For Colored Girls

Yesterday, I sat in church and cried. Not because the Holy Spirit moved me, not because the choir evoked a powerful emotion- but because I was angry. I was angry, disappointed and annoyed.

Over the weekend our Commander in Cheetos made a series of statements and political actions. Things on his to-do list included:  reversing the stay on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), executing two executive orders, and a starting a number of Twitter beefs. This man hasn’t been in office a full two business weeks and he’s already done major damage. But that isn’t what this post is about.

Saturday night, I watched as airports across the nation came to a halt. Trump’s latest executive order prevented green card holders from re-entering the USA if they were from certain nations that were Muslim majority. Mothers, college students, professionals- all stuck in terminals without the ability to seek counsel or contact family members. I spent most of the night Google-ing ways that I could help and compiling a list of senators and congressmen to contact. I went to church under the assumption that my pastor would mention what had been going on and I was ready to receive action steps from my spiritual leader.

You know what they say about assumptions.

Right before offering, my pastor finally mentioned everything that was going on.

I grew up in the Baptist church. I was on the junior usher board, participated in the youth choir and I was a Sunbeam.  My father is an ordained minister. I was one of those people who wanted to fight the “war on Christmas”. I couldn’t understand why people thought Christians were hypocrites or why certain people refused to step foot in a church.

Yesterday, a man that I respect stood in the pulpit (in front of hundreds of members) and told us that the only solution to the nation’s current political discord was prayer. Literally. He told us that protesting, emailing congress and donating money was useless.

I was crushed.

“Some of yall don’t know what to pray for so I’ll tell you… pray that our President can focus. Focus on fixing things and not making them worse.”  He even went as far as to say that offering would be used to “sew a seed of focus for our President and his advisors”. Sew a seed… for Donald Trump?? Needless to say, I kept my five dollars.

Not once did he mention the basic human rights that were being ignored. Not once did he mention organizing our communities so that we’d feel empowered to make a change. Not once did he even utter the words in Leviticus 19:33-34.

I honestly couldn’t believe that this was happening.

Stop telling Black people to just pray their worries away. Prayer is a powerful tool that I believe in and rely on. But prayer without action is a waste. This was the perfect Sunday to remind everyone that God instructed his people to love foreigners as their neighbors. Church folk love a Bible example. It’s right there in the Good Book.

I left.

I didn’t feel empowered. I felt hopeless. I imagined that this was the “advice” that millions of Black people were getting from their spiritual advisors. It made me sick.

Black people have been praying in this country for centuries. We’re still under-represented, marginalized and profiled. We’re still being pushed out of our communities and forced to attend schools with low testing rates and insufficient funding. What has prayer alone changed for us?

Why aren’t our religious leaders teaching us how to organize anymore?

I wanted to stand up and add my two cents. With all due respect, white supremacists don’t give a damn about our prayers. In the 60s, they bombed churches. Black people were literally meeting to pray—and they were killed. Pastors were assassinated- most notably Martin Luther King Jr and James Reeb.

Following my pastor’s logic- we might as well not vote. Just pray that everything works out. And people (like me) who suffer from mental illnesses should stop taking their meds. Just pray that it’ll figure itself out. He gave a message of submission. But in many ways, Jesus Christ was the most radical figure in history. He taught love and inclusion. He taught his followers to unite and fight for the freedoms and justices of all people. Even in His death, his words were of courage.

It hurt. For me, church has always been a place of hope and inspiration. I didn’t feel hopeful or inspired yesterday. I thought to myself, this is why people are so skeptical of organized religion and it isn’t right.

If our leaders won’t step up, we’ll just have to do it for ourselves.  Don’t rely on someone else to interpret The Bible for you. Read it. Understand it. Read the Qur’an. Read the Torah. You’ll find overlaps. You’ll find stories of women who led entire nations. You’ll find stories of people who demanded action when their people were enslaved. It’s all there.

If we seriously want to end decades and decades of systemic oppression, we must learn to add action to our prayers. We can’t simply hope for the best. We must each do our part to bring the change that we wish to see. 

Sydnei Jarman