I write these words from a place of brokenheartedness with the world around me, as political battles rage and shared understanding seems further and further away. I write these words after harrowing (and sometimes heartening) conversations with people I love. I’ve come to recognize something about freedom through these conversations.
For a country that loves our freedom as much as we say we do, we sure do allow ourselves to be imprisoned easily. I’m not talking about literal prisons (although the number of Americans in literal prisons is very much a problem, too). I’m talking about figurative prisons — mental prisons, emotional prisons, ideological prisons. We willingly lock away our souls to buy wholesale into a political mindset.
We as Christians continue to be imprisoned by the “isms” — racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, classism, just to name a few. Yes, we are imprisoned when we believe these things about others.
When a white person is racist, it’s not only bad for the Black person who bears the oppression, it’s bad for the white person, who is separated from the experience of a God who reconciles all.
When a man is sexist, it’s not only bad for the women upon whom he exerts his power, but also bad for the man who has denied the reality that God created us all in God’s image, male and female and everything in between.
When an older person looks at the younger generation and sees only entitlement and fluff, they’ve missed the hand of God working, and the same when a young person looks at an older person.
When an able-bodied person looks with pity upon a differently abled person, we’re denying ourselves the God who knit us together in the womb and has blessed us with bodies that physically show our love in the world, no matter their ability.
When we value ourselves more highly than another because of education, opportunity or social standing, we’ve missed the kingdom teaching that the first will be last, and the last will be first.
The “isms” impede our relationship to God, our understanding of God, our ability to receive grace from God. They control us. They limit us. They limit God. They take away our freedom.
I guess this is to be expected when we’re living in different truth worlds. Facts no longer matter. We’ve allowed certain “news” outlets and our social media accounts to cater to our basest human behaviors of fear and judgment, sectarianism and division, and from that, to build an imaginary world in which we make our existence.
“If your news channel uses the phrases ‘they hate’ or ‘we believe’ on the regular, you’re being imprisoned.”
Allow me to speak a word of advice: If your news channel uses the phrases “they hate” or “we believe” on the regular, you’re being imprisoned. If you get your “facts” from Facebook memes, you’re being imprisoned. If the radio or podcast personality you gravitate toward describes huge swaths of Americans as “extremists” while calling themselves “patriots,” you’re being imprisoned.
We are living in different truth worlds, and these worlds no longer intersect with reality much at all. When will we step into the truth world of Christ?
Recently I was having a conversation with an esteemed colleague in which we began talking about the things in our own lives that have imprisoned us lately. She and her partner have adopted a new motto, to speak a word of liberation to themselves and each other when these prisons present themselves. She reported it in saltier language than I will use here, but in essence, her motto has become, “Bump that, get free!”
Get free. What freedom is Jesus calling you to these days? What “ism” or judgment do you need to be freed from? Bump that, get free.
Hear the gospel of Jesus and step into a truth world where all are welcome and freedom is love. Let the only thing that binds you be love of God and love of neighbor; in this, true freedom is found.
Kendra G. Plating serves as minister of pastoral care and counseling at First Baptist Church of Greenville, S.C. She is a graduate of Wake Forest University and Harvard Divinity School. She previously worked as a hospice and hospital chaplain in Boston.