Standing in Opposition to the White Church

Photo courtesy of: https://www.benjaminlcorey.com/10-signs-youre-actually-following-trumpianity-instead-of-christianity/

Readers,

These past four years have been difficult, haven’t they? I say four years because Trump’s entire campaign was a highlight reel of his worst characteristics. It’s been painful to hear him call Puerto Ricans “lazy”, call Mexicans “rapists”, see him throw paper towels at Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria, watch him cage children at the border and separate them from their parents, hear him joke about grabbing women’s vaginas…I need not continue. You’ve heard it all, I’m sure.

White Christians love Donald Trump. The numbers don’t lie. Interestingly enough, many white Christians will decry anyone who supports “liberal” ideas as “political”, yet they are extremely political themselves. They just love Trump. Trump isn’t a politician. He’s God’s messenger, right? Most white Evangelicals voted for him. Why? Economic reasons for some. Abortion issues for another. And, let’s face it, some white Christians just downright hate people of color.

Yeah. I said what I said.

I used to find Trump fans quite amusing. Then, I pitied them for their lack of critical thinking skills and narrow mindsets. But, what was once fascinating to observe has now become terrifying as following Trump is expected and even demanded in some churches. Speaking out against Trump and his policies is equated to speaking out against God and the church. Calling out white supremacy, which is what put Trump in office, is met with such vitriol…even from the mouths of pastors.

Just the other day, I shared an article on Facebook that explained how, in the wake of the El Paso shooting, white men were being arrested for trying to enact similar acts of terror in other Walmarts. They were trying to copy the El Paso shooting by killing Latinos or they were content with just scaring the Latino patrons of Walmart into thinking they would be shot.

A white man I know, who is a pastor, claimed that white supremacy wasn’t real and, after I tried to engage in thoughtful dialogue about it, he told me that I was “selling crap.” This is coming from a pastor. My hope is that most pastors are culturally-competent people with a heart to serve the Lord, not people stuck in one mindset/worldview who pledge allegiance to the United States instead of Christ. Wouldn’t the church be much healthier if we committed to having conversations with each other about tough topics rather than aligning ourselves with Republican/Conservative views because we believe they are synonymous with Christianity?

That’s where we find ourselves today. The lines between Republicanism and Christianity have always been blurred, but today these two groups are synonymous. Those who stand in opposition to Republicanism, or even those who merely raise questions about Republican policies, are considered “liberal” and “secular.” And, to the white church, those words are synonymous with “demonic” or “satanic.” Often we’re harassed and labeled in this way in an effort to distinguish us from the “true Christians”, the ones who follow Trump and are Conservative.

Earlier today, I ran into a white Christian woman I know while wearing my Black Lives Matter t-shirt. For me, it is not a controversial statement to say that black lives matter. They do matter. They haven’t mattered to most people throughout history and we should call attention to that while also fighting for change. This change can only come from the heart, I know. Christ does the changing. We’re merely the prophetic voices calling the church to open their eyes to this massive blind spot. But, the white church doesn’t like that. That’s…political. That’s…divisive.

This woman asked to see my shirt, so I got closer so she could read it. Immediately the questions and silencing came forth:

Do you think black lives haven’t mattered?

Oh for sure, because-

You see, I disagree with that. I’ve never cared about someone’s color. I’ve always had black friends growing up.

I’m sure, but there’s a problem in this country that-

I just don’t see it. It’s never been my perspective. I think all lives matter! Black lives matter! All lives matter!

Right. Every life matters. Every person matters. But in this country we have a history of not valuing black lives. It began with enslaving people from Africa and then moved to Jim Crow and we’re still seeing the ramifi-

Well, I just don’t see it. I mean, I think white lives matter! All lives matter! Saying “Black Lives Matter” is prejudiced because you’re calling out one group!

Well, white lives have always mattered. But, I think-

No, that’s not true. During Jesus’ time, white lives didn’t matter because people were oppressed because of their nationality and it wasn’t until the time of the Europeans that white lives mattered. I mean sometimes I think I’m wrong to not support Black Lives Matter, but I just don’t like the liberal media and how they keep talking about it.

PAUSE. WHAT?! We resume…

Well, I have some black Christian theologians I can refer you to if you’d like to learn about someone else’s experience and perspective. They aren’t like the “liberal” media, as you say, and they approach it from a Christ-centered perspective.

You can send it to me but I’m probably not going to read it because I just don’t agree. And if someone has had a different experience in this country, I ‘d recommend they get new friends. We just have to get past this stuff. I’m past it. Most people are past it.

-____-

Okay, well I see things differently but that’s fine.

Yeah, anyway, so I just saw that shirt and wondered why you supported that. Anyway, I know we haven’t really spoken much before, and I know this could be a tender subject for you…

Bless her heart. It’s a tender subject for me? Few people are more impassioned than white Christians who are trying to convince you that Trump is God’s messenger and that racism isn’t real. And she’s right. We hadn’t spoken before. That was our first conversation. Rather than getting to know me at all or my perspective on BLM, she immediately shut me down and began rattling off why she was right and I was wrong. She said that I was the one who was prejudiced because I support BLM.

