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A statement made by Michelle Alexander in her book The New Jim Crow planted itself in my mind, and a couple of years later, it keeps resurfacing. Alexander emphasizes the point that when the black and poor white people began to work together and grow as a political party, the parties in power felt threatened by the growing movement and empowered racist ideals to make the poor white people see themselves as better than blacks. Create division to diminish power. It's not a new tactic.

In the Book of Genesis (11:1-9), people were building a tower that could reach into the heavens. Working together, God saw that they could do anything, but their point was not to glorify God, care for creation, or even provide a job program; their sole focus was to make a name for themselves. Working together as one people, God saw that anything was possible for them and that this was only the beginning, so God confused their language and scattered the people.

Was God trying to divide the people because of a threat to God's divine status? Was God encouraging discrimination and discord? Certainly not. We need only look at the intent to gain greater understanding. One movement was broken apart by humans in power seeking to maintain power at the expense of continuing to oppress others (low wages, poor workers' rights, poverty ... sound familiar?). The other story reveals that God intervened when people sought to attain their own glory. The truth in both circumstances is that people united are strong and powerful, able to do whatever they can imagine.

This past Sunday, Christians celebrated the Feast of Pentecost and likely read aloud the story from the Acts of the Apostles (2:1-21) when the Holy Spirit blows in and settles upon the heads of the disciples like tongues of fire, enabling the disciples to speak in languages familiar to those around them. People usually chuckle when we read that the disciples are accused of being drunk (at 9 a.m.), but the tone changes as Peter recalls a prophecy, reminding the people of a promise of God to pour out God's Spirit on all flesh. God will imbue the people with God's own power.

Some people call Pentecost the birthday of the church. I like to think of it as a divine second chance or maybe a holy risk. Our human track record for working together to build up something good isn't looking so great. Yes, we can do amazing things, but we tend to get power and misuse it, even abuse one another with it. We need to be reminded, however, that we have great power within us to do seemingly impossible things and use that power to build up one another for the glory not of ourselves but for us all, even if it means taking a risk or going against popular opinion.

God knows that even in our religious institutions, we fail to build up everyone in the image of goodness and love. We continue to let our divisions separate us, speaking in different theological languages as if only one of us can lay claim to the Almighty while the widow, orphan and stranger remain abandoned and God's Spirit languishes within us, trapped by our inability to let go of our sense of control. I pray that we might take this holy risk that God has given us to tap into our true power to build up the kingdom of heaven here and now by truly loving one another as God has loved us. True love knows no boundaries and translates in every language.

NAN Religion on 06/15/2019

Print Headline: True love knows no boundaries

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