Learning the history of enslavement and racism illuminates the path to repentance and repair. Lisa Sharon Harper, leading faith and race activist and author of Fortune, looks at the power and beauty of her ancestors, the ways that America’s race and enslavement laws broke her family (and our nation), and why there is hope for healing.
“Lisa Sharon Harper (LSMA, Columbia University; MFA, University of Southern California) is the founder of Freedom Road, a consulting group dedicated to shrinking the narrative gap. A sought-after speaker, trainer, and consultant, Harper has written several books, including Fortune: How Race Broke My Family and the World and How to Repair It All and the critically acclaimed The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right. She has researched her family’s origins for three decades and presented on her ancestors’ achievements at the African American Civil War Museum. Harper lives in the same Philadelphia neighborhood where three generations of her ancestors lived.”
On the Podcast:
- Harper’s books: Fortune and The Very Good Gospel
- Genesis 1
- The Magnificat
- New York Times article: He Paid $30 for a Drawing. It Could Be a Renaissance Work Worth Millions.
- 2 Samuel 21:1-11
It was the first time in at least 365 years that we have been able to say, “This is who we are.” First time in centuries.
I was surprised to find the power of my people…They fought off the white nationalism that was really bearing down on them throughout the early 1700s.
Why is this important now? It’s important now because what my ancestors went through gives us a window into what actually happened here…this is part of our history. Part of our history is that race relations developed through these laws.
At the same time that they entrenched the slavery, it’s noteworthy that they also entrenched the patriarchy…women who were able to vote in the colonies had their right to vote stripped from them at the exact same moment in history.
Whiteness as a racial construct was created to do one thing: to determine who was called by God and has the capacity and has the right to rule on this land.
God cares about our ethics. God cares about how we maintain and build good, radically interdependent, beautiful relationships with each other, between humanity and the earth, within ourselves, between us and the systems that govern us, because these are all the relationships created on the first page of the Bible.
Fortune, [my] earliest ancestor, her body absorbed the wrath of those very first race laws and that impacted her and her descendants for generations, really the course of our family’s life.
The telling of this truth, no matter how hard this truth is, must be told, must become part of our large collective narrative in order for us as a nation to heal. Because there’s no way for us to heal, there’s no way for us to repair what race broke in the world, until we understand our part in the breaking and repent of that. So part of what repentance will look like, in order to repair, in order to heal, is it will look like reparations, it will look like restitution, and it will look like asking the impacted communities, “How do you say we need to act in order for things to be made well with you.”
[Listen] to the African American community, which over decades has been saying, “This is what needs to happen in order for things to be made well with us after centuries of oppression that we have experienced here.”
Find now, in a new way, for yourselves to interact with the rest of the world, not in a way that elevates you on a scaffolding of your own making, but rather in a way that joins hands with the rest of the community of humanity on equal playing field, and says to all of us, “Let’s do this together.”
Season 5 of the Love Is Stronger Than Fear podcast connects to themes in my newest book, To Be Made Well, releasing Spring 2022…you can pre-order here! Learn more about my writing and speaking at amyjuliabecker.com.
*A transcript of this episode will be available within one business day, as well as a video with closed captions on my YouTube Channel.
Note: This transcript is autogenerated using speech recognition software and does contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.
Lisa Sharon (5s):
The telling of this truth, no matter how hard the truth is must be told, must be, must become part of our large collective narrative in order for us as a nation to heal, because no way for us to heal, there’s no way for us to repair what race broken the world until we understand our part in the braking and repent of that.
Amy Julia (31s):
Hi friends, I’m Amy, Julia Becker. And this is love is stronger than fear. A podcast about pursuing hope and healing in the midst of personal pain and social division. Speaking of healing. And before I get to today’s guest, I do want to let you know that my next book, which is all about the topic of personal and social healing comes out soon on March 15th, it is called to be made well, an invitation to wholeness, healing, and hope you can pre-order it now. And if you are inclined to read this book and you are able to pre-order it now, that is a huge help for me. It helps me just indicate to booksellers and to the public that people are interested in this topic and it gets promoted that way.
Amy Julia (1m 16s):
So if you’re going to pre-order it, if you’re going to ever order it, do it now to be made well, thank you also today, I get to talk with Lisa Sharon Harper about her latest book Fortune. I will add that we do have a copy to give away. So check out the show notes for information on how to get a copy, possibly win a copy for yourself. And before I tell you a little bit about our conversation, I will add that we discovered at the end of our interview that we both have double first name. So she goes by Lisa Sharon, and I go by Amy, Julia, but we called each other Lisa and Amy, and did not realize it until the end.