It didn’t seem like she truly cared about what I thought because she vehemently rejected every point that I tried to GENTLY make. She kept interrupting me, silencing me, and telling me that my perspective is wrong. I felt harassed for simply wearing a t-shirt and for holding different views. I was harassed by a pastor for sharing an article on Facebook. It is truly an imperialistic view to believe that your perspective is not merely a representation of your worldview and experience, but that your perspective is TRUTH. That is DANGEROUS. If we as the church cannot cast out the demonic spirit of offense, the spirit of being right, and the spirit of imperialism, we will suffer. The church is heading toward a grave SPLIT. If white Christians cannot put their perspective aside to just HEAR a Christian of color’s perspective, we will find our churches in deep danger as the years progress. Our churches will continue to be segregated. The white church will continue to be associated with racism. It’s not enough to say you’re not racist. Ok. Good for you. You’re not racist. Awesome. But if you do not SEE racism, that’s because you’re white. Beyond that, if you REFUSE to hear someone else’s perspective, that is a spirit of pride and idolatry that will keep you spiritually immature and will destroy the church body. We will remain fractured people who cannot hold different views about anything without minority groups being silenced.

As for me, I’m tired of being silenced. I’m also tired of spending too much energy on folks who do not want to hear me. Folks who use me as someTHING to vent to and correct, not as a HUMAN who will have a dialogue with them. It’s not my job to teach white people that Black Lives Matter. If you don’t see it, you don’t see it. Only Jesus can open your eyes and heal those blind spots. It’s my job to live. It’s my job to love everyone and to help heal the people who’ve been told that they don’t matter.

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Being “Illegal” as an American Missionary

Readers,

The other day, I started thinking about immigration, what the word “illegal” actually means, and to whom it applies. Obviously there are people, usually Republicans, who slap the “illegal” label on a certain group of people: undocumented Central and South American immigrants living in the United States. Undocumented Canadians are never called “illegal immigrants” or “illegals.” Nor are they ever mentioned when politicians discuss immigration issues. The spotlight remains fixed on undocumented Central and South American immigrants. According to this nation, they alone are the “illegals.” In case there is any confusion, a person cannot be “illegal.” They can commit an illegal action, but they themselves are never “illegal.”

That is a race-based categorization that is absolutely discriminatory and prejudiced. While thinking about the way so many people label Latino immigrants in this country, the Lord brought something startling to mind. I was an “illegal immigrant” in a certain country last year. Furthermore, I visited this country a few times before under false pretenses. I won’t name the country because I do hope to go back some day!

I first traveled to this country in 2015 with a tourist’s visa and did missionary work. I did it again in 2016. Last year, I moved to this country with no intention of returning to the United States. Locals from this country told me that countless American missionaries have stayed there on tourist’s visas. They actually told me how I could beat the system and manage to stay in that country “without getting caught.” I left this country after two months because my half-baked plan of abandoning the United States and living in this country with hardly any connections didn’t pan out well. Who could’ve thought?

The entire time that I did this, and whenever I do it again in the future, I was and will be what one could call “illegal.” I pretended to be a tourist, lied at immigration when they asked why I was there, and lived in that country while doing mission work. I should have had a missionary visa, but the mission organizations and missionaries I know informed me that this country never approved those visas. Everyone goes and stays on tourist visas.

Is what I and so many other missionaries do justifiable because we are doing the Lord’s work? Some would say yes while others would say that our actions are drenched with hypocrisy, especially if we throw stones at undocumented Central and South American immigrants. Personally, I think that we straddle a fine line between following where Jesus calls and obeying man-made laws. If the only way to share the gospel with people of a particular nation is to illegally live there, then I think we must obey the Great Commission even if that means breaking a law.

That being stated, there are families who come to the United States without documentation in order to pursue healthy, safe lives. This is a holy desire to escape from violence and political uncertainty to provide hope for the future. How can we as Christians, as humans who would do the same if we were in their position, cast a condemning eye upon undocumented immigrants? We are kidding ourselves if we think that missionaries are doing God’s work, but that families seeking asylum are not.

Think about it.

Blessings,

Gabrielle G.

A Christian Donald Trump Supporter

I’m a curious person. I enjoy learning more about the human condition and I’m fascinated by the reasoning for our actions. One of the things that interests and perplexes me the most is when I hear about a Christian who is a staunch Donald Trump supporter. I know that people may not agree with a Christian being political at all, let alone being outspoken about politics, but I personally couldn’t care less. The marriage between American Christianity and the Republican Party has been incredibly damaging to our churches and the perception of Christianity in this country. Throughout the past few years, that dirty relationship has become a bigger part of our nation’s discourse and so often we hear the question, “Why do Christians support Donald Trump after all he’s said/done?”

What are the major things that Donald Trump promised during his campaign?

  1. End abortion.
  2. Deport all undocumented immigrants.
  3. Build a wall between Mexico and the United States.
  4. End the Affordable Care Act.

What are the most infamous things that Donald Trump has said?

  1. Mexican immigrants are rapists, murders, and drug dealers.
  2. Black people mostly live in poverty.
  3. Puerto Ricans want everything to be done for them.
  4. “Just grab them by the pussy.”
  5. “Make America Great Again”
  6. Countless horrific things about women’s bodies and women in general.

Keep these in mind…

ABORTION:

Ending abortion would be an incredible thing. I agree that it’s wrong for a woman to terminate a pregnancy most of the time. In the cases of rape, incest, and true medical emergency, then it’s not my place to force a woman to carry that pregnancy to term. It’s not the government’s place to do so either. Recently a few states have passed extremely strict abortion laws that would effectively ban abortion. If a woman is found to have had an abortion, it’s possible that she could receive 99 years in jail or even be put to death. Pro-life where??? This belief is pro-birth. I believe we should not be forcing our Christian morality on anyone.

