Faith Matters: We Matter

BY RENEE MCCOY

When the movie "The Color Purple" came out in 1985, I had a disturbing conversation with my mother. She had neither read Alice Walker's book nor known about Stephen Spielberg's ability to bring stark realism to the screen. All she knew was a lot of African Americans would be on the big screen and Oprah had a starring role. Fueled by pride and expectation, she and her sisters traipsed down to the cinema, excitedly expecting a comforting and overdue depiction of positive African American experiences. Instead, she saw a young girl abused by a man who had been charged with her care in a community that sanctioned his behavior. She saw women reduced to animal status and made powerless to survive. My mother watched for as long as she could, but left half way into the movie. Then, she called to tell me how faithfully Speilberg had captured the flavor of her childhood. Through tears and clenched teeth, my mother once again vowed to never go back to her hometown in Georgia, to never again allow anyone into her body like that. In her voice I heard both pain and determination.

I never knew my own mother and the women who crafted my childhood had been treated with such sanctioned brutality within their own families, churches and communities. Sometimes I suspected as much and ignored the girth of suffering they experienced. They were my strong, capable role models. They were always so careful to warn me about other dangers waiting outside, such as racism, sexism, and crazy strangers waiting to grab me in dark allies. I never knew the realities buried in their histories; a part of me just did not want to know.

Many of us were born into the "hush-hush- flush-flush" generation. When something bad

happens, just don't talk about it. Hush. If, however, IT (whatever IT is) comes out, simply flush IT away and act like IT never happened.

As I scrolled through hundreds of #MeToo postings on social media recently, it became painfully obvious that, for thousands of LGBTQ persons, IT has happened to far too many of us and for far too long. The sexual, emotional, and physical abuses so many of us - both women and men - have encountered have been hushed and flushed too long. Many have lived with unreleased pain and unjustified guilt and shame because someone declared open season on their bodies and contributed to dysfunctional relationships, poor health, abusive behaviors, and broken spirits. So, what happens now? What do we do when the memories just won't fade and the pain refuses to go away? It is here that the faith of our ancestors is called into play. What we believe about ourselves and the world around us direct how we move into our futures. Our faith calls us to pronounce "Enough"!

There are two resounding commonalities in situations of abuse. We think no one cares or we feel we deserve poor treatment because of the negative messages we have heard about ourselves and whom we love. Neither of these is true. There is a Higher Power working throughout our lives that is constantly accessible to us. I call that Power God, but you may call it something else. That is not the issue. The point is that there is Something greater than ourselves at work which consistently fuels and empowers our lives with voices of encouragement, constantly bringing experiences of peace. It is the faith that sustained our parents and grandparents and it remains available to us today.

In times like these, we are encouraged to remember and embrace the nourishment of our faith and release the hold of former lies and arrogant fantasies. That faith is grounded in the truth of our existence which proclaims we are good and holy and powerful and beautiful. That faith decrees that we are worthy of healthy, safe, respected, and prosperous lives. That faith infuses us with joy and confidence and gives us the courage and conviction to never again hush or flush.

Faith matters; you matter. As we continue to unveil the hurts and pains of the past, it is my hope that we can accept the challenge to believe more in ourselves than in those who have sought to destroy us. My prayer is that we nurture greater faith in our partnerships with a Power Greater than ourselves, the power that created and sustains us and promises to always believe in our possibilities and to never leave us alone.

Rev. Dr. Renee McCoy is an ordained minister who in 1981 founded the Metropolitan Community Church in Harlem, New York, and in 1989 founded the Full Truth Fellowship Church in Detroit. She was the executive director of the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays and is the former director of HIV/AIDS Programs at the Detroit Dept. of Health & Wellness. She now lives in Seattle with her wife and is a lecturer at the University of Washington. Connect with her at renee.mccoy2@gmail.com
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