Resisting Harmful Systems With Empowered Communities

I consider myself a feminist – one who joined the movement to end all forms of oppression. In the past, I have felt profoundly alone in this struggle. I have felt disempowered, vulnerable and angry. The more I experienced and learned about the reality of the world we live in, the more powerless I became. Right now, many people feel trapped by injustice with no real way forward. There is a powerful tide in this world that can overwhelm even our bravest resistance.

Feminism teaches that we are all capable of housing the dominant ideology within. Since I identify as a woman, I will use this example. I used to imagine that a world full of women leaders would be a more peaceful and just world. This shows prejudices I held about certain types of women and men – forgetting what a wide variety of people exist in this world! Individual women are just as capable as anyone in re-creating, promoting and participating in harmful systems for their own gain. This is especially true when they are already boosted by systems like race or class. We are all capable of participating these systems. We are also all capable of resistance.

The time is well overdue to join the fight with and for the forsaken and dispossessed. “With” and “for” being key words – we cannot go alone. Four years ago, I was in some distress with the struggle, to say it lightly. A loved one suggested I receive prayer from her pastor, and desperate, I agreed. This pastor, who later lost her job for standing up for her right to love and marry a woman, prayed for the Holy Spirit to come to me. Suddenly, a fog was lifted and my perception of the world shifted. This was a pivotal moment in my life. I began to read the Gospels and read these words in astonishment as if they were spoken in the present moment:

He unrolled the scroll [of the prophet Isaiah] and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.” (Luke 4:18)

Then he said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And I was blown away. The Spirit of the Lord moved through these words, which are so distant from the prosperity “White Jesus” put on many of us. The Spirit of the Lord moves throughout the earth, with and among the dispossessed. I believe even today this scripture is fulfilled. We are not alone.

We are also called to join in community with one another. In Ann Arbor, Michigan, many of us belong to a local, empowering community born of a split over having LGBTQ leaders in the church and over marriage equality. Blue Ocean Faith, Ann Arbor has become a gathering for hospitality, healing, and one of resistance. Yes, one of resistance – with and for the rejected and dispossessed. Together we can resist harmful systems.

A friend I met among this group of people, Marquise Williams, recently wrote to me about his meditation on Community, Healing, Hospitality and Resistance. He asks,

“How do we invite the rejected and dispossessed into empowering community?”

That is THE question of the Spirit. Then he wrote this great truth, “I feel a Great a Spirit of our times is emerging in the darkness of white supremacy that no man can destroy.”

I know I am only one, insignificant person and yet I can join with you in this struggle. Together we can join in the movement of the unquenchable Spirit of the Lord releasing the captives, recovering our sight and letting the oppressed go free. Self-care within beloved community is a radical act of defiance against the system. We are all capable of resistance. Join the movement.

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