If a pregnant woman terminates the pregnancy, and does not repent of her sin or know the Lord at all, she will not enter the kingdom of heaven. If a pregnant woman carries the pregnancy to term and does not know the Lord, she will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Forcing women to carry pregnancies to term will not save their souls, it will only force women to give birth to children they either do not want or are unable to care for. And what about the repercussions for men? Shouldn’t men be held accountable for their part in this pregnancy? Why is everything on the woman’s shoulders? Why are we not more interested in reaching women who are considering abortion and standing alongside them, counseling them and providing for their needs?

DEPORTING UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS:

Deporting all undocumented immigrants is just not practical. We have so many people who are here without papers for a plethora of reasons. Some of them did “hop the border”, but many of these immigrants actually have had Visas and have simply stayed here on their expired Visas. How can we deport people who have come here to work, to dream, and to live in peace? These people have been here for years, have contributed to our society and our economy, and their children were born here. Shouldn’t we make it easier for de facto American citizens to become citizens? Shouldn’t we ensure that immigration lawyers don’t swindle immigrants?

Is it right to kidnap migrant children at the border and detain them in these concentration camp-esque holding facilities? Thousands of these children have been molested and some have been raped. There are migrant children who die in border patrol’s custody. How can we possibly use our Christianity to justify this? Is this justifiable because their parents came here to seek asylum and this is what happens when you “don’t do things the right way”? Is it justifiable because they’re brown, indigenous, and Spanish-speaking children? What if those kids looked like your kids? Would your response still be “lock them up”? You want to build a wall to keep brown people out, but for what purpose? Most drugs that come through this country are not getting thrown over the border, but are coming in through legal ports of entry. The wall is useless and will not prevent anyone from coming in.

ENDING THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT:

Ending the Affordable Care Act will kill people. Trump wants to end it because Obama created it, not because there is a better system that he has conjured up. We need universal health care. No country that claims it is the most advanced and best country in the world should have citizens who need to choose between buying insulin and paying the electric bill, or buying food. Shame on us.

WHAT DOES JESUS SAY?

When I see the Jesus of the Bible, I see a brown man from a marginalized and oppressed group who demanded radical, sacrificial love that makes us a little uncomfortable sometimes. Honestly, it can make us extremely uncomfortable to love those who look differently than we do, who worship differently than we do, or who may or may not be here legally. But this is not a request from God. This is a command. We are to LOVE everyone we encounter and through our love, tell them about the everlasting God who loves them even more and died for their sins.

To be clear, when I become offended by racist or sexist comments from Trump supporters, it is not because my identity is only in being a Latina or being a woman. I am offended by hate. My identity is rooted in His love and anything that is contrary to that love is offensive to the Holy Spirit inside of me.

If you’re more interested in supporting a political party or figure rather than living the life that Jesus has called us to live, then it appears that politics and power are idols in your life. This also goes both ways. A more liberal person can absolutely put people like Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on pedestals and essentially worship them by placing their hope in them, and not in God. Liberals can sin by choosing to hate Trump or hate Trump supporters. I know this because I used to be like that. We cannot think that we’re better than Trump supporters and then turn around and hate them.

While I do not agree with Trump or his supporters, I must choose every day to love them in spite of our differences. Trump perpetuates racist narratives that are actually harmful to PoCs and women, and that is a real threat to my safety in certain parts of this country and, if I’m honest, even this city. I’ve been harassed for being Latina here in Augusta. Trump supporters don’t just support a man, they support his statements that stereotype minority groups and are often calls to violence. That is dangerous and I long to see genuine repentance from Trump supporters who support these things. But, there are Trump supporters who do not agree with this aspect of Trump and are more interested in what he can do economically in this country, because he claims to be a Republican. To disregard Trump’s more sinister aspects and support him anyway is also quite telling of where your allegiance lies.

On another note, to be a Christian and to choose to remain silent when we hear our Christian brothers and sisters call undocumented immigrants “illegals” and call for their deportation, or when they refer to women who’ve had abortions as “murderers”, is to actually be complicit. You cannot be a Christian and not be political. When I say that I mean that you either fight for love or you’re complicit in hate. Staying silent in the face of obvious injustice does no one any good. Christ spoke up for the adulterous woman and aligned Himself with her. That was a political statement. Christ sought out women to follow Him. Political. Christ had a ragtag bunch of followers from all ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. Political. Christ spoke against the hypocritical religious leaders of His day. Political!!! Need I continue?

Ask the Lord to reveal your motives; to bring them to the light. Are you motivated by having your political party in power? By being the majority group? By hatred or fear?

Or are you motivated by an inner desire to love God and others?

God will show you this if you ask.


Blessings,

Gabrielle G.

The Problem of a Single Narrative

Readers,

I am Latina. For those of you who have read my blog before this piece, you’ll already know that. For newcomers, I’ll let you know that I am half Puerto Rican, half British/German. (The British part I learned about from my 23andMe test.) I wasn’t raised with British or German culture, although I became an Anglophile on my own throughout my teen years, all thanks to Jane Austen. I was raised with New York Puerto Rican culture in a very white place: Poughkeepsie, New York. I had no Latino friends until I went to college in New York City. Growing up, I didn’t meet that many Latino professionals,except for my mother. All of my teachers were white, save for one or two black teachers. All of my doctors were white. Any professional person in Upstate New York, during my childhood, was white.

I conflated Latinidad with poverty, with being “ghetto” and urban, and with being unprofessional. I mocked the New York City Latinas who spoke with that oh so specific accent (think Rosie Perez for a prime example). I didn’t wear hoop earrings because society said they were trashy and unprofessional. Curly, afro hair was unprofessional. Reggaeton and Bachata were inferior music styles; classical music was the most refined music that could exist. I had so much self-hatred and no idea what to do with it. I only knew one narrative about Latinos: that we were inherently inferior and ghetto. That narrative caused me to suffer an identity crisis which I am currently recovering from. I am unlearning my self-hatred, learning how to have a healthy love for my culture, and consistently correcting myself when I mentally praise Latinas like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez but judge Latinas like Cardi B.

