Lent 2015 "I am Human: Created in the Image of God"

By

February 19, 2015

I Ma Human: Created in the Image of GodThis past week I was haunted by the words of a 13 year old Yemeni boy who was reportedly killed in a CIA-directed drone attack on January 26.  This attack happened just weeks after he had spoken with western journalists about his fear, which started after his father was killed by a U.S. drone, of the U.S. drones flying overhead in his home country of Yemen. 

 Published on Tuesday, February 10, 2015, Common Dreams Staff Writer Jon Queally wrote:

“When the Guardian interviewed Mohammed last September, he spoke of his anger towards the U.S. government for killing his father in a drone attack.  ‘They tell us that these drones come from bases in Saudi Arabia and also from bases in the Yemeni seas and America sends them to kill terrorists, but they always kill innocent people. But we don’t know why they are killing us.’  ‘In their eyes, we don’t deserve to live like people in the rest of the world and we don’t have feelings or emotions or cry or feel pain like all the other humans around the world.’” 

It is painful to hear the boy’s words “In their eyes, we don’t deserve to live like people in the rest of the world” as they think we “don’t have feelings or emotions or cry or feel pain like other human beings!”  The deep sadness is that it appears that these words from this boy are far from sentiment, but a reality, as we see an increase in Islamophobia in the United States and across the world, now even more intensely with the rise and brutality of ISIS.  It appears that Muslims’ denouncements of such brutality is of no avail.  These past weeks we have witnessed the shooting deaths of three Muslim students in North Carolina, and the intentional arson of an Islamic center in Houston, Texas, on Friday, February 13.

In its response to the murders of Deah Barakat, 23, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and Razan Abu-Salha, 19, "Shoulder-to-Shoulder,” a campaign of national religious, faith-based, and interfaith organizations seeking to end anti-Muslim bigotry, wrote:

“While there are still many questions around the killer’s motivation, it is clear that this incident occurred in a context of high levels of anti-Muslim sentiment, and the American Muslim community is fearful as hate speech and hate crimes continue to target Muslims in this country.  The Center for American Progress, in an accident of timing, this week released their new report, Fear, Inc., 2, documenting the cash-flow behind anti-Muslim rhetoric and legislation.  Regardless of the authorities' decision regarding motivation, this tragedy has brought to national attention the hatred and fear that are very much a part of the current national and local rhetoric.”

Such dehumanization of a people is nothing new as we have witnessed it during the Second World War against Jewish people, and also the continued dehumanization of black people who face institutionalized racism in this country.  

In response to the slaying of Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, on Saturday, August 9, Lisa Sharon Harper, Sojourners’ senior director of mobilizing wrote a blogpost August 25, 2014 for Christianity Today entitled, It's Time to Listen: "The Lie" saying that the there is a belief at the core of this nation that black people are not fully human.

“But there is another dynamic that is equally, if not more deeply rooted at play here. It is a core spiritual lie at work in the region—and I dare say the nation.

This spiritual lie is profound and ugly. It has shaped beliefs about the black residents of Ferguson, laid the foundations for missteps by authorities, and affected the black Ferguson community’s capacity to prevent the death of Michael Brown.

This lie was caught on video when a Ferguson police officer said, during an early protest march, “Bring it! All you f***ing animals! Bring it!

There it is—the belief that usually resides deep beneath the surface of conscious thought, safe from examination and extrication, but was born in biblical times, solidified in the days of the Enlightenment, and codified into colonial law in 1660 through the racialization of Virginia slave codes. Then 14 years after the Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed “all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights,” the lie was embedded in the U.S. legal structure through the Naturalization Act of 1790, which barred the rights of citizenship from both free and enslaved black people.

These are the roots of the lie. Here it is—plain and simple: Black people are not fully human. In most crass terms—they are animals.

This spiritual lie has shaped our public life since the founding of our nation.

This lie lived out in the open, in our early history. Now, after 360 years of presence in various forms and its extrication from our legal structures through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, it’s gone underground—hidden and unchallenged as a subconscious bias in the hearts of most Americans including some black people. In fact, a recent study found that 75 percent of respondents have an unconscious bias toward white people over blacks.

This spiritual lie has shaped our public life since the founding of our nation. We have yet to face it down, name it, and repent.”

It seems to me that this spiritual lie that black people are not fully human does not only apply to black people in this country, but also to other people of non-European descent, like Muslims and Hispanics.  In this non-human category it appears we can also include LGBTQ people, as it is legal in Ohio to be fired from your job, denied an apartment, or refused service at a movie theater, restaurant or hotel because of your sexual orientation or gender identity. 

This Lent you are invited to fast from bigotry and to affirm the God given truth that all people are created in the image of God.  Our Lenten series entitled “I am Human: Created in the Image of God” invites you, through mindfulness and meditation on the words of Jesus of Nazareth and other contemporary prophets, to challenge and expose how social beliefs, church leaders, authoritarian theology, and contemporary notions of humanity distort the biblical truth that humanity was created in the image of God.  Through a journey of faith in action, we will join many other people of faith across the nation and the world in affirming the humanity and dignity of all.   Please join us for worship on Sunday mornings at 10:45am as we contribute, as a community of faith, to constructive, informed, loving, and justice-seeking dialogue on what it means to be created in the image of God.

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