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Reluctant Speech

He would not have spoken, had he not been prodded by an elder. Beloved Community can be presumed to be more idealism, after all, less realism. More optimism than pessimism, even as we all look at the glass to see the way things are. I was glad he had spoken truthfully in his realism, sadness, finitude.

“We cannot eradicate the disease without killing the patient,” he said. “White supremacy is too hardbaked into our country’s DNA.” A couple days later: “Beloved Community is not for all of us. It can’t be. We should stop playing with those who will never love us.” He paused, aware of the immediate community around him, holding his presence with care. “It is for this group,” he relented with a smile.

This is the rub, is it not? What is the call in beloved community alongside those who are killing you, neglecting those you love, disregarding the humanity of all those who look like you? How does one love the fundamentalist who will never see or hear you as you are?

His context and challenges are not my own. He’s a black man who pastors, researches, and writes in the middle of today’s USA. I companion doctoral students like him within the Beloved Community cohort organized by Dr. C. Anthony Hunt, but I only get glimpses. Even so, his words touched me deeply.

I was glad he had spoken because I struggle with my own sense of hopelessness, impatience, and (seemingly disregarded) urgency for change. I felt my spirit cheering him on, to speak it out and speak it loud, for himself but in a way I knew it, could feel it.

My sadness-anger-grief? Yearning for women to be free of…free for…just plain FREE. Free of the centuries of betrayal and abandonment by the church, hearing the church unconsciously refuse this reality for centuries while professing its so-called “love” and “honor” of women. A “love” and “honor” that disempower more than empower new ways of being church. I yearn for women to be free of the unending need to mirror and teach our evident experience to disinterested or outright hostile male and masculinized church leaders (often older women). As a woman, I yearn for the day when I can walk in the world without the everpresent fear of rape, irregardless of time of day or space. If I am walking or running by myself, it’s always in the back of my mind. Always. So while as a white woman, I cannot know his experience from the inside, I yet resonated so very deeply with his words, his anger, his weariness. I know that none of this will change, certainly not in my lifetime.

Today, I hold this awareness within my belly, letting the sadness seep into every cell able to welcome it, feel it, digest it…before letting it leave as debris, as waste, as earth-energy to be used in new ways by others.

My process? Grieve what I need to, praise what I get to, practice letting it all be, for now…with prayer for his process. I was glad he had spoken. For him, for the group, for this felt resonance with him that blesses me somehow.

May we all be free.

May we all know happiness.

May he know all Joy, within yet hidden in this pain.

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