Amy Julia (1m 56s):
So despite that we did have a great conversation. I learned a lot about the particular laws and practices in various American colonies and states and the repercussions of those unjust laws, especially as it pertains to race. Although also actually, as it pertains to gender, I learned some things I hadn’t learned before. I also learned more about the biblical concept of goodness and how it relates to a gospel of healing and repair. So I really appreciated that emphasis that Lisa Sharon has on what it means for us to participate in the work of repair. I’m really grateful for this conversation and I’m sure you will be too Well. I am here today with Lisa Sharon Harper, and we are going to get to talk about all sorts of things, including her most recent book, fortune how race broke my family and the world and how to repair it all.
Amy Julia (2m 48s):
Lisa welcome. It’s so great to have you here.
Lisa Sharon (2m 52s):
Thank you so much, Amy. I’m excited to talk with you and be in conversation with your listeners.
Amy Julia (2m 57s):
Well, so I want to start with your book, which is a book that’s a combination of family history and also a commentary on race throughout American history. So there’s a really particular lens and a very wide angle lens on these two histories that are really masterfully woven together and what you do. And then it’s also a book that you write as a Christian who is calling for repentance and repair. So in, I mean, I hope that’s a fair characterization. That’s at least what I saw as the big major strands of the book. And I’m curious to hear how you came to write it both in terms of the decision to write it, but also the process, there had to be so much research and there were, I, you even make note of this in the book, the emotion, not dimension, the labor of just like figuring out your family’s story.
Amy Julia (3m 47s):
Could you just tell us about the decision to write it, the process of writing it, what that took for you and from you?
Lisa Sharon (3m 54s):
Well, it’s, it’s really, I mean, it’s written, but discovering family history is ongoing because for African-Americans our, our lives were not documented and that was intentional. It was a decision that was made in the late 16 hundreds, early 17 hundreds, actually in Maryland and Virginia and those first colonies and this included Bri people of African descent, they just made a decision. People of African descent are not worth keeping track, keeping records on keeping track of, and that was, that was the actual logic that was presented to the legislature in Maryland when they made the decision to colony of Maryland.
Lisa Sharon (4m 35s):
So because of that, and also because of the history of slavery, where in an enslavement, my ancestors were not that I can, that I can find so far were not documented so well, all we have really are the family stories for that line of the family, Leah, Leah Ballard, the family stories and the census data that we see after enslavement, after the abolition of slavery. So it was an incredible, incredible journey. And I think, and thank God for DNA, thank God for, for DNA science, because it’s actually helped people of African descent all over the world, the diaspora to make the connections back to our, our, even our tribes, our nations on the continent on another continent.
Lisa Sharon (5m 26s):
So for me, when I got my African ancestry.com kit back in the mail or the announcement of who I am back in mail, I found out that my great, great, great, great, great, great grandmother going. My mother’s mother mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother all the way back a thousand years was in Northern and Southern Nigeria. Oh yeah. I mean, I literally wept out loud when I saw that because it was the first time in at least 365 years that we have been able to say, this is who we are, right. The first time in centuries that my family line on that line has been able to say, this is who we are.
Lisa Sharon (6m 14s):
And it’s not just Nigeria because that’s an, it’s a modern nation state back then. And even now it’s the people groups, the house of people who actually trace their lineage up through Iraq, they immigrated from Iraq down into Northern Nigeria. And then, and then the Europa people who are the people who have the grios and, and also a very, very deep spirituality that we still hold with us on in the diaspora. So I, I, this journey has been emotional. This journey has been 30 years in the making it, it increased with lightening speed when I joined ancestry.com and they did not pay me to say that it’s just the truth.
Lisa Sharon (6m 60s):
And, and it increased with lightning speed even more and continues to get honed and clarified through DNA, matching on ancestry.com and Jed, Jed com and things like that. So I still continued to find, find distant cousins and connections. And now that I’ve done all that research into the matches, you know, when you told me earlier, before we rolled tape that your family has also been here since the 16 hundreds. And so the minute I hear that, I go, okay, what’s your, what’s your surname? Because I have gone through all the roles. Like I know, I know those original families, particularly in Virginia and I’m in Maryland.
Lisa Sharon (7m 40s):
So I was trying to place you like, okay, so where was your family in Virginia, Maryland. They weren’t there. They were up in, in new England area. So I actually don’t, I’m not familiar with new England old families. Yeah.
Amy Julia (7m 54s):
That’s, you know, we were talking about this a little bit before we started here, too. It’s just what I am thinking a lot about as you recount, your story is also what I know about my family’s story. And that is the stories of also having on both sides, both my mother and father’s side of the family, European white people who came in the 16 hundreds to Massachusetts and Connecticut. And while there have been people in my family, who’ve moved to different parts of the country at various points. Like here I am back in Connecticut. I was talking to my sister yesterday because there’s a house in a town in Connecticut. That’s been in our family for, we don’t know if it’s 10 or 13 generations, but it’s just been passed on and passed on and passed on.
