In our history, we enslaved African men and women, but today we are all in captivity because of this blot on our history. I’m not enslaved, you say, but I would disagree. Look at what the aftermath of this sinful part of our history leaves us with: our guilt and shame at what our country did to mistreat others leads us to mistrust the descendants of the enslaved ones, the native populations and now immigrants. We have projected our shame and guilt onto the African-American people. We are afraid of them. We are afraid they will turn on us, so we avoid them, we don’t really allow them be full citizens. We, in the guise of the police, harass them for no good reason. We lock them up for “crimes” that we don’t prosecute white people for. We don’t treat them as equals in this society, separating them out as “different” and certainly “not as good as us.”
And what does this continuing abuse of African American people bring to us? We are captives of our fear of their retaliation. And amazingly, they have not retaliated at all, except to demonstrate in the 1960’s against their segregation in our society. If we don’t let go of our guilt and shame, even though the wrong was first done long ago, we will forever be afraid of our black brothers and sisters. We are as much captives as they are. And yet, we think we’re free. We think we don’t carry any stigma at all. Because we’re the good guys!
Jesus said, “the truth shall set you free!” If we admit our guilt and shame, we can live in the truth about ourselves and our nation. We can be free then to start a whole different relationship with our black brothers and sisters. And with others, too, like the Native American peoples that we have dismissed as not as good as we descendents of European stock. We took their land, marched some across the country to a whole new territory and generally abandoned them, as we enjoyed the fruit of their lands.
Or look at how we talk about Latinos who have emigrated to our country both legally and illegally. Today our president calls them rapists and murderers and drug pushers. When we paint them with this language, we can feel justified in treating them as subhuman, incarcerating them without needed medical care and separating them from their children.
Or look at the guilt and shame that we carry because we are the only nation to drop atom bombs on civilian populations. We were taking other’s lives, some 200,000 Japanese civilian lives, to save our troops at the end of World War II.
Other areas of guilt and shame—three wars we should never have entered into: Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. We couldn’t even look our soldiers in the eye or welcome them home after the Vietnam War. And the problems that we took on which the British and the Russians had failed to fix in Afghanistan—they are still ongoing. We only engaged in the war there to salve our pride which was terribly wounded by the 9/ll bombings. Al Queda was the problem, not Afghanistan or Iraq. And now fifteen years + later, we’re still embroiled in two unwinnable wars.
So much depends on the stories we tell about different peoples and whether those stories are true or not. As long as we choose to believe the lies, we will be captives of those lies. When we live in the truth—that God created every human being in His image—that we all have the same potential to live in His arms, enjoying the fruits of His promises to us all, then we are truly free of the baggage of lies and guilt.
The stain that each of us, black or white, Latino or, say, Arab, carries because of the past stains us all today, too. We carry that guilt and shame even if we don’t acknowledge it. The guilt and shame tie us to the past, so that we can’t leave behind the old attitudes that they are less than us. Until we can acknowledge our nation’s past that was horrible to other people, we ourselves will not be free and neither will the Blacks, the Latinos, American Indians and now Arabs who live among us.
The truth will set us free! Free to imagine a different future where all people can rise to their highest potential. Where all races and kinds of people will live together in harmony. Where we are free, and they are free, just to be who we were each created to be. Free of all the baggage, free of the lies, free of the past! Let all men and women and children be free!
We cannot be free until everyone is free: when everyone can sing Al Green’s song,
“Free at last, free at last
Thank God almighty, I’m free at last!”
Questions to ponder over the weekend: What truth about my life will set me free? Have I owned up to God all that I am, all that I have done, all that was done to me? Have I told one other person(like in AA) all that burdens me? Am I willing to face the truth, the whole truth about who I am? And will I turn to God, to Christ to heal and to set me free from the burdens and the lies that I still carry? What do I need to be set free from?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who live in the truth about ourselves, about our world and about God. May we feel the absolute freedom that comes from living in the truth and living in the mind of Christ.
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Check out my other website, deepeningyourfaith.com, for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life. New posts 2x a month. 11.15.19s is entitled, “A Process for Loving Yourself as Jesus Taught.”
 John 8:32