Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. - Psalm 119:105
I will never forget sitting in front of Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. It was at a national Christian gathering of college students and I was there more years ago than I care to admit. I don't remember if he was quoting himself, President Mandela, or a theologian. But the words pierced my heart: "Never give the Bible to oppressed people and expect them to remain oppressed."
Even as a white male of privilege, I knew something about oppression because at that point in my life, I was also a deeply closeted gay man. I had passages of scripture hurled at me, like stones at Stephen, claiming my life to be incompatible with faith and with God. It may not have pierced my body, but it pierced my soul.
But Archbishop Tutu is correct. You cannot give oppressed people the Bible and expect them to remain oppressed. Because the texts are filled with these amazing images of a loving God who welcomes children home like a loving parent. There are images of a Christ who gives living water to the thirsty and gives bread to the hungry. There is a God who leads people out of slavery into the freedom of a Promised Land.
So, when someone asks me about justice, I simply have to smile and say, "Be careful what you ask, because I have read the Bible. And you cannot give the Bible to oppressed people and expect them to remain oppressed. I heard that from a good source."
Loving God, empower your people with your Word.
Dawson Taylor contributed this devotional to Rise Up! Spirituality for Resistance, a collection of devotionals to keep you burning bright without burning out, whether you’re leading a justice effort at church or heading out to join a local protest. You can order Rise Up! from UCC Resources.