The following are my initial thoughts from the #SisterSummer prompts from Desiree Adaway’s Sister Summer writing program focused on liberation. I’m sure there will be more to come from this prompt alone, but certainly from the rest of the weekly prompts.
Trigger Warning: This includes elements of my own story and journey, so it is inherently centered on my white, Christian, cis-gender, privileged experience in some sections. There is also a brief mention of abuse, and discussion of many “-isms” within Christianity.
I’m really lucky. I’m white, middle class, and cis-gender in a heterosexual marriage. And I was raised Christian. I don’t have many systems and institutions to fight to survive because they mostly work for me, not against me.
But I think I feel that pull towards social justice not only because I believe wholeheartedly (and after much ideological change in some areas) it’s simply what we MUST do. But also because I have had to fight some ideologies and institutions from birth. I first had to survive within highly patriarchal belief systems, with a certain patriarch who abused and manipulated. It took years to fight back, recognize it enough to call a thing a thing, and then to forgive, to heal….and continue healing. I also was ingrained with fat phobia…and am now fat and body positive. I am finally learning how to handle the depression I’ve had all my life (most of it without knowing I was depressed). I have an internal organ that doesn’t work. And now I wonder if perhaps I’m not as heterosexual as I thought.
In the past year, I’ve shed many things, healed others, and am still on that wild ride of intense change. I’m now on a path of shedding the dogma and strappings of a religion I’m not even sure I recognize anymore. Or maybe my eyes have opened to what it is. It’s a tricky place to be in because my newfound spirituality is still based in many of the beliefs I’ve held dear all my life…many of the beliefs that led to healing and life-changing experiences. But I’ve come to realize those experiences are more universal and less exclusive than I was led to believe.
I’ve gone down an interesting path the past few years. The people and the religion I relied on let me down when I really needed them and it made me start to question more deeply. Around that same time, I came into a new awareness of what racism means, what white privilege and white supremacy means, and I woke up to what was *actually* going on in the world around me. Everything was not what I thought it was and I felt like I was unplugged from the Matrix. Rather than let it overwhelm me, I started to educate myself with voracious fervor. With a young child that needed me often, most of my education came to me through Facebook and Google searches. Then I branched out into the “real world” as much as I could as well.
And within all that I started to see how the systems I grew up in, including the Church and so many Christians, worked to support systems that Jesus would not have approved of. The cognitive dissonance was REAL. How could I participate in a church community where respected people obviously believed in racist, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, homophobic, and transphobic ideologies. I started to see the truth about people I thought were generous and kind, especially around the 2016 election. Granted, not all of my Christian friends believed this and I had many friends who also believed in intersectionality and inclusion, but I could not in good conscience be a part of a system that upheld those ideologies.
I considered finding a progressive church because I missed that sense of community, but on a personal level, I still had too much hurt of my own. I ended up finding that community in other ways, or more recently created it on my own.
Yet even within the spiritual/New Age community at large, I’ve discovered many of those same systems still come into play, but it doesn’t have the same structure and history of Christianity’s legacy. The manipulation seems more recent and a result of colonization and globalization. Ancient religions were more often colonized and oppressed by Christians than the other way around. So it seems a more fragile system that’s getting exposed more easily. I’ve found the people who believe what I believe, or who have helped clarify things…many of whom are marginalized and speak truth unabashedly.
My place in all this is still getting solidified, but this I know…I will always stand for the liberation the wild selves of EVERYONE, which means standing for the marginalized and oppressed. I don’t want to enhance my life on the backs of Black and Brown people, continue to suppress and oppress LGBTQ+ communities, disabled communities, people from other religions and cultures, etc. It does us no good. It weighs us down because we bear the weight of oppressor and colonizer. But when we help others get free, we free ourselves in the process. Not in a selfish way, but because when we’re all free, we are our best selves and can give to the world what we’re meant to give. I would rather set the stage for future generations by humbling myself and bending down to lift up marginalized folx than to break their backs by walking all over them (and teaching my daughter the same values).
I dissent from a lot of things I used to believe, or blindly participate in, and my dissent is showing up stronger and stronger not only in my social media presence, but more public avenues such as my blog, my business, and within my work itself.
I dissent with the obvious isms, the oppression, and the white supremacy. But I also dissent with society’s expectations in so many ways. Who defines success? Who says we need to “have it all”? Perhaps true success is being grateful for the abundance we have, sharing it with others according to our purpose, and working to help our fellow humans and our earth.
I feel that I have a lot of “causes” and a lot of areas where I continue to grow and expand in my knowledge and understanding, but the core of it is this: recognizing each others’ beauty, humanity, and struggles. And then choosing to lift up and center any marginalized person who enters my sphere.
For my personal life purpose, that also means helping people express their true and authentic selves as freely as possible. Too many of us have had our voices muffled, shot down, dismissed, muzzled, or been told it’s not good enough. Who are they to determine that? Unless you’re spouting hate speech, no one has the right to tell us how to use our voices. Sing imperfectly, shout out loud, howl at the moon, speak from the depth of your soul.
Will I always do this work perfectly? No. But I’ll keep working at it day by day, moment my moment, till the day I die.