The only other Latinos in my vicinity were either, in my ignorance, what I would label “ghetto” or “trashy” Puerto Rican and Dominican girls or they were extremely hard-working Latino immigrants. This is another narrative that is particularly damaging to Latino people’s ideas of self-worth, especially in a Capitalist system. These Latino immigrants were most often found in places of servitude: cooking in the restaurants, cleaning people’s houses, nannying rich people’s children, and working in construction and landscaping. I would often look at them as I walked by them in restaurants or on the street and marvel at how different our lives were. I grew up in the suburbs with an excellent public school education and every opportunity to self-actualize. They did not have that in any capacity. The divide was thick between us and although I felt affiliated to them to some degree, I could also see how distinct we were. I was more unlike them than I was like them, and yet we were united.

When people see me, they see a Latina. They look at me and they aren’t sure specifically which Latin country my family hails from, yet they know I am a Spanish-speaker and they stereotype me as such. When I began wearing hoop earrings in NYC, I feared what white New Yorkers would think about me. Eventually I realized that most New Yorkers would not judge me harshly for my hoop earrings and actually were so accustomed to working with Puerto Rican and Latino people at every level, that my Latinidad wasn’t new or exciting to them. That allowed me to express every aspect of my personality and all of my quirks. I was just…me.

In July 2018, I moved to Georgia. Within the first few months of living here, I was berated by EMTs, who were responding to an emergency regarding ME, that told that Affirmative Action wasn’t fair. They talked about how black people speak in “ebonics” and about how they couldn’t be racist because they have black friends.

Soon after, my mother and I were sitting at a bar celebrating my new job and an older white man said he wanted “to build a wall and keep the Yankees and the Mexicans out.” Now, I’m not Mexican, but I am a Latina Yankee. I addressed his vitriol point by point and gave him some juicy nuggets of information to think on as he went home that evening. The white manager listened to me advise him on how best to address these issues, which isn’t just shaking your head and ignoring it, and he gave us our drinks for free. Free drinks for having to sit through such an experience…is that what we’re worth? Are these reparations?

In my part of Georgia, the Latino population is tiny. Those of us who are Latino here are mostly from Central or South American countries and are immigrants who may or may not fluently speak English. Being Puerto Rican down here is indeed exciting and new. When I walk around this city and see where Latinos are placed, it’s not in positions of authority or leadership. It’s only in positions of servitude. Now, as a woman who has been in a position of leadership in NYC and has had or known Latino doctors, therapists, and teachers, I am disappointed but not discouraged by this. For those who are born and bred Georgians and have had little interaction with Latino people, this may be the only narrative they may ever know: that Latinos are hard-working people who do the jobs no one else wants. That we’re all foreign-born. That the only thing worthy about us is our work ethic.

Some well-meaning Americans of all colors and cultures often praise Latino work ethic as a reason why people shouldn’t be racist or why our immigration laws should be revised. By using that argument, rather than asserting that all people should have the chance to come here to make a better life, it’s actually dehumanizing Latino immigrants. It reduces them to what service they can provide for you, to their labor, to how much they produce.

Latinos are hard-working. We also want days off where we can lounge about the house and do nothing, just like you. We’re people who want to be known for more than what we can produce for you. We want to be valued for our brains, our hearts, and our souls.

Latinos were not created to serve white people in the United States. We were created to know God, to love God, and to love others. When I see Latinos here in Georgia, I feel that same divide I felt during my childhood but I also have the awareness of our mutual Latinidad. I smile at them and say, “hola.” I offer my English tutoring services when I’m brave enough (still working on that!). I let them know that they are seen and that they matter, too. Latinos have the right to be able to self-actualize and I will fight for that right for my Latino brothers and sisters until Christ takes my breath away.

Blessings,

Gabrielle G.

An Homage to Mariana Gonzalez – My Grandmother

How do we honor someone we didn’t have the chance to intimately know? When I think of my grandmother, I don’t think of a person with unique talents, quirks, or desires. I never knew her in that way. I can only see her as a delicately strong, quiet, sacrificial woman. That is the sole way I can honor her memory. I recognize that my reflections upon my grandmother’s life are somewhat superficial. How could they not be? Pancreatic cancer took her when I was 11 years old. I wasn’t able to know her as a woman. I could only know her as my grandma who I couldn’t converse with much.

How can I honor her in such a way that doesn’t immediately paint her as a stereotype or a statistic? When I review her life, at least what I know of it, I see the attributes of a Latina: strong, sacrificial, determined, and persistent. At the same time, I see the barriers and hurdles that plagued her life and the lives of so many other Latinas: mental health issues, single motherhood, lack of English and literacy skills, deep poverty, and far too many children for one woman to raise on her own.

Memories of Abuela stirring pots of beans on the small gas stove in her 15th floor apartment in the downtown Brooklyn projects. She measured nothing as she worked. She had the recipe in her bones. Abuela’s kitchen was the crux of my experiences with her. Mom would wake us up bright and early on Saturday mornings and we’d pile into the car on our way to visit Abuela in Brooklyn. I call her “Abuela” now when I speak of her memory, but when I was a child, Spanish was foreign to me, and so we called her “grandma.” She liked it. She thought her little “Americano” grandkids were adorable. I wonder what she saw in our eyes as she greeted us at her front door. After walking down the long hallway on the 15th floor, we’d hear her before we’d see her. She would always have Spanish music on the radio and a few of her kids would bustle about the apartment.

