How do I justify my religion to my own body?
My father claims that we are descended from the Mexica people, also known as the Aztecs. On my mother’s side, we are more recently and directly descended from the Spanish people and Yaqui indigeneity. My grandmother has green eyes (from the Spanish) and straight hair (from the Yaqui) to prove it. But I don’t like to recognize the Spanish. I don’t like to be called “Hispanic” because I don’t want to recognize my indigenous side’s colonizers and conquistadores. I try to give as little power to the colonizer in my blood as possible. (Yes, my current history class, I know we talked about the problems behind blood quantum, but these problems do not take away from what we have felt for our whole lives.)
How much power should I give to the religion that was used to conquer my people and wanted to “civilize” us with a monotheistic religion? How do I defend to myself that it was not Jesus’ fault that his followers were cruel? I turn to the identity and teachings of Jesus himself.
I teach 8th graders at the Youth Group of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Natick. I have heard that the best way to learn is to teach. I teach them about Jesus – or Yeshua (yesh-wah), Jesus’ actual name before translation. I am the Sunday school they go to a year before their confirmation class, and I take that job seriously. I am the source of Bible history for my class, however small and informal my education has been in Bible history. I try to humanize Jesus, his ancestors and his disciples for my 8th graders. Jesus was not humanized – incarnated – for me until I realized that he was not white, like all the popular representations of him show. (And no, looking white is not looking racially ambiguous, just like there are different shades of “nudes.”) I want to humanize Jesus, not to bring him down to my level, but because it is easier for me to follow someone on foot than someone on a pedestal.
Jesus is rightfully on a pedestal for dying for our sins, but he did not want to be on a pedestal; he wanted to carry us, he wanted to serve. The more human a person is, the more you believe in them. The more you want to touch them. You’re not afraid to break their image. Jesus’ image does not break, it is resilient, once you realize that Jesus was human, was incarnated and has emotions. He had anger. He threw tables because he could not believe people’s disrespect and their lack of love for God’s temple, God’s place of love. He had love; he was not perfect because he had emotions. Being sinless does not mean perfection. Perfection is stale and dangerous because then you don’t want to change the perfect. And yet Jesus wanted to change everything. He wanted to change the world as we know it. He was a revolutionary and a servant, and his history deserves to be learned. Unlike many revolutionaries, he sacrificed himself out of love, not out of anger. His love was of the world, not of a certain people. He revolutionarily loved his enemies and his neighbors as himself.
Ultimately, my brown body follows a brown revolutionary whose mother was shunned; I follow a brown man who died of torture so we would not have to. I follow a goddess with skin the color of water and a non-binary gender. I follow a brown man whose mother was brave enough to carry him even though she would be shunned. He was born out of love and died out of love. He teaches me to pray for those in need, the weak, the meek, the poor of spirit. Therefore, I pray for the colonized, the diasporized, the raped, the abused, the closeted, the shunned, the prudes, the sluts, the discriminated against, those who fear for their safety in the dark and because they are dark.