In my new novella Ray of Lightning, just released, I show people caught in various kinds of slavery. Some are blinded by deception that covers up assumptions enslaving them, while others use deception to help them survive oppression. Will they break out of their prisons? What kind of miracle can open impossible walls?
I started making notes and thinking about this story ten years ago, and it turns out to be very timely for this day of renewed racial conflict. So, e-mail me by December 15 for a free copy of the novella. I’ll send you a coupon.
“Deception” is the title of a chapter in Howard Thurman’s important book Jesus and the Disinherited. As an African-American theologian who counseled Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Thurman points out that both the oppressor and the oppressed use deception. It is about closing doors and the constricting fear that comes from secrecy, excluding others, silencing truth tellers, curtailing civil rights — not about openness.
Deception often employs fear to cause people to shut down, hide, close their eyes, ears and minds — to deny the truth.
Thurman warns that regardless of whether you are on the side of oppressor or oppressed, as you grow accustomed to the lie it becomes your assumption of reality; you become the lie. This view of reality is passed on generationally and becomes a culture which is defended to the death, usually the death of those who contradict your “truth” (witness Jesus Christ, countless martyrs through the ages, and lynching victims).
Promoting unreality, lying, has been a primary activity of the current U.S. president. Many follow his example. Promoting unreality manipulates the followers to believe any attempt to expose the lie is causing the world to descend into hell. Mortal and spiritual fears are stoked by militant hate wrapped in religious clothes, all to maintain unreality. I have experienced preachers in churches making the most dramatic sounds and language strike such fear in the hearts of willing listeners.
The Honorable John Lewis
The late congressman John Lewis learned early in the Civil Rights Movement that hate closes us away from each other. Many have heard him quote Dr. King saying, “Hate is too great a burden for any man to carry.” Lewis endured physical beatings, imprisonment, and other abuses without closing his heart to his abusers. At the end of his life both his supporters and those in opposition gathered under the capitol rotunda, July 27, to testify of the love that kept Lewis open to everyone. They noted his eternally optimistic and positive attitude which made him a pleasure to be around even to those who opposed his viewpoint. How was he able to be so refreshingly open? As he was fond of saying, “Love is the only way.”
Love is where openness comes from. Hate, deception and denial will not bring freedom, health and prosperity. Love is what opens us to grow in some way that takes us out of the lie into the freedom of actual reality, the Truth.
As an artist I know that a work of art will involve struggle, mistakes, failures, and disappointments. There have been times when I would walk away from a work, embarrassed to let anyone see how bad it was. But, the awful thing would sit there looking back at me almost like it was hoping I would be open enough to consider that it is redeemable, hoping I will consider all the alternative techniques, materials, ideas that would bring it to completion.
Openness has caused beautiful works to come out of failures. Sometimes openness tells us to wait before passing judgement, to seek the wisdom and inspiration to press through. Openness looks beyond the ugliness, chooses the way of faith leading through the troubles believing good will break through impossible walls.
Many who claim to follow Christ seem to have forgotten the central message of their faith to choose the way of the cross, that resurrection comes AFTER following the way into impossible defeat, that standing with the oppressed is better than turning a blind eye and closing your ears. Openness is the way of faith; openness without fear that God cannot withstand all demonic attacks and deception.
Open the Door
Psalm 34 speaks about opening the gates and the everlasting doors of the city of God so that God can come in. At the time the Psalmist was speaking of Israel’s capital Jerusalem and God as the King. Today sitting on my couch, I understand the city of God to be not a certain people group (race, religion, class) but all humanity where each person is a portal for God to enter and dwell in God’s creation.
The promise is that our choice to open ourselves to the Greater Unknown will welcome in Truth and Life that raises us to a more glorious state than we imagine. Our choice to humbly let down our guard to the possibility of God’s formation process frees us to be our true self in all the goodness we hope to enjoy.