Amy Julia (8m 41s):
And so this sense of a family history that has been counted, right? That has been stable. And there, you know, plenty of dysfunction, I don’t mean to put any sort of rose colored glasses on what my family is, but more in terms of the institutional support for these people. And even to your point about the names, I have an uncle who did a lot of this type of research, and he was coming back and telling us that we’re the 10th cousin of such and such with a famous last name and where the 12th cousin of the da and my, my cousin, his daughter was like dad, every white family that has been in this place since the 16 hundreds is cousins with everyone else.
Amy Julia (9m 22s):
Like this says nothing about us. Yeah.
Lisa Sharon (9m 26s):
That is true of anybody, black, white, native American, who can trace their lineage back to those original colonial Arizona on the Eastern coast. One of the things that blew my mind was the very first night I had dumped on ancestry.com, no joke at around three 30, somewhere between three and four in the morning I look up and I am in Jamestown. I’m like, what, how did what he told me this, what are you talking about?
Amy Julia (9m 54s):
How could I go back that far?
Lisa Sharon (9m 56s):
Yeah. I mean, and it’s literally just from clicking the leads, right. All I did was just click the hints click, and it was not through direct blood, although I’m sure on another line, it probably is because all of my mother’s line, both sides of my mother’s line kind of traces back that direction. But, but no, it wasn’t because of marriage. Right? So they married into a family that goes directly back to some. And of course, if it’s in Jamestown, then you can also trace way back in Europe. Now on Fortune’s line, this is the thing. So you had that experience for yourself and your, your uncle is your uncle or your father, my uncle, your uncle.
Lisa Sharon (10m 36s):
Right? So, so I’m doing the DNA in order to find the matches for those, for the fortune family. And, and also I got curious at one point, and I write about the section in chapter one, got curious, because I now know through court records, the families that indentured fortunate in her family, no men are ever mentioned in any of these court records that are endangering fortune, her daughter, Sarah, and also her Sarah son, Humphrey, who we believe our lineage is through no, no men only the women were indentured and they were indentured because they bore illegitimate children.
Lisa Sharon (11m 18s):
And in the context of being indentured, why were the men never prosecuted? Who were the men? And so when I went back and I bound the DNA of those endangering families in my matches, that’s why, right. Because the men were raping my ancestors. Right.
Amy Julia (11m 39s):
Yeah. And that’s a lot. Right? Well, and that’s on the first page of the book. I was, I’m so struck by this line, you write, I was terrified to unearth the story of my family. It felt like I was about to push into the heart American evil. And so I’m curious for you about that experience, the courage it took and whether it did as you went through it feel like more and more of pushing into the heart of American evil.
Lisa Sharon (12m 10s):
I really was terrified for a couple of reasons, one American evil right now because Southern Maryland and the Eastern shore, Maryland is known actually to have lots of hate groups. You know, it’s, it’s, it’s the south. I mean, it is the actual south and people there who are sympathizers with the Confederacy are, you know, they’re no joke. They’re real. So here I was black women going to go by myself and a rental car down to Southern Maryland and be in a, in a, in an Airbnb for about a week and or several days and do this research all on my own, go to these Backwoods places.
Lisa Sharon (12m 51s):
So I was a little bit nervous. I was like, you know, you know, what’s going to happen to me today, but I was also nervous because there were so many questions. And I didn’t know when I was gonna find, and I was, I don’t know exactly what I was afraid of, except I don’t like gore. I don’t like letting guts. My mom loves those kind of movies, but I’m not into it. I’m really not. I’m more of an epic romance kind of girl, you know? And so I, I had, no, I had no idea what I would find. And especially because colonial history is receiving more of a mystery to us than antebellum history.
Lisa Sharon (13m 31s):
We just, we don’t know, but I had heard some really heinous things. And I also didn’t know if I was going to find anything. I was surprised when I got there to find game road and also to go to the courthouse and find the deed, the actual deed to property that Betty game, fortune starter owned. She owned property right in 1756. She signed for that property and lived on that property with fortune actually unfortunate ended up moving back in with her at some point and Betty game refused to pay the black tax.
Lisa Sharon (14m 13s):
So I think I was surprised when I went down there to find the power of my, of my people. Like they had really rallied. And they, they had, they fought off the white nationalism that was really bearing down on them throughout the early 17 hundreds. And I found that, you know, by the time you get to the revolution, the race relations in Maryland had gotten to a fever pitch and actually the black community, because the black community there had grown to outnumber the people of European descent, because there was so many slaves, remember Maryland is, is the, is the colony that enslaved that it will, wasn’t a colony then, but the state that enslaved Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, right?
