The first time I cursed at God was the summer of 2004. It was over some boy whose name I now forget more often than I remember. I had expectations for how God should’ve been moving in my life and relationship, and God refused to move that way, so I expressed my anger by cursing and hurling my cordless phone towards the sky. No later than the phone left my hand, I was immediately overcome with guilt. I knew I’d secured my place in hell. I used to be afraid to be angry at God. That time has long passed.
I’m more theologically, spiritually, and emotionally mature than I was at 22, so I no longer get angry with God for not being my personal genie. But I do still become angry at God when God fails to move, intervene and interrupt the systemic evils of the world that bring harm to marginalized people.
My relationship with God has been contentious over the past four years because we’ve watched evil be extolled and glorified seemingly with little intervention from God. Over 240,000 of our neighbors died because our president doesn’t believe in science. The government ripped families apart at the border and now 500 kids may never see their moms and dads again. Black and brown folks throughout this country have been gaslit, antagonized, assaulted, murdered and robbed of their joy and dignity. And all of this happened as God sat seemingly distant and uninvolved.
Yesterday, I found myself overwhelmed by conflicting emotions. When CNN announced that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had won the election, I immediately felt relief. I could breathe lighter, some of the anxiety left my body, and I became hopeful for what could be. That hope was immediately interrupted by thoughts of all the folks who are no longer alive to feel that relief and the people who’ve encountered so much irreversible harm over the past four years that they don’t have the capacity to experience relief. My soul instinctively cried out to God in gratitude while simultaneously weeping for those who were unable to do the same.
Even as a Black woman, I’ve been largely insulated from the harm of Trump’s policies due to my privilege. I’m consistently (if not solidly) middle class with a reliable safety net. I’m cisgender, heterosexual, and Christian. I don’t have a disability, and I’m not an immigrant. I have a significant bit of privilege in our society. Even still, my theology teaches me that God aligns Godself with the most marginalized in society. Sure, you can cherry pick scripture to justify harming those who look, live and love differently than you do, but the most recurring theme in the text is liberation, justice and care for “the least of these” in our communities. Those values reflect God’s heart. So how can a God who prioritizes those who are oppressed allow the horrors we’ve seen over the past four years?
“Why did God allow this?” isn’t a new question. Many asked it while living in the Jim Crow South. Many asked it during the Shoah. Many asked it during slavery and the countless other atrocities that have occurred throughout the world. “Where is God?” is a question millions have wrestled with. It’s a question that has caused many to resign from faith altogether. It’s also a question that I believe is answered best by looking in the mirror.
“When Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was asked upon his return from the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights march with Dr. Martin Luther King, ‘Did you find time to pray?’ he famously answered, ‘I prayed with my feet.’”1
Deep down, I’m still that angry, heartbroken 22-year-old girl who wants God to move in this world when harm comes to others, but the world’s atrocities have taught me that God doesn’t operate that way. God’s not going to step out of the sky and make you stop hitting your sister. But God will empower us to intervene and build societies grounded in justice and love instead of power and privilege.
We are the hands and feet of God. It is our call, our responsibility and our purpose to liberate others. God is not impressed by us simply fighting for our own liberation. God wants us to use the power and privilege we have to free others.
“Praying for freedom never did me any good ‘til I started praying with my feet.” – Frederick Douglass2
I don’t know why God refuses to step out of the sky and stop the shit show. But I do know when you do the work to liberate others, God empowers you, God guides you and God comforts you. I know this from visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture and seeing the Bible Harriet Tubman carried with her as she led enslaved Black folks to freedom. I know this from listening to the testimonies of those who survived the Shoah. I know this from the way my soul stirs while watching the Civil Rights protesters of the 1960s ground themselves in spirituals. I know this from the way God empowers, guides and comforts me as I try so hard to do the work of liberating others.
Defeating Trump at the ballot box on Tuesday was not liberation. Trump is a loud, chaotic and reckless symptom of the problems in America (and the world, honestly), but Trump is not the problem in our society or the cause of marginalization. In a world where Trump is no longer president, there is still so much work to be done. We have to commit to doing that work – to praying with our feet, to being the hands of God on earth, to liberating others. If we don’t, the irreversible harm that occurred over the last four years will continue.
I hate who we are, but I have so much hope in who we can become. Let’s do the work to become better. Let’s pray with our feet. Let’s be the hands of God. Let’s liberate our neighbors.