Reverend J. Frederika Eaddy has written a bold and timely message to those who have the responsibility of preaching God’s Word. Sometimes out of the desire to get to the “Good News” we may fail to provide the emotional space and practical application people need as they wrestle with their realities. Preaching reconciliation is incomplete without acknowledging the necessity of transformative actions. As I read Rev. J’s words, I was convicted and challenged to exercise extraordinary care to meet people where they are with the assurance that God’s love and grace will empower them on their journey for justice in their lives.
Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell
No Passive Reconciliation, Please
Rev. J. Frederika Eaddy
Over the last several months, I have listened to and watched many sermons. Many of those sermons have reminded me of my responsibility, as a Christian, to forgive. They have called me to declare victory; to remember that God is still on the throne; to rise above the hateful rhetoric; and, to place at the forefront my duty toward reconciliation.
With each news report about this administration’s harmful antics, the message is preached that much harder. And I’ve discovered that instead of bringing hope to its listeners, it reinforces a passive faith ideology. It tells you that whatever the situation, no matter how harmful or toxic, you should remain in it for this is God’s will and God will eventually rescue you. Not only should you remain in the harmful, toxic situation, you shouldn’t question why you are there because that demonstrates a lack of faith. And above all things, you should not make any attempt to remove yourself, because God must be trying to teach you something. You sir, you ma’am must be the bigger person.
This tactic is not a new one. We’ve seen it with the women and men who are told to return to and reconcile with their abusive spouses before the spouse has done any work to address their behavior. You saw it when the families of those killed by self-defined white supremacist, Dylan Roof, believe that the Christian thing to do is immediate forgiveness. You see it everyday someone is told to remain in a place where someone in authority has violated them as an example of their Christian witness. This type of reconciliation absolves you of any responsibility to initiate change and teaches you how to keep the peace rather than showing you how to be a peacemaker. After all, we aren’t called to keep the peace, which really means maintaining the status quo. We were called to be peacemakers, which requires uprooting injustice and creating an atmosphere where justice equity, mercy and love thrive.
And quite frankly, I am sick of it. So, let’s set the record straight. Calling victims to reconcile for the sake of reaching some political accommodation without addressing critical questions of injustice is not reconciliation at all. Reconciliation calls for an outing (or naming) of the injustice and then works to remove it at its root. Reconciliation requires the permanent laying down of power and privilege in order to restore (or establish) right and just relationships. Reconciliation calls for us to push back against the oversimplification of the demand for Christian love and forgiveness; a sort of “can’t we all just get along” rhetoric. Curtis Paul DeYoung reminds us, “Reconciliation is not appeasement, assimilation, a passive peace, a unity without cost, or maintaining power with only domestic changes”.
So preachers, don’t call me to reconciliation if you are also calling me to remain comfortable in my oppression. Don’t call me to reconciliation if you refuse to speak about the unjust systems under which we live. Don’t call me to reconciliation without also calling me to resist the empire and its ideologies of domination. Do not call me to reconciliation if you cannot acknowledge that Jesus came to set the oppressed free. Because if you do, it is clear that you are not calling for reconciliation, you are calling me to maintain the status quo. And it’s rather oxymoronic, isn’t it, to preach to me about a liberating Christ without encouraging me to really be free?
But this is not surprising, in the least. For religion has often been used to support the socio-economic status quo by teaching people how to adapt to the system, rather than empowering them to change it. Religion, at times, can be as oppressive as the systems it claims to be called to correct. So Reverend sir, Reverend ma’am, you can keep your sermons. I’d rather pray with my feet and show my faith in these streets. But when you are ready to talk about uprooting injustice and resistance as a part of reconciliation, let me know. I would love to join you in conversation.
Rev. J.Frederika Eaddy is the founder of I Just Believe Ministries and the author of Getting Naked to Get Free.