Lisa Sharon (14m 60s):
So this is that place, but this is the new colonial era, but they had had so many people of African descent that they started to really be heinous in their race laws. And so my, by this time three African American ancestors, they were not able to actually live free. So they escaped over the river into Delaware into a little enclave that was a free black people in Southern Delaware. You kind of carved out a space for them to be able to live free, but all of that gives me a sense of what it might’ve been like. And why is this important? Why is this important now it’s important now because what my ancestors went through gives us a window into what actually happened here and to not just, oh, isn’t that interesting?
Lisa Sharon (15m 52s):
Right? But rather, this is part of our history. Part of our history is that race relations developed through these laws that it changed over the course of basically a century that race laws changed over the course of a century. And by the time of the revolutionary war, they were, they were hardened. And after the revolutionary war, when we became a nation, they didn’t, they had another choice. They could have said, we’re not doing this anymore, but instead they entrenched it, right. They made a decision to entrench it. And at the same time that they entrenched slavery, it’s noteworthy. They also entrenched patriarchy.
Lisa Sharon (16m 33s):
Hello. So at the same time that they entrance slavery, women who were able to vote in the colonies, had their right to vote stripped of them at the exact same moment in history. So it wasn’t just, you know, about whiteness. It was about white men having all power. And that’s why you have the suffrage movement rise up about a half a century later and have to fight for vote. Not because they had never been able to vote, but because when America became initially a nation, the vote was stripped from them, them. So that like all of this research on earth, that, and that tells us more about the moment we’re in, because the moment we’re in is just a continuation of the centuries long struggle that white men have unleashed on this soil.
Lisa Sharon (17m 26s):
Not all white men, but white men have done this to secure the supremacy of quietness. And it’s not just Europeanist. It is, it has become whiteness, white thickness as a racial construct was created to do one thing to determine who was called God and has the capacity and has the right to rule on this land.
Amy Julia (17m 58s):
Yeah. And you do a great job. I think of showing that link between, there’s a point I didn’t write this down, but where you’re talking about, this is not about hatred. It’s about power and let’s not confuse that because I think we can almost think, well, I don’t see that strong emotion. I don’t see that even some of the laws might, they might work themselves out by way of violence, but they might often not call for the violence. Right. And so you can say, well, wait, no,
Lisa Sharon (18m 26s):
No, no. They, they, they do call for them. They do call for the violence, but it’s not out of hate. It’s out of a need to control
Amy Julia (18m 34s):
Sanitized. I don’t know, almost facade or something going on. And it meets itself out with violence and with trauma and with separation and with these hierarchies. But if we think of this in like emotional terms and not in these more power and legal terms, I think it can be confusing. Actually, if we try to understand what the history is telling us, and I think you do a good job of just noting where and how that’s happening throughout our history and some of those effects now. And I’m curious, one of the other things that, so you write about evil, but you also write about goodness and your previous book, the very good gospel, right.
Amy Julia (19m 14s):
Has goodness in the title. And there’s this point in fortune where you are writing about the difference between a Greek and ancient Greek idea of goodness as perfection and a biblical idea of goodness, as goodness in relationship. And I would love to hear you talk about the ways in which the concept of goodness really matters as we think about moving from this history toward something that you know is about healing and repair.
Lisa Sharon (19m 45s):
Yes, exactly. And actually, I’ll go back to one of your original questions to ask. When you ask what made you write this? What made me write this was, it really is a natural extension of the very good gospel. The very good gospel actually starts with Leah. It starts with my family’s story because that’s what made me realize, boy, you know, I couldn’t go up to Leah Ballard. I last, my third times, great grandmother and, and, and who we believe was she wasn’t slaved in South Carolina. We believe was what they called a brief after they, they forced her to breed money for her master, right. I couldn’t go up to her and say, God has a wonderful plan for your life, but you are sinful and therefore separated from God, right?
Lisa Sharon (20m 30s):
Like I couldn’t, I couldn’t go up to her and expect her to jump and shout and call that good news that Jesus has died for to pay the penalty for your sin. And if you pray this little prayer at the back of the goal booklet, you get to go to heaven. Like I couldn’t, I couldn’t, when I realized I could not say that to her, it actually, it tanked me for a year. I was depressed because my, you know, as, as somebody who, who really does believe the scripture, the gospel was the center of my worldview. So now my gospel doesn’t make sense. What, what what’s, which way is up, which way is down. And so, you know, the very good gospel was me working that out and working out the reality that I did discover, and I didn’t make the discovery obviously, but I found this truth pass down to me by rabbinical scholars, that I was in conversation with that TOB, the, the Hebrew word for goodness that you find in the first page of the Bible and Dennis is one, it doesn’t mean they’re the original writers and hearers of that, of that word would never have said that this word means the thing is good.
Lisa Sharon (21m 34s):
The thing itself is perfect because goodness for the Hebrews did not exist inside the thing. So when God looked around at the end of the sixth day and said, this is Barry, good, God would not have been saying, that’s a really good walrus I just made. Or that’s a great little human being I just made. Right? Know what God would have been saying is because Tov lives between things. I would have been saying all the relationships within my creation are to-be may owed very good. That very means radically good. Right? So, so that’s about epics. It’s about how we treat each other.
Lisa Sharon (22m 14s):
It’s about how we live together in the world. And, and it also makes it’s important to note that this text was written in the context of people who were coming out of being enslaved, whether you think the text was written by Moses, or you think the text was written by the priests who were coming out of Babylonian exile, in both cases, they were coming out of slavery. Moses, a few hundred years, Babylonian exile, 70 years of enslavement. And in both cases, the people they were told by their enslavers, you are nobody, you are nobody. You don’t have the right to exercise dominion.
Lisa Sharon (22m 54s):
You don’t, you, in fact, you were created to be enslaved. And that by the way, ends up coming right down, right. Is passed down through the civilizations. So you get to Aristotle. Aristotle says, if you are a conquered people you’ve demonstrated you were created to be enslaved. So he ain’t saying up a new, he didn’t invent that thought he got that actually from the Babylonians who already thought that as well. So, so when we get to, when, when I was doing the work to figure out now, what are the implications? If this is true, that the way that God sees goodness, the way that God actually will, w because to celebrate something as very good is that if the relatedness between things is very good, if the relationships then God cares most not about my perfection, my perfection is not even in the text.
Lisa Sharon (23m 51s):
It’s not something God cares about in the text. Rather, God cares about our ethics. God cares about how we maintain and build good, radically interdependent, beautiful relationships with each other, between humanity and the earth within ourselves, between us and the systems that govern us, because these are all the relationships that were created on the first page of the Bible. And that’s what God says is good. Having these relationships well. So, you know, the very good gospel looks at all these relationships and ask the question, how did we break it?
Lisa Sharon (24m 35s):
And how can we make it better? So the natural then next step is to go deeper and ask the question, how was it broken in my family? And how can we fix it? But as I did that research, it struck me, especially when I discovered fortune and how fortune earliest ancestor, her body absorbed the wrath of those very first race laws. And that impacted her and her descendants for generations. Really the course of our family’s life, that line of the family’s life was determined by that, by that set of laws that came rolling up for about 50 years out of, out of Virginia and Maryland.
Lisa Sharon (25m 18s):
And, and it benefited them actually to some degree, it, it, it enslaved them through the indenture system, but in denture means you have a time limit on your slavery. And so that was the heinous part of it. The women were raped. Serially, likely the men in the family were, were enslaved and likely raped as well, who knows, but, and they were all separated from each other because in denture, if a family moves, you know, and, and your, your mom is free, which was the case for Sarah. She was free by the time her children were then moved into, into Virginia, we believe by their masters.
Lisa Sharon (25m 59s):
And so they were separated forever right across the river. Right? And so that was the cost, right? But because maudlin was white, this is where you see in those very first race laws, because Melvin was white. Fortune’s mother was white. Fortune could not be enslaved. She could only be indentured 31 years if her father was black for 21 years, if her father was white. And so, again, the privilege of whiteness. So we see the privilege of whiteness baked into those original brace laws.
Lisa Sharon (26m 39s):
And, and it, it impacted that line of the family. In two major ways. One, we had that experience of the black tax of the oppression that those original laws meant to levy on people of African descent, the control, the confinement, the lack of documentation. And we also gained the benefit, the, the privilege of our white lineage through, through modeling. And because of that, by 1756, all of them are free, right? They all are landowners. And actually Sarah is Sarah sun Humphrey, who we believe is my direct ancestor he had.
Lisa Sharon (27m 24s):
And he enslaved people. And we don’t know if his insane people were family members that he was just trying to keep from being sold by somebody else or, or bought by somebody else, or if he was actually owning, owning people so that this, this is that heritage. And it’s one, it’s one that, that informs us a lot for what’s happening right now.
Amy Julia (27m 50s):
And so here’s, I’m backing up a little bit in what you just said, because I’m thinking about that shift in understanding of the gospel that, you know, you began with in the very good gospel in terms of this kind of individual, very simple story that has to do with you as an individual and God as an individual, essentially. And what’s going to make that better. And I’m curious as you think about this goodness and repair and the weight of evil and trauma in individual and collective and generational stories, like where, how do you see Jesus, both in terms of life, death, resurrection, like the whole story of Jesus fitting in to this picture now?
