In celebration and remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we seek to be and build the Beloved Community, proclaiming peace among the full body of Christ. This week, January 19-23, CBFblog will feature stories of struggle, fear, chaos and hope. This piece begins a series dedicated to pursuing Jesus’ Luke 4 vision of reconciliation and transformation.
As these chants reverberate over me, I find myself in a crowd–perhaps a crowd not that different from the crowds that surged after Jesus. I lift my voice in unison with men, women and children of color. Later, I find myself in another crowd. This crowd is silent, listening to men and women of color offer litanies of lament and protest, as well as dreams of liberation and equality.
As I reflect on both of these experiences, I find myself reflecting on the nature of worship.
The type of worship I experience with the crowds of protestors is drastically different from the worship I experienced growing up in central Oklahoma.
In Oklahoma, I was taught to worship a God that certainly cared for the oppressed, but was more concerned for my immortal spirit. If, after assuring the salvation of my soul and the souls of others, I had time to work with the marginalized and oppressed and change their physical situations then that was great, but if not, no worries, at least our souls were saved.
In contrast to the God I worshiped in Oklahoma, the God I find in the protests refuses to accept worshipers who had to step over the bodies of the marginalized to enter the sanctuary.
Standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with men and women of color, I am given a glimpse of the Kingdom of God. I glimpse a kingdom predicated upon the prophetic critique of oppressive systems of power, a kingdom where every individual is welcome as a bearer of the image of God.
By standing with the crowd my voice becomes one voice among many, blended into a chorus of lament, proclaiming hope in God’s liberation. Perhaps my experience protesting provides a picture of what leadership truly means: being willing to acknowledge and lament your privileged particularity, willingly abandoning your privileged status and listening to your oppressed brothers and sisters, friends and companions.
And when you finally decide to raise your voice, you do so among individuals who have welcomed you and taught you, individuals who have formed a crowd that is desperately grasping at the hems of Jesus’ cloak, seeking the true liberation and equality of all black, brown and native bodies.
Daniel Ray is a CBF Leadership Scholar attending Duke University Divinity School.