Browne visits the famous Geneva Flower Clock. |
Credit: Christine Housel
By: Brittany L. Browne
No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, said the Lord. -Isaiah 54:17
Do you know that you choose to channel or reject certain energies into your life? Isaiah 54:17 echoes that belief for me and furthermore provides revelation that it is a part of my heritage to prosper against any weapons that are formed against me. The term challenge is no longer a suitable word in my personal life to describe how immensely unyielding it is at times to operate in a world full of colonized history that reflects in everything we do, say and how we think, or where religion has contributed significantly to the divide in which we stand on and where people’s boxes of individuals by titles, categories and stereotypes predict the way we see one another.
Allow me to give a description of myself according to worldly standards in effort to set the context. I am African-American. I am a female. I am a part of the Millennial Generation. These three things describe how people immediately categorize me and sum up who I am. These three things are what I call three strikes. “Strikes” are categories, stereotypes, or titles which people assign to you before getting to know the depths of who you are--it is a box and an assumption that is somehow all encompassing for who you are, such as your religion or spiritual beliefs, your age, your sex, etc. If that is all I am limited to throughout my life, I thank God that my citizenship is in heaven!
My point is this, the three strikes mindset is what is damaging our Churches, the ecumenical movement and spiritual beings worldwide, affecting our relationships with one another and ultimately our success at being one body. It is no longer enough to shun what you don’t understand. What you feel is not relevant should not be dressed up as an issue that has already been resolved or that is in perfect progress. It is good to be optimistic but it is wise to be realistic. I say this only because when a “touchy” area such as diversity, racism, stereotypes, or branching out of boxes is spoken about it sometimes appears like an abomination to the environment in the non-verbal expressions of others.
In essence it is fruit that needs to be bared. If we only keep putting the seeds in the ground and refuse to water it, then we will continue to walk over the ground that has bared no fruit, unconscious that the seed is even in the ground. We walk over it in tolerance daily, boldly claiming diversity but possessing three strikes for one another.
Too often, believers give two options, telling each other to either choose to be angry or choose life. The two options become limited when there is no in between to express authentically the hurt behind it all. You are supposed to either be angry or be happy. But, there is a creator that does not turn a blind eye to expressing healthy anger and dealing maturely with our circumstances, so that out of it we come before the throne bolder and wiser. Then we can talk about choosing life!
I choose to reject the three strikes; I refuse to accept only two options and limitations of expressing my authentic self. I move beyond mediocrity, false frameworks of diversity and tolerance. I internally run and confide in one God that rejects stereotypes, ageism, racism, new forms of colonialism and embodies all things according to my heritage. I can’t go in the box, because I don’t fit! I’m too wide in my open mind, I’m too stretched in my spiritual discipline, and I am too filled with grace. Where can you step outside of your boxes or encourage others to do the same?
Brittany L. Browne is a mission intern with the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church, initially serving with the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) in Geneva, Switzerland.