Abuela’s place was alive.

Abuela would open the door, usher us inside, and cup our faces in her small, white hands. “Mamichula”, she’d call me. “Papichulo”, she’d call my brother. I was shy. I think part of me was scared of her, of her life, and what it meant that all of my Puerto Rican family lived in extreme poverty. But we didn’t. I didn’t know how to process the juxtaposition of my suburban home and luxuries with her small apartment, where she didn’t always have much food in the fridge. Mom would take over the cooking preparations when we’d arrive so Abuela would sit at her small dining table in the kitchen. She’d rest her face on her hand and look wistfully into the distance. What was she looking at? I’d watch her, trying to understand her, but always completely unable to comprehend the depth of her painful life. She and I didn’t speak much, mostly because I was painfully shy, but also because I didn’t speak much Spanish at all. But she loved me anyway, even though I was her “Americana.” I wonder how Abuela would feel if she could see the strong Puerto Rican woman I’ve become. I wish I could read her the work I’ve written on Puerto Rico, and how she’s immortalized in my writing. I like to think that Abuela knew we would become great. Some part of her had to know that all of her suffering wasn’t futile. I hope she knew that and I honor her for the sacrifices she made.

Through her pain, she was still able to love others. She’d always pile heaping spoonfuls of white rice and red beans on our plates, fry some plantains, and watch as we ate at that little dining table. I hardly saw Abuela eat. She’d only taste her creation and then give it to her children and grandchildren. Abuela knew I liked those Goya soda crackers, so she’d make sure to have one of those large green metal tins on top of her fridge and I’d ask my mom to give me some while I watched my Abuela’s little TV. We’d sit on the floor and watch the only channels she had while my mom and Abuela talked in the kitchen or in her bedroom. What they shared, I didn’t know.

Although I was timid, I was full of love for this small, beautiful, expressive, giving Puerto Rican woman. I couldn’t say much with my words, but I tried to show my love in the same way she did. I remember I had just learned a recipe for popovers and I prepared them for her, not knowing that lacking measuring cups and baking at such a high altitude could absolutely alter them. They were bland and gross to me. Abuela said they were the best thing she’d ever tasted.

There are a few things I regret in my life, although I try not to have too many regrets. I enjoy learning from my failures and working to be the best person I can be. I regret not singing for her as she was dying of cancer. That was the only thing she wanted from me, but because of my shyness, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t even sing at her funeral. I try to have grace for myself because I was only 11. I know that when we meet in heaven, I’ll sing to her all of the most beautiful songs about God.

Abuela is not a stereotype or statistic. A New York Puerto Rican woman living in poverty can be a statistic until you begin to learn who she is as a person. Each person has a story. I’m learning more about Abuela’s story as I grow older, and for one choice she made, I am eternally grateful. I could’ve been born in Puerto Rico, but instead I was born in New York, where I had more opportunities than one could think possible. Abuela fled Puerto Rico in the 1960s for a few reasons, one of them being that the American government was forcing Puerto Rican women to become sterilized without their consent, which has since been known as “La Operacion”. She wanted the right to choose. So she fled the island, found herself in New York, and raised almost 10 children on her own. Her choice not only gave me life, but it gave me the right to live in a place where I could pursue my dreams.

How can we honor our family members who live in poverty and who lack an education? Do we achieve every possible accolade just to prove that we can? Is that what they would want? Or do we simply do the best we can, and realize that having a choice and being able to self-actualize is what they truly want. I can try out different jobs and take time to reflect on who I am, where God might call me, and who God even is. My Abuela couldn’t do that. She worked to survive. The gift of her labor is my freedom to choose.

Is Masturbation Sinful?

Readers,

If you’re uncomfortable reading about sexuality, then please feel free to skip this post. I do not want to cause anyone to stumble so if your relationship with your sexuality is too fragile or unhealthy to read about masturbation and sex, then please skip this post. Although I think it will benefit you if you ARE struggling, I know first hand that thinking about it while my body desires it can make me more apt to do it. So do what you need to do to keep yourself in check.

I don’t want to keep anyone guessing as to what my stance is on this issue. I believe that masturbation is sinful and unhealthy. It does not line up with God’s intention for human sexuality. Now hear me when I say that I have flip-flopped several times on this issue. I’m not a prude and I do not believe that sex is wrong. People should have lots of sex. There is nothing wrong with having an orgasm, even (hopefully) having lots of them. Yet I firmly believe that the Bible teaches that these wonderful sexual experiences are only healthy and Biblical in the safe, trusting confines of a marriage between a woman and a man. We are not to even have a hint of sexual impurity, or of greed, or of ANY impurity in our lives. Not even a hint of it. Ephesians 5:3 urges us, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. ” We are meant to run from it because it can destroy lives.

Not every Christian agrees with me that masturbation is sexual impurity. If you search the internet looking for articles that are in favor of Christians masturbating, you will certainly find them. I know I did. Rather than praying about it, because I felt that God would say no, or actively searching my heart to see if lust was leading this question, I would simply research more “liberal” Christian perspectives on masturbation, and I would be content.

However, this nagging feeling inside of my spirit that masturbation wasn’t right would not go away. For the seven years that I struggled with this in my own life, that pestering feeling of having sinned did not leave me. There were times during these seven years that I was so addicted to doing it, that I would feel nothing after. Not pleasure. Not shame. Not guilt. Not conviction. NOTHING. This scared me even more than those feelings of guilt or shame. If I felt nothing, had the Holy Spirit left me? Did God abandon me to my sinful ways? Was I lost forever? I became terrified that my future sexual relationship with my husband would be tainted by masturbation. If I felt guilt every time I gave myself an orgasm, would I feel guilty with him after he gave me one? I was training my body to feel guilty and dirty after a solo sexual experience. Would that translate into my married sex life? I’m not married yet, so I’m not sure. This is something I do still think about.

