Part 2: Healing Others
-Deborah Jean Lee
In college, I toggled between two very different worlds.
I devoted half of my time to my campus ministry, a predominantly white group that was culturally very different from my youth group. I loved this community, but with time began to see how its complicity with the culture wars wounded me and other marginalized parts of the body, especially women, people of color and LGBTQ folks.
I spent the other half of my time in classes that specifically focused on African American history, Asian American history and the post-colonial experience of indigenous people from around the world - all told from the perspective of these communities. I read stories that showed in horrifying detail how patriarchal white supremacy cloaked as Christianity had been used as a tool of colonizing and enslaving the bodies and spirits of communities of color globally. I saw how it was used in America to justify slavery, the Chinese Exclusion Act, Jim Crow segregation, and systems that continue to oppress communities of color today.
If high school history lessons showed me the arrow of Western progress, then these classes showed me the flesh that arrow sliced through.
As a leader of my Christian fellowship, I started to ask this question: if we inherited a Western Christianity that has supported systems of oppression, what responsibility did we have to learn from that history and work to dismantle the oppressive systems it set up? (This question did not go over well with my peers.)
As I saw it, our community was complicit in systems that oppressed parts of the body.
1 Corinthians 12
24 … God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Sometimes a part of the body of Christ suffers because another part inflicts that suffering. If my lungs are failing because my mouth is chain smoking all day, then I need to stop that harmful behavior. Likewise, if part of the body of Christ is suffering - like people of color, women and LGBTQ folks - then we need to confess when we are hurting them and change the behaviors and policies that harm them.
Yesterday I wrote about the importance of taking the time to heal yourself. Today, I want you to consider other communities that need healing.
Consider folks from different backgrounds who suffer from systemic oppression. Who in your life and in your communities needs healing? What systems have held them down and what can you do to help push against those systems? Can you relate to their suffering? Do you see ways you can work together toward collective justice?
I’ll leave you with this quote by aboriginal activist Lilla Watson, which captures our linked fates so well.
If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.
About The Author
Deborah Jian Lee is an award-winning journalist, radio producer and author of the critically acclaimed book Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism.
Her book reporting has taken her to secret societies of LGBT Christians within conservative enclaves, social justice Christian communes and many other corners of the subculture, where she explores the intersection of evangelical faith with race, gender, sexuality and progressive politics.
She writes about a variety of subjects, including religion, international human rights, health, travel, personal finance and much more. Her stories have been published by Slate, Religion Dispatches, The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, New York, Reuters, GOOD, SELF, WBEZ and WNYC, and many others. She was previously a staff reporter at The Associated Press.
Her series about migrant workers in China, written with reporting partner Sushma Subramanian, was a finalist for the 2012 Livingston Awards. The story, about the 58 million children left behind in China's countryside without their parents due to restrictive national policies, follows one mother's journey from the heart of China's industrial boom back to her village, as she tries to reunite her broken family. The pair also produced a radio documentary which explores the world of China's "bachelor villages," or areas overrun with aging bachelors whose bleak marriage prospects are a direct result of the country's gender imbalance. That documentary won the 2012 Newswomen’s Club of New York Front Page award for radio feature.
Deborah has taught news reporting and magazine writing as a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City. She previously taught intro to journalism to undergraduate students at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY.