Ain’t We All God’s Children?
Over the next couple of months, the ABCUSA Anti-Racism Task Force will create space that encourages contemplative momentum. Contemplative momentum is commitment to balancing both inward and outward engagement. This movement of exploration informs the way in which we show up in the world. When Jesus sends us, his brothers and sisters, into the world to preach the good news, he is calling us to engage in counterintuitive practices that transform. The Apostle Paul speaks from the same perspective in his letter to the Romans. He says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Genesis 1:27 affirms the biblical truth of every human being’s inherent dignity, worth, and divinity. This draws attention to the reality that all people are created in the image of God. We are children of God bound to the complexities of the human condition. We are God’s beloved. This is our sacred identity. This is an identity and heritage we are called to reflect in the world.
John 3:16 is one of the more familiar scriptures. We all know it, but have we taken for granted the powerful implications made clear and transparent in it? God so loved and because God so loved, God gave of God’s own self. Therefore, our reflection of God in this world must be consistent with who God is and who we are in relationship to God and the world. The practice of contemplative momentum can develop a strong sense of compassion. It widens our view of the world that connects our own brokenness to the desire to love and show benevolence to all human beings indiscriminately. It inevitably becomes contemplative activism.
Contemplative activism is the process of leaning into the sense of our connectedness as the children of God and as human beings to build a more equitable and just world, free from all forms of oppression for ourselves as well as for others. In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches the disciples to pray and cautions them not to pray as the hypocrites do. In verse 10 he gives them these words of prayer, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Liam Kavanaugh (Life Itself, June 11,2020) says, “Contemplatives have engaged with the world that can inform our ability to live in difficult times, to frame and shift how we hold and engage with our collective processes. Imagine a society where this was a common and accepted practice. Imagine collective rituals of embracing suffering. Imagine the possibility for collective action springing out of that ritual space.” This is the space ABCUSA Anti-racism Task Force hopes to build as we co-create the most anti-racist denomination in the world.
There are so many individuals and groups who have set an example of this work and led us to this space and time. They have been and continue to practice what they preach as they reflect their faith by their deeds. We remember Sojourner Truth as one of those people.
Sojourner Truth (Isabella Baumfree) was born into a well-structured system of laws, social structures and religious beliefs that dehumanized her and many others. These social, political, economic and religious systems deemed her not to be one of God’s children. These frameworks were predatory acts of injustice that deprived some of God’s children of their basic rights and sacred identity.
In 1851, Sojourner Truth spoke at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio. Her words were a critique of the socio-political systems and the religious structures that had become foundational tenets of the American society. It was a calling forth of the righteous soul to action. She said, “Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the Negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about? That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me!”
It is of great importance that Sojourner Truth says, “Ain’t I a women? Look at me!” Dehumanization is the groundwork of racism. It demands invisibility. It demands silence and separation. It denies the uniqueness of God’s creation. It breeds irrational hatred. Sojourner Truth experienced the worst of these injustices. She was “owned” by another human being. Her status was ruled legal and sanctioned by the church and the society. She was sold as property. She was cruelly beaten and mistreated. Her children were taken away from her. As she gave her speech she returned time and time again to a very basic truth and yet she raises it as a question, “Ain’t I a woman?”
As we, ABCUSA, continue this work of anti-racism, committed to the active dismantling of systems, privileges, and everyday practices that reinforce and normalize the contemporary dimensions of white dominance, we follow the example of Sojourner Truth as we raise one question before you, “Ain’t we all God’s children?” Are we actively identifying and opposing racial hatred and bias? Ain’t we all God’s children? Do we acknowledge the systems that oppress based on racial categories? Ain’t we all God’s children? Do we condemn or condone white supremacy? Ain’t we all God’s children? Do we lead with love in all circumstances and with all people on both individual and systemic levels? Ain’t we all God’s children?
Rhythm and Movement
In October, the Anti-Racism Task Force will host a symposium. This will be a virtual event and we look forward to seeing the whole ABCUSA denomination present. Our goal is to create space for courageous conversations and to co-create anti-racist contemplative momentum within the denomination. Watch for more information on the symposium in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we invite you to contemplative activism as you reflect on the question, “Ain’t we all God’s children?”
The ABCUSA Anti-Racism Task Force:
Rev. Justin Thornburgh
Rev. Dr. Eugene Downing
Ms. Stephanie Commandest
Rev. Joan C. Friesen
Rev. Dr. Don Ng
Rev. Rodney Lynch
Mr. Ethan Medley
Ms. Sandra Lee
Rev. Dr. Dan Brockway
Rev. Abner Cotto-Bonilla
Dr. Natalie C. Wimberly