Masturbation does not accurately reflect the vision that God has for human sexuality in at least three ways. If you think of more, please enlighten me!

  1. God’s intent for sexuality is for it to be a shared, sacrificial experience between a married woman and man. The KJV uses the term “to know” to mean “to have sex with” and I think that’s an accurate portrayal of healthy sex in marriage. When you’re married to someone, you’re already supposed to know them on a profound level, knowing that your knowledge of that person will deepen as the years pass. But when you two come together for the first time, after you’re married, you know them in a new way. You know their body. They know yours. You’re vulnerable with them. They’re open to you. You see them in their nakedness and they see you. You trust each other with your bodies. They work to bring you pleasure. You give them pleasure. It’s a beautiful, holy act of worship when a married man and woman have sex, especially when that sex results in mutual orgasm. Their pleasure and worship is complete. Now think about masturbation. During masturbation, you are using your hands or some object to stimulate yourself to the point of orgasm. You are not connecting with another person. It’s all about yourself. Again, there’s nothing wrong with experiencing pleasure, but when you’re in your room, and it’s just you, you cannot experience the fullness of the sexual pleasure that God has designed. After you orgasm, you open your eyes and find yourself back in your room, alone, with no one to share that experience with. It feels great in the moment but when you’re left alone with yourself and your thoughts, your spirit feels as if something’s missing. Something’s not quite complete. Then the guilt sets in…
  2. It is nearly impossible to successfully masturbate to the point of orgasm without viewing something stimulating or, usually for women, thinking about something sexually stimulating. Women typically aren’t aroused by sexual images, but we are certainly aroused by what we hear and what we can imagine in our minds. You may think that using pornography while masturbating is certainly sinful, but what about if you’re thinking about having sex with someone? What if, before or during masturbation, you had persistent thoughts about kissing and cuddling with someone, but not having sex with them? Is that sinful? I would say yes, and I believe the Lord would as well. If we are not married to someone, and we are using their image or even our memories of kissing that person to keep us aroused as we masturbate, we are sinning. We are using that person even though they don’t know it. We are treating that person as if they were a sex object, merely existing to bring us pleasure. We are lusting with our eyes and our minds. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:27-29, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” We do ourselves and that person a great disservice by treating them in this way. You might be thinking, “Well, Gabby, I can masturbate without thinking of someone else!” Okay, cool. Read point one again and keep reading.
  3. Masturbation can be an addicting method of self-soothing. Instead of reaching out to God in prayer, or by calling up a friend to vent to, it’s easy to try to forget about our troubles and turn to masturbation to make us feel better. For some, it’s masturbation. For others, it’s unhealthy food and lots of Netflix/Instagram/YouTube/Twitter/Facebook, etc. When we masturbate and we don’t call out to our Father for comfort instead, we are essentially telling Him that we can comfort ourselves through a quick solo sexual release, which is completely devoid of meaning or any lasting comfort. Masturbation can be very addictive. We can become hungry for that instant rush while completely forgetting about the guilt and feelings of loneliness that often follow an orgasm from masturbation.

Masturbation does not align with God’s intention for sexuality. If you see things differently, please let me know! I’d love to read your thoughts, but I ask that you use Scripture to solidify your argument. It’s easy for us to “feel” as if something is not bad, like for example if I eat Chick-Fil-A three times a week, oh yeah I love the feeling of those waffle fries going in my mouth, but does my body? No. It doesn’t.

If you are struggling with pornography, masturbation, premarital sex, or even feeling ashamed to talk about your body or sex at all, please speak with your spiritual leader/pastor. There is NOTHING, and I repeat, NOTHING to be ashamed about. Few Christians will actually come out and say that they used to struggle with masturbation or that they still struggle with it. That makes it harder for the rest of us who feel like the only “bad” Christian for struggling with it. You’re not a bad Christian. You’re not living up to your full potential as a Christian when you engage in this practice, but you’re not bad. God wants healing and restoration for you. He wants to redeem your sexuality and teach you how to be a healthy, sexual person. You are not dirty. You are loved. His mercies are new every morning.

Blessings,

Gabrielle G.

Scales

He sat in the Bible study with my mother. The door was closed and they were all gathered in a circle, sitting at desks. They laughed together; I wished I could join them. He looked so relaxed, sitting there with his hands behind his head, leaning back in his chair, beaming that beautiful grin I loved to see on his face. I circled around their room, sneaking glances inside the classroom’s windows, hoping to go unnoticed. Yet a part of me also wished that he would notice me hanging around outside and invite me to join them. He didn’t see me.

Until he did. He came out of the classroom and beelined for me, that smile spreading across his face as he took me in with his eyes.

“Hey, Gabby! How are you doing?” His eyes roamed about my face and I felt fully seen. It scared me.

“I’m alright. Look at my arms, though! Look at all these bug bites on them!” I displayed my bare forearms for his review and he intensely looked them over. Tons of red mosquito bites completely covered my forearms. You could hardly see my brown skin underneath.

“What happened?”

“I’m not sure. And look at this thick dead skin on my elbows.”

There was a thick layer of dead skin that lay in sheets on my elbows and forearms. I had no idea that I even had that dead skin at all, let alone the thickness of it! I had no idea what to do to fix it. I’m not sure why I asked him for help, but he seemed like he knew how to repair my skin.

