You Matter. / by Sarah Schwartz

"He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy; Then it was well. Is not that what it means to know Me?" Declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 22:16)

Yesterday found me squeezed into a teeny tiny aisle seat on a flight from Portland to Los Angeles, my body doubled over with grief.  A busy weekend at home had not allowed me the space to process the national conversation surrounding women, but upon being alone with my thoughts in 22E, I crumbled under the weight of this brutal election cycle, this last blow finding the cracks in my dam and causing me to shake with sobs.

My grief is two fold—first for the flesh and blood image bearers who have consistently been disparaged and debased in the public square over the last year.

And second, for the manner in which the gospel, this good news of Jesus—where the last are to be first and the poor called blessed—for the way this "good news" has been bastardized to support and animate the injuring of the vulnerable.

I grieve for those hurt (myself included) and I grieve that the name of Jesus—who inaugurated his ministry by declaring that the Spirit of the Lord had anointed him to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim the captives be released, and the oppressed set free—I grieve that his name is being used as a tool to defend that which is unquestionably evil.

Oh, Church, how quick we have been to sacrifice the defenseless on the altar of power.

***

So let me say this clearly, because it is not being said nearly enough.

Racism is not just yucky or unpleasantit is an affront to the gospel.

Sexism is not just distasteful or uncomfortableit is an affront to the gospel.

To dismiss or minimize or stand idly by while the image of God is maligned in the least of these is an affront to the gospel.

In the words of James Cone, a Church that does not lend their whole selves to the defense and dignifying of the vulnerable is to be charged with theological bankruptcy. 

***

And so let me say this clearly, to myself and to the countless others who have been humiliated not only by words and deeds magnified over the airwaves, but by a church that has deemed us acceptable collateral on the path to worldly gain:

You matter more than politics.

You matter more than power.

More than tax cuts.

More than Supreme Court Justices.

More than poll numbers.

You matter more than any party or label.

More than wealth.

More than trade deals.

You matter more than the comfort of the powerful.

More than the comfort of the already comfortable.

Your dignity is non-negotiable.

You matter.

You matter.

You matter.

***

"I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinning...No matter how long or loud or often you pray, I’ll not be listening. And do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing people to pieces, and your hands are bloody. Go home and wash up. Clean up your act.
Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings so I don’t have to look at them any longer. Say no to wrong. Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenseless." (Isaiah 1: 14-17, MSG)