Sometimes Liberation Comes through Offense

Telling the truth always costs something. It’s never free, even if it does bring liberation. In the United States, our collective majority will gloss over the realities of systemic racism and misogyny point to a truth that can be too hard to bear: that we don’t actually love or trust ourselves or our children. So we simply pretend we aren’t bearing it. But the weight of this pretense is as heavy as the guilt of our past bleeding into our present. Deep down, we know we must deal with it one day. And for many, that one day is coming sooner than expected, with increased access to information a click away. So often, there are two responses to the realization of the truth: denial, which often comes in the form of tight-fisting the mythology we’ve decided is true, or, acceptance, which first requires us to wrestle with the truth ourselves and additionally, often requires us to let go of our current states of belonging in certain communities who aren’t willing to do the hard work.

January 6, 2021, was proof that when we merely close the doors on racism and hate, pretending they aren’t a part of our lives and removing them from plain view, we’ve actually created perfect conditions for those tight-fisted worldviews to grow and spread like mold.

At the same time, our social media platforms—which ultimately are held accountable only by the free market and therefore will always care most about making a profit—prove to be the petri dishes of belonging-gone-wrong. “Identity can also kill—and kill with abandon…the adversity of exclusion can be made to go hand in hand with the gifts of inclusion. The cultivated violence associated with identified conflicts seems to repeat itself around the world with increasing persistence,” said Nobel Peace Prize winner Amartya Sen, in his book Identity and Violence.

And isn’t that exactly what the US continues to go through an identity crisis. The cultivated violence associated with it shouldn’t surprise us, though it must sober us to who we really are. The truth always costs something. In the least, it costs us our misinformed perceptions of ourselves as individuals and as a collective nation.

Despite how much we want to say that we have been and currently are a nation where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is available for every individual, we know this is not true. The mirror shows us that we prioritize certain aspects of human value and create pedestals for the most prized ones. The verbs in this sentence are in the present tense for a reason. This is not just a historical issue, but an ongoing reality. As Valarie Kaur said in her book See No Stranger, “We all live under the cloud of potential shaming and potential violence as long as we live in a society that enforces hierarchies of human value, where violence is often perpetuated by institutions of power.” Violence will always be required to maintain those pedestals, and until we learn to release the old paradigms of appointing the highest values to that which is white, Christian (of a specific political flavor), male, straight, and able-bodied, we will remain a violent nation with more January sixes alongside mass shootings and hate crimes.

Deep awareness unlocks the door to confession, repentance, and reconciliation. Not everyone who becomes aware walks through that door. Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many Christians, especially those on the highest rungs of American privileges, who are not even willing to walk toward such awareness, though the lip service around it abounds. The price of truth is the risk of offense. Unfortunately, too many never experience the profound rewards of walking through offense and the sanctification that comes from such journeys. Fear of offense will always keep us from true liberation.  

By Gena Rucco Thomas

2 thoughts on “Sometimes Liberation Comes through Offense

  1. You told us what the key was to get us out of this cursed state: “Deep awareness unlocks the door to confession, repentance, and reconciliation…” The roadblock, as you rightly point out, is that “many Christians, especially those on the highest rungs of American privileges… are not even willing to walk toward such awareness” of injustice. The white church in America has been the repository of dehumanization rather than a source of liberation. To find the key to liberation requires a step that very few Christians will take, the step of listening for the cries. Jesus said that if we remained silent, “the stones would cry out.” Pastor Helmuth Eiwen, of the Evangelical Free Church in Germany, struggled to plant a church in a small town in Austria. One day he discovered a wall, with gravestones set in it. He heard the cries and his church responded. https://www.plough.com/en/topics/life/forgiveness/the-sins-of-the-fathers/

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