He cradled my arm in his hands, looked at me with confidence, and said, “I can help you with that.”

He gently began stripping off each layer of dead skin and gently tossed it aside. It didn’t hurt at all. I stood there, looking up at him working so diligently to help me with this issue.

I woke up before he removed everything.

Jesus, thank You for giving me dreams and for telling me the meaning of them as soon as I wake up.

Gabrielle G.

The Right to Choose

TW: Rape, Molestation, Incest, and Abortion

One of the things I love about God is that He doesn’t force us to follow Him. We have the absolute freedom to choose to follow God in every moment of every day. No one is holding a gun to our head, saying “BOW DOWN AND WORSHIP ME!” Why? Because it means so much more if we make the choice to follow Him. God didn’t create robots. He made humans who chose the wrong thing, completely dooming the human race. Yet God still didn’t say, “Oh, you guys messed up big time. Scratch that free will thing. I’m going to turn you into worshipers whether you like it or not, because you guys can’t be trusted.” That didn’t happen. God didn’t take away our free will. He left us with it, along with the urgent plea to “Choose life.”

What does it mean to be “pro-life”? It appears that the most common understanding of the term is “to be against abortion.” It’s always interesting to me when I see people claim to be pro-life, yet avert their eyes when a police officer shoots an unarmed black person, when migrant children die in U.S. custody, when schools are shot up by former students, when people are executed by the death penalty, when we see people die from not being able to afford healthcare, and even the horrific state of our environment’s health. To me, if you are pro-life, you should be in favor of life in all of its forms. If any of the above-mentioned facts make you uncomfortable or you feel as if you can’t become as up in arms as you are about abortion, then I urge you to look in your heart and really ask yourself if you are pro-life. It seems that you may just be “pro-birth”, and not really interested in what happens after the baby is born.

I am pro-life. When I say that, I mean that I don’t believe abortion is a biblical practice, in most cases. In cases where rape, incest, or medical emergencies are involved, it is most definitely not my place to tell a woman she must carry her rapist’s baby, her uncle’s baby, or to risk her life by carrying a pregnancy to term. Should a woman choose to carry those types of pregnancies to term, that should be her decision alone. After having been violated by rape or incest, I can’t imagine then forcing that woman, or underage girl, into doing something else to her body. It’s simply not my place. The fact that some of the repercussions of having an abortion could be the death penalty or up to 99 years in jail tells me that this pro-life movement is not all that concerned with life. It’s about controlling women.

I am pro-life. When I say that, I mean that I care about gun control. I don’t believe that our gun laws should be as lax as they are. I care that children worry at school every day about being shot. This happens far too often. Why have we not brought out serious gun regulations yet? How many more shootings have to happen?

I believe that police brutality must end. Police officers are generally wonderful at deescalating situations with white people, even if they’re armed, but when a black person or other person of color is involved, it quickly becomes violent and fatal. Can we tackle that issue as well? Wait, that’s too political? I thought we were pro-life here. Are you okay with black people dying at the hands of police officers at disturbing rates?

We must regulate the way we handle undocumented immigrants and migrants who arrive at our borders seeking asylum. Why can ICE violently arrest undocumented parents in front of their children? Children come home from school and find their parents are no longer there. Migrant children are dying under U.S. custody. Thousands of migrant children who are shackled in those concentration camp-esque holding facilities are being molested at astonishing rates and no one is doing anything. Are you okay with migrant children being molested and dying under our watch?

I believe that women should have the right to choose what they will do with their pregnancies, whether end them or carry them to term. We, as Christians, cannot force our morality on other people and demand that they conform to our “pro-life” beliefs. They have to be able to choose to do what’s right. Regardless, if they terminate the pregnancy or carry it to term, if they don’t love Jesus, it means nothing for their souls. I’d rather a woman have a legal abortion and then, as the Holy Spirit pursues her, come before the Lord and be forgiven than for a woman to visit a back-alley abortionist and die, never getting a chance to meet the Lord’s grace.

Think about it.

Blessings,

Gabrielle G.

Statement of Calling

The Lord has called me to great things; of this I have always been certain. In spite of where I lived or my financial situation, I have always been absolutely sure that God has called me to something rare and extraordinary. After serving on a short-term mission trip to Kolkata, India in 2015, I returned to the U.S. with a firm conviction that God wanted me to be a missionary, working primarily in cross-cultural situations. After a few more trips to India, I now strongly believe that God has indeed called me to be a missionary, but that it will look differently than I have always expected. I have now realized that my passionate pursuit of missionary work throughout the past few years has ultimately been my own life’s ambition, not necessarily the desires of my Father’s heart. The Lord has given me the ability to see beyond what I used to think mission work was. He has shown me how to be missional in all aspects of my life, becoming all things to all people. Currently I live in Georgia and, as a native New Yorker, I find myself in cross-cultural situations in every moment of my life. God beckons for me to step out of my safety zone, to become vulnerable with those who are different than me, and to let myself be loved. While I grow in this, through the fierce love of my church community, the Lord has also reawakened a passion for social holiness, mental health, and educational equity.

