prophetic messages and stories in our shared Sacred Scriptures, is the concept of righteousness, for the prophets held one Truth when it came to their message. You do not honor God in others when you ignore the plight of the least of these of your society. Therefore, Prophets like Amos, Micah, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah, looked at the state of society and felt a deep sense of moral indignation towards a people they believed were touched and blessed by the liberating power of God. A people who were once slaves to the toxic systems of human power dynamics yet were able to free themselves from that system by embracing a nature contrary to the status quo.
All one needs to do is read the utopian hopes and vision that exist in Leviticus and Deuteronomy to see that the writers of the Hebrew Bible, although bound to their time and space, imagined a world that embraced personal responsibility for the wellbeing of society. And yes, I know that those two books have horrific and antiquated laws regarding the shared social constructs that exist today. And as conservative Christians like to say, you cannot have one without the other. However, to the dismay of those same Christians, we can and should acknowledge the parts of the Bible that are antiquated and no longer relevant to the world of the 21st-century. For we are called to embrace the inspired words of those who saw the world as is and dared to imagine one that was not ruled by the toxic power systems of humanity. Therefore, the Prophets give us the guidelines on how we are to operate in this world and what is expected of those who feel that pull of righteousness at their divine core. And that is to operate with a deep sense of compassion that does not look solely at ourselves and our needs, but also the needs of those who have been made to suffer and have been labeled less than by the created toxic power systems of humanity.
Jesus and Righteousness
And our scripture reading today also embraces that sense of righteousness, as Jesus takes it a step forward by inspiring us to take an introspective look at our own lives and discover how we have lost sight of the Christ in us, and the Christ in others. And this is something that goes back to compassion and abundance, as Christ points out the many ways in which we collectively get lost in our own created stress and struggles. Therefore, we are called to not worry about the things that we do not have any power over, and instead to focus on authentically loving ourselves and others. It is not in our authentic nature, for us to worry about materialism, that as Paul states-- no matter how much wealth, power, or knowledge we amass, if we do not know love, then we are nothing.
And so, we are called to purge the things in our lives that continue to deny us from embracing life to the fullest, no matter what challenges are present in our everyday life. Instead, we must awaken the Prophet in us by embracing the righteousness of Christ by looking at our lives and dismantling all toxic systems of oppression that deny us the joy of living fully into the Hope of God for all creation. We must fully believe that as Christ's manifestations, how can we be happy and content, when the Christ inside our neighbors is being killed unjustly just because of the color of their skin? Or how can we fully embrace love when Christ is being put in cages and separated from their families in a country completely foreign to them?
Ignoring the Internal Christ
I understand that all of these social issues and woes are complicated and messy. Yet, these issues only become complicated, because we as humans choose to complicate them for the simple reasons that we have stopped loving others as we would like to be loved. The simple truth of the matter is that if you are unable to be moved towards compassion when you see the images of the children in cages, where there are reports of abuse and neglect, then you have lost sight of your internal Christ and therefore do not fully love yourself. No one wants to be forced to live like that, just like no one wants to leave their house for a jog and wonder if they will be hunted down by white supremacists or have the cops called on them for merely bird watching in a public park.
Therefore, to stay silent or to defend other's hateful actions or words with statements like "that is their opinion," ignores the inspired words and stories inside the Bible which so many of us love to cling to as an idol yet refuse to take seriously. We are not called to worry about the next fashion sense, the next big celebrity gossip, or even the next big political scandal that comes out of the circus that we call politics today. Instead, we are called to transform ourselves by first embracing the truth that at our core, we are all the same, and all deserve to be loved and cared for. As Martin Luther King Jr. said in his famous "I Have a Dream” speech, we must all be judged not by the labels that society uses to divide and oppress us, but by the content of our authentic selves. A powerful statement that allowed our modern-day Prophet, to imagine a world where our freedoms are tied to the freedoms of those who are oppressed. For how can we say we are righteous, when there are those among who are suffering by the inactions of the church, whose authentic nature is to challenge and transform society from the inside out.
Embracing the Diversity of Creation
So, what can we do? How can we start? There is so much going on in our world, so much hatred, so much injustice, and so much anger and pain on both sides. Well, it must first start with us individually, transforming ourselves through Christ's love and grace. We must stop pretending that "thoughts and prayers" are a good substitute for actions and begin by first acknowledging where we have failed to take responsibility for the state of the world today and begin to heal those failures. This starts with us looking at ourselves and naming the things that have denied us the happiness of an authentic life. What is it that we are chasing to fill the holes that we have inside our souls? Is it money? Unhealthy relationships with others? Power because we feel powerless? What external circumstance is keeping us from realizing our full potential? Once we can identify those things, we can begin the healing process, as our lives start to orient themselves towards compassion, abundance, and righteousness—allowing us to love ourselves fully, giving us the ability to recognize that love in others. To know Christ in the diversity that exists in humanity and in creation itself.
This is why we must first experience the healing power of compassion towards self and towards others. Once we realize that compassion, we can begin to forgive ourselves and others for becoming entangled in the self-destructive loops of our hurts and generational traumas. This awakening can allow us to move into a life of sharing all that we have with others, without any expectations of it being returned to us. For as Christ says, we must not worry about tomorrow's things but instead focus on the blessings and the abundance of today. And as we share all that we have, we will inspire others to do the same, by awakening in them the Christ at the core of their divinity—making friends out of those who society has placed the label of the enemy so that the few can retain power over the many.
In my own life, I choose to forgive those who needed to bring me down so that they could protect the fragility of their egos. And at the same time, I know that I have missed the mark many times when it comes to my engagement with others as well. We must learn to love and forgive each other and operate with a deep sense of righteousness that moves us away from violence or hate, but towards the realization of a new humanity. One that chooses to embrace the truth that we are all created in the image of God, and as such, are called to reflect that nature. We must never forget that diversity breeds innovation. Thus, the salvation of our world is tied to our ability to shed ourselves of the things that separate us from one another, and instead, we must embrace the Christ inside us all.
So, say we all. Amen.
By: The Collective Awakening & No Reservations Group