La versión en español está disponible aquí.
This past weekend, my Facebook feed was extremely polarized due to varying political and theological views among friends. On Friday, I read posts that praised Donald Trump as if he were the savior of the world, and others that demonized him as if he were the devil himself.
On Saturday, likewise, I read posts from friends (women and men) who proudly attended the Women’s March in different cities. Meanwhile, others complained that they were left out due to their pro-life views. (I am aware of the tension caused by differing positions on women’s reproductive rights, but this is a topic for another time).
Both in the news and social media, I learned about the reasons people attended the March: to teach their children (sons and daughters) the importance of protests and solidarity; to show their daughters their true value; to express views on women’s rights, equality for all human beings, immigration and justice. Of course, the common denominator was a deep concern about Donald Trump’s views, actions and political agenda.
Among the different reasons, one in particular caught my attention. An African-American woman expressed on TV that she was marching because she wanted the new generations to know her story. She appeared to be in her late fifties or early sixties, and she described how she had suffered much discrimination due to her gender and race. She mentioned that she was there to remember, to remind people of her experience and to strongly express her hope that we will never return to that time again.
She left me pondering. She was offering an invitation to remember with her that not long ago women were in more vulnerable, unjust and dangerous situations and that we should not take for granted the progress that women have achieved. Like many others who marched, she was fearful that under President Trump, women’s rights might be threatened, eradicated and forgotten.
Memories or recollections are very important. We marvel that our computers can store so much information. Well, our human memory is much more than that. We can remember years, dates, people, events, places, music, food or even a perfume’s smell. As wonderful as it is, our memory may lose some of its strength due to lack of use. It is amazing to me how many of us have lost the ability to remember phone numbers. Before the use of smart phones, I could memorize so many phone numbers!
Our memories can be lost, and our memory itself can be reconfigured. That is why this African-American woman wanted to be sure that her story was not forgotten, so that the times when she experienced so much oppression were not “normalized.”
Memories are vital for human beings. They assist us in developing a sense of identity and belonging. They protect us by helping us to remember previous hurts and dangers. But they also give us a sense of hope as they move us to consider our lives, and to remember how certain experiences and events have propelled us to a better future.
The biblical text attests to the importance of memories. In the Bible, the act of remembering has different functions. According to Old Testament scholar Dianne Bergant “… divine remembering … usually benefits human beings.” When humans are the ones remembering “… it is generally an act of divine graciousness that is remembered … particularly those that comprised the experience of deliverance ….” These recollections “…prompted the people to be grateful for those past blessings and to hope for comparable blessings in the future.” She continues by highlighting that in the New Testament “… remembering God’s promises functions as a spur to trust and courage. … The disciples were told to remember the words and deeds of Jesus in the same way as they remembered the gracious acts of God.” (“Memory,” The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible).
Thus, remembering is a call for Christians to action: to express gratitude for past blessings, as well as to have trust, courage and hope for the future.
In a similar way, Jesus’ invitation to “Do this in remembrance of me” (I Corinthians 11:24-25) involves gratitude for his incarnation, life, actions, death and resurrection, but it involves, too, a particular action: to proclaim him until he comes again (I Corinthians 11:26).
How do we remember and proclaim Jesus? We do it by following his calling. However, sometimes this calling is not very clear. Theologian Jon Sobrino highlights how Jesus “offers salvation to all, and makes demands of all, but in a very different way” (Jesus the liberator, p. 96). This implies that the post-salvation course of action is diverse. The arrogant religious leaders were called to humility, the rich to share their wealth, and the high up to leave their lives of privilege. On the other hand, the oppressed people were called to recognize their value before God and society, to take their place at the table, and to claim and live their lives as full humans made in the image of God.
Where do we fit in this picture? This is a hard question! As human beings we are multifaceted human beings. We may play simultaneously the role of the oppressor and the oppressed, depending on the different aspects of our lives. Let’s take my life as an example. As a Latina woman, I certainly qualify as an oppressed person due to my race and gender. However, I am educated, and I have a professional paying job that allows me to live comfortably. So, compared to many people around the world who live with a few dollars a day, and who may not have secure shelter, electricity, clean water or formal education, I am wealthy.
Thus, my individual call is to share in the areas where I have more than the regular global citizen (knowledge, material resources, influence), but in the areas where I am oppressed (race and gender), I need to continue speaking up, protesting, challenging the system, and taking my place at the table.
But this is a communal call, too. I need to challenge the communities where I exist to recognize, in the global picture, their places of advantage and disadvantage, and to act accordingly.
As a good professor, I want to leave you with two questions to reflect on: Where are you in the national and global picture? Where is your church/community? If you are not sure, please consult some national and global statistics regarding education, living accommodations, wages, clean water, access to medical care, etc. This information will help us to remember where we are, as well as the challenges before us to promote the abundant life that God wants for every human being.
As for the African-American woman who was marching on Saturday, I will not forget her story. How could I? Her story, pain and fear are mine, too, but her hope is my hope, too!
Now you also know her story, please remember, and act accordingly.