Lisa Sharon (28m 39s):
Yeah. That’s a really great question. It’s very simple, actually plea on that first page of the Bible. Humanity has given dominion, given the ability to exercise Radha, right? So Radha is the Hebrew word for dominion and Radha literally means to, to tread down. Now you would think I could see how somebody would get it twisted and think that that means a press. It doesn’t, it’s in the context of the, the very beginning, like when vegetation is went up all over the place and, you know, it’s basically, it means to Stuart the right relationship, the, the overwhelmingly good well relationships between all things, not let everything go all crazy.
Lisa Sharon (29m 31s):
Right? So it’s really about stewardship. It’s about a good picture of RADA is bound in Genesis two and two. You see God placed the human in the garden and say till, and keep it. And those words till, and keep, actually translate, serve and protect. So Radha looks like service. It looks like protection of the relatedness and relationships. And so when you, when you, when you roll forward, what you find is that Radha then becomes domination after the fall.
Lisa Sharon (30m 11s):
And when you roll forward from there, Jesus, I believe was it’s not just domination of, you know, people or plants or whatever. It’s domination of the image of God, because on that first page of the Bible, as the ancients heard them say, and let us make humankind in our image, in our likeness, what they would have heard is they would have heard this is the king making the images of the king inside the King’s domain earth. And then he says, multiply and fill the earth.
Lisa Sharon (30m 53s):
Well, why do you think he did that? Because that means wherever the King’s image is, is where that king rules now catch this. Wherever the Kings images were flourishing, where there were many of the Kings images, you knew that kingdom was flourishing, but where you saw the Kings image was crushed or melted down or twisted or covered over, then you knew there was war against the king happening in that kingdom. So now what I would say is that king Jesus, that Jesus came as the king of the kingdom of God set the image of God free from the Kings and the kingdoms.
Lisa Sharon (31m 40s):
Rather the little, little empires of men that were held, bent on crushing and twisting and toppling and covering over and erasing the image of God from earth genocide, through poverty, through exploitation.
Amy Julia (32m 3s):
Well, and ironically, right also through self-destruction because to the degree that any of us are hell bent on destroying the image of God, we are also hell bent on destroying ourselves. And I’ve been, I don’t know, I guess I was struck actually this past Christmas season by in the Magnificant when Mary says my soul magnifies the Lord, my soul glorifies God, my savior. And I was thinking about the idea of what it means to bring God glory and how for so long I’ve thought about glory as just like being in a worship service and saying, you know, God, which is great, fine, but just that sense of glory as magnification of who God is, right.
Amy Julia (32m 44s):
Of making God more clear and more large. And if God is in us, like if we are the representatives of the image of God, then to the degree that we are reflecting who God is to the degree that we are magnifying, God’s goodness, beauty truth in the world and in our lives, we are glorifying God. And so it’s a different, that sense of what you’re talking about as Jesus, as the embodied image of God and us being invited to also embody the image of God, right? It’s like, that is what brings God’s glory is as we are more and more true to who God has made us to be.
Lisa Sharon (33m 22s):
I, I think I only say I track with you and I would, I would actually come at that slightly different because of the work in Genesis one. I don’t think, I think that every single person we’re not invited, we’re not invited to, to bear the image of God. We are born with the image of God. Yeah. I agree with you on that board with it. Right. But see, that’s the language of our churches, some of our Western churches in particular and in particular evangelical churches, we get it twisted. We, we, we conflate two things. We conflate those who were Christian and acts called Christian because they were like, Jesus.
Lisa Sharon (34m 2s):
Right? So we say, we want, our goal is to become more like Jesus. And then we conflate that with become more in the image of God. But those are two different things in terms of the text, two different texts, talking about two different things. We really need to not complete complete them, because what that does, what it has done is that when we say that, we need to, sorry. When we say that we are invited to be more in the image of God, what we’re actually saying is we are invited to be more human. And that, that is where we get genocide. That’s where the logic of genocide and enslavement comes from.
Lisa Sharon (34m 44s):
It comes from the logic that these are not full humans until they look like me until they believe as I do. Right. And that, so that’s where the prayer towns came from up in your area. That’s where Jonathan went through. It had the great idea of the Pequot massacre and then the prayer towns that forced native Americans to, to be Christian basically in order to become more human. Right.
Amy Julia (35m 9s):
And Anne, where we also, I mean, just on the, from the disability perspective to measure community based on all sorts of criteria, rather than the simple fact of being human and that every human bears, the image of God. I think what I’m thinking of is the ways in which we nevertheless live in ways that distort that image. So it’s essentially an invitation to live into who you already are. Like, that’s how I’ve thought about it and to participate in the truth of how God has made you. Yeah. I, I just read an article in the New York times about Albert Dror.