There is a large immigrant population in my city of Augusta and they go unnoticed and unserved. There are no ESL programs here for adults, many of whom are parents to U.S. born citizens. Young people are developing depression and are self-harming at rates we have never seen before. People of color are particularly affected by this, as access to mental health support is frankly a luxury few can afford. I see these injustices. I know these people who are hurting. When I speak with them and counsel them, they tell me that they feel unwelcome in the church because of their secret sins, their mental health issues, or even their citizenship status. This cannot continue. I believe the Lord has called me to be a bridge for those who feel unwanted and unwelcome by the church, and the country at large. I plan to pursue an ESL-based ministry, helping immigrants learn English while also sharing Jesus with them. Since my heart breaks for all of the unloved, I will also delve into working with young people, counseling and mentoring them. I understand what it is to be depressed and to feel as if your life does not matter. By God’s grace, I have survived that dark valley and it is in His name that I refuse to let another person remain in that pit of despair with no one to reach out to. During my last trip to India in 2018, the Lord spoke to me while I sat on the roof of my host family’s house and looked at the stars. He told me that I would work with young people, particularly women, and I would literally stop suicides from happening. It took a full year for me to begin to envision the next step in that calling, and so I am now pursuing an education that will equip me to do this hard work that is worth doing.

Can Social Justice Exist in the Kingdom of God?

As I’ve grown as a woman, a person of color, and a Christian, I’ve begun to see how deeply racism, classism, and sexism have become so intertwined in our churches that we hardly notice them at all. Whether that’s prohibiting women from fully flexing their spiritual gifts and leadership, or refusing to acknowledge people of different ethnic backgrounds and their unique history and pain, we do the church a disservice by approaching each person in the same way. By approaching people from the posture of “I don’t see your color. I just see you as a person” or “I just see you as a Christian, as part of the kindgom of God. Ethnicity doesn’t really matter.”, you are actually approaching them as you would a white person.

While white people in America certainly have a distinct culture, it’s more of a regional culture. Southern white people are culturally different from white people in Seattle. This is typically not a culture that is visible. They can easily mask their specific regional culture if necessary. For those of us who are Christians of color, our culture is unignorable. We wear it on our skin. It’s visible in our hair. It’s noticeable when we invite you to our home and give you food from our background. You see it when you hear us speak our native language with our family. We cannot hide who we are. And we don’t want to. We want to be seen as fully Christian, fully a person of color, and fully male/female. We want you to say that a Christian of color images God in their own way.

When you as a white Christian consider your Christian friend of color as “just Christian”, you are denying a major aspect of who they are, of their identity. People of color carry a painful cross in this country that you as a white Christian will never have to bear. There are regions of this country where people of color cannot go because they could be harassed or even lynched (yes, black people are still being killed in this country at astonishing rates.) If I, as a Latina, go to a border state and speak Spanish, it is possible that I could be detained, even though I am a natural born U.S. citizen. I don’t carry my passport with me, so what proof would I have of my right to live here? This has happened to other Latinos many times.

If we are developing a friendship, and I am trying to ascertain if you are safe enough to truly confide in and be vulnerable with, I am going to bring up the topic of ethnic identity and how I have been harassed and stereotyped throughout my life. This is a unique pain that I carry and if I can share this with you without you trying to fix it or instruct me on how to better approach this issue, then our friendship can go deeper. But too often I find that white Christians do not want to talk about race. They do not want to go into the complex racist history of the American Evangelical church. No one wants to discuss the “white savior” complex that white missionaries can have. People want to ignore it, brush it off as a thing from the past, and pretend as if it is not still a pressing issue in our churches.

They then encourage me to “just focus on the kingdom of God” and “view other people from a kingdom perspective.” This creates a dissonance between social justice and the kingdom of God that should not exist. Social justice and the kingdom are not mutually exclusive things. Jesus was an activist. He brought Gentiles into His kingdom while fully acknowledging that although they are different, they still belong. He brought women into His group, allowing them to have an equal share of the kingdom. When Peter refused to eat with the Gentile believers when Jewish believers came around, Paul rebuked him. He bluntly told him that he was being hypocritical and racist. Paul demanded ethnic harmony for the sake of the kingdom.

To tell us to focus on the kingdom, you are implying that we are not. You are suggesting that by talking about our pain and how we carry baggage because of that pain, we are not being spiritual enough because we are not talking about God and making disciples. The Jesus I know is a God who heals all aspects of our brokenness. People of color carry a strange brokenness that is not understood or experienced by white people in this country. To tell us to move past it, not focus on it, or just let it go, you are silencing us. You are saying that you don’t want to hear our stories. You don’t want to be uncomfortable, sitting with us in that vulnerable space as we share with you our pain. It is not easy for a person of color to consider a white person to be secure enough to confide in about this issue. But what do we find when we do? Silencing. Gaslighting. Spiritual bypassing.

If a person comes to me with an open heart and tells me something about their past, something that causes them pain, I listen. I take a posture of, “I don’t know what it’s like for this person to carry this pain, so I’m going to listen to them. If they want my advice, I’ll give it. If anything, I’ll pray for them.” I let them talk. I don’t become offended. I don’t censor them. I don’t challenge them until we have developed a strong rapport. I want to hear them. If my guidance is asked for, I give it. If not, I don’t, but I do my best to empathize with them instead. I can easily do this because I have been in a position of bearing my soul to someone and having them give me a to-do list to fix an issue that has been running rampant throughout this country well before I was born. This issue with racism is not something that I have to fix. It’s something I need healing from. Telling me to just meet more white people will not fix it. More white people need to come meet me where I am, too. They need to sit with me, too. I want to be heard and seen. I don’t want to be silenced or reprimanded for not being spiritual enough.

Ultimately I would love to stand side by side with white Christians and fight for justice in all its forms, not just in this area. But that would mean we would all have to be willing to be uncomfortable, to have difficult conversations, to try and understand each other, and to do what’s needed to be done to help people heal and to bring the kingdom closer to earth.

Blessings,

Gabrielle G.