Forgiving AND Rejecting Oppression
The artwork depicting Christ on the cross on the header of this blog is from a stained-glass window in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. The window depicts Jesus on the cross with two arms outstretched – one hand is turned away rejecting the viewer, the other hand is turned open and receiving the viewer. The turned hand symbolizes the need to reject oppression, injustice, and hatred – this is what ends abundant life and breaks the heart of God. The open hand symbolizes the need to forgive the racist, the abuser, and the sinner – this is what Christ died for and what His disciples are called to do. There is a great need in the world and in the church to both actively reject injustice – by living into a call to do justice and holistic discipleship, and to truly offer forgiveness – where brokeness and death are not forgotten or diminished, but redeemed by the freedom of Christ and in the promise of the Kingdom of God.
A Brief History
This window was installed after the historic and shocking bombing on September 15, 1963, that killed Addie, Denise, Carole, and Cynthia – four girls between the ages of 11 and 14 who were preparing for church in the basement that morning. This murderous violence against an African-American house of worship that took the lives of young, innocent children rocked the nation – over 8,000 mourners attended a subsequent funeral for three of the girls where Rev.Dr. Martin Luther King gave the eulogy. Many people say that this shocking act helped expose how the hate of racism was turning our country rancid and subsequently garnered support for the Civil Rights movement.
I saw this window while on a journey exploring attitudes of race and faith, cross-cultural relationships, and various Civil Rights sites called “Sankofa” (which means “looking backward in order to move forward”). The Evangelical Covenant Church sponsors these weekend trips for various groups – they are always amazing, challenging, and often life-changing experiences. For more information on Sankofa, and to get to see this window for yourself, contact the Christian Formation Department (or ask me about it).