Amy Julia (35m 49s):
I think that’s the name of the, it’s a Renaissance artist. There was a sketch that somebody bought at a tag sale for $30 and they think they’re going to be able to sell it for, you know, tens of millions. And just that sense of like, not recognizing the value of what you have and it being put in a drawer, passed down from tag sale to tag sale and how we do that with our own lives, right? Like, oh my gosh, you were up in estimable worth like that is who you are. And so, so I think, yeah, that’s a good point out. Yeah, go ahead.
Lisa Sharon (36m 22s):
Amy. Imagine, imagine applying that truth to Leah Ballard, right? Imagine applying that truth to fortune, imagine flying that truth to Willa, right. To Willa my grandmother, who was forced by law in South Carolina to work as a domestic because after the end of the reconstruction, they passed laws that people of African descent could only work in two industries, one domestic service to farm work, right? So when she was a child, she had to earn her, keep in South Carolina by picking cotton or doing whatever it was on their plantation.
Lisa Sharon (37m 3s):
And they, they’re not a plantation, but on their land that Leah Ballard somehow had, she somehow inherited land or bought land. But she, my, my grandmother had to earn her keep by, by picking cotton down there. And that was only because that was the only thing she could do. She couldn’t dream. She couldn’t seek this woman could sing. This woman was an artist. She could write amazing poetry. We found her poetry after her death. She was an artist. But in that construct, the laws and the systems and the constructs they’re covered over the image of God in her, right. Did not allow her full humanity to flourish.
Lisa Sharon (37m 47s):
Likewise, with my mom, the same thing in the north, in Philadelphia, her books that she received in school were hand-me-down books, two generations, old, three generations old from the white school, two blocks away. Right. But she wasn’t, she was told she was out of district for, it was two blocks from her home, her next door neighbor, who was white, went to that white school. Right. But she had to go to the black school, they got the hand-me-down books and the unqualified teachers. And so that’s what I’m talking about. So yes, we all have to live into, into the image of God. But I think that what if, when I look at Jesus, I see Jesus, not just saying, okay, live into all of who you are.
Lisa Sharon (38m 30s):
I see Jesus saying, lift oppressive systems from my image on earth that is keeping them from flourishing,
Amy Julia (38m 39s):
Right? Like my way of putting that can still be emphasizing the individual actualization rather than the participation in injustice and recognizing the ways in which, and so there’s a mutuality that I lose out on when all I’m focusing on is what does it mean for me to become my true self in Jesus. Right? Yeah. And in fact, it’s still going to be a distorted self, you know, unless I recognize that we are, you know, to use Dr. King’s phrase, like tied up in a mutual destiny, right? Like this is all interrelated.
Amy Julia (39m 19s):
And so I guess as we come to the end of our time, I want to close with some questions about healing and repair, because this is a narrative, your book of generational trauma and of the disintegration that happens in lives and in communities as a result of all of these things we’ve been talking about, and yet you were also writing and you use a lot, especially towards the end, but the language of healing and repair. And so I’d love to hear from you. You can take this wherever you want, but both on a personal level or on a kind of collective level, speaking to those who want to be a part of the work of repair, where did this book lead you?
Amy Julia (40m 1s):
What does healing look like? What does repair look like? What do you have to say to us on that?
Lisa Sharon (40m 6s):
Well, thank you so much for that. The last part of the book is three essays on what repair will require, and it starts with truth telling. And I think that as we sit in, in this world today, we are in a world that does not honor truth. We’re in a world where our politicians, the ones who are crafting the policies that will impact the image of God and in corners of every corner of our nation, where they are not truth tellers. And by strategy, they’re actually strategizing to keep power by telling lies. So we have to demand truth from our leaders and we have to, and we have to begin to search for the truth ourselves and not depend on them for the story.
Lisa Sharon (40m 55s):
So I, I advocate researching your own family story because it can start there. You can find your truth by finding your family story. And let me tell you, as people of African descent, there are other, other people of color in America. There are, there’s more information about us now online than there ever has been because of the development of platforms like ancestry.com and 23, and me, and you know, my heritage and all of those. So you can find a lot. And when you hit that, that wall of enslavement, then you can jump to DNA and, and begin to connect some dots for people of European descent.
Lisa Sharon (41m 35s):
What this will require is it will require humility, the humility to say, I don’t know, at all and courage to say, God will be with me just as I did. When I went down to the Eastern shore of Maryland, God will be with me in whatever I find and the telling of this truth, no matter how hard the truth is, must be told, must be, must become part of our large collective narrative in order for us as a nation to heal, because there’s no way for us to heal. There’s no way for us to repair what race broken the world until we understand our part in the braking and repent of that.
Lisa Sharon (42m 18s):
So part of what repentance will look like in order to repair in order to heal is it will look like reparation. It looked like restitution, and it will look like asking the impacted communities. What now? How do you say we need to act in order for things to be made well with you? That’s what David says. When the gimme a Knights, come to him and say, you know, Mr. David Saul tried to nihilist us, commit genocide against us. David had just been asking God, why is there a drought in the land? God, I don’t know where there’s a drought. And then it’s like, knock on the door, give me a nights. And he says he could have done a couple of things. He could have said, I’m so sorry for you. And sent them on the way, which is exactly what people have.
Lisa Sharon (42m 60s):
I mean, what America, the United States of America has done for people to people of African descent on this land. We have never, it’s the only group in American history that has never had any level of reparations for the oppression that we experienced here. So David could have done that, but he didn’t, he could’ve said, you know what? I’m so sorry for you. Hold on. I’m going to get my council together and we’ll figure this out. But he didn’t do that because the break happened at the moment when Saul saw himself, as God as the one to determine the day of these people’s deaths, the one to determine whether or not these are full human beings.
Lisa Sharon (43m 42s):
And they have, they have the call of God’s exercise, dominion over their own lives and their own families and their own land. Right? So the repentance have to include the bowing to the image of God and the other. So David’s process was to ask them, what do you say? And then to do it without one question, and how does God respond to that? God lifts the drought, God lifts the drought right there. God lifts the drought. So what would that look like for us? It would look like listening to the African-American community, which over decades has been saying, this is what it needs.
Lisa Sharon (44m 26s):
This is what needs to happen in order for things to be made well with us after the centuries of oppression that we have experienced here, we need to read the black manifesto. We need to pass HR 40. We need to pass the truth, racial healing and transformation act that was put forward by, by Barbara Lee, a call for a truth commission. And, and we also need to, to read the vision of the movement for black lives, which is an amazing vision that parallels the vision of the kingdom of God. And then finally, we need to heal. And we, people of African descent, people who’ve been impacted by this oppression.
Lisa Sharon (45m 10s):
We will never fully heal if we are not able to release that, which cannot be repaired, that which can never be restored. The people who died, the communities who were broken up that were broken up by eminent domain and by gentrification, theirs is not coming back. And so we need to release that and then turn to God and say, okay, God, I still have the need. So now it’s your turn to ante up. And people of European descent it’s allow themselves to be released, to be forgiven, to be let go of, to let the tide Bicket and find now in a new way for yourselves to interact with the rest of the world, not in a way that elevates you on a scaffolding of your own making, but rather in a way that joins hands with the rest of the community of humanity on equal playing field and says to all of us, let’s do this together.
Amy Julia (46m 18s):
Well, I think that is a great place to end this conversation. Let’s do this together. And yet to your point, let’s recognize the ways in which forgiveness and release to self to others. And ultimately in all of this recognition of who God is that God has God that, I mean, that’s a very simple statement and yet seems to be embedded in what you just, the vision you just cast is that unless we can recognize that God has God both in terms of our own humility before God and one another.
Amy Julia (46m 59s):
And in terms of our own understanding of our authority that God has given to us and our connections, all of those things that until, and unless we are able to recognize that there will be ongoing struggle and pain, but there’s a possibility for healing and repair, as we tell the truth. And then as you said, like respond to that truth with healing action politically and personally, right? Yes. Amen. Well, thank you so much for your time today and for writing this book. I mean, there’s some, I have like all these questions. I didn’t even have a chance to ask you. So I’m just going to say that is a good sign of a good interview.
Amy Julia (47m 41s):
And also of just my eye, anyone’s listening. I want to say if this was even remotely interesting to you, you should buy this book and think about all of these different stories and how they do relate to these ideas. Because I think they’re so important for all of us to be wrestling with. Thank you so much, Amy. It was great to have you. Thanks so much for listening to love is stronger than fear. Remember again, check out the show notes to find out how you can win a copy of fortune and just reminder you can now pre-order to be made. Well, my book and I would love for you also, just as always to share this episode, subscribe to this podcast, give it a quick rating or review wherever you find your podcasts.
Amy Julia (48m 27s):
And that way more people can benefit from these conversations. Thank you, Jake Hansen for your editing work. Thank you. Amber media, Amber media. I should call her Amber media because she is my social media coordinator who does everything to make things happen, but her name is actually Amber Beery. So we’re going to say thank you to Amber Beery and thank you to you for being a listener. As you go into your day to day, I hope you will carry with you. The peace that comes from believing that love is stronger than fear.
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