a holy kiss at advent
today marks three years since I posted a manifesto of #embodiedsolidarity with my Muslim sisters in the hijab…
sisters because we are one human family. religious intimates because as a Christian, I worship the same God as they do (as do Jews—Chag Sameach!). yet, just as in 2015, #embodiedsolidarity is often called a radical act. why does solidarity with humans seem so radical, so risky, in a moment when people everywhere lament our polarization?
perhaps because the great provoker of polarization, who announced a Muslim ban 3 years ago as candidate for president of the beacon of human rights in the world (now highly debatable), is succeeding at unmooring us from our humanity. from our rootedness in the same primordial clay. from dust we have come and to dust we shall all return. that same provocateur was elected president in 2016 and implemented a Muslim ban no less than a month into his tenure in office.
but he’s not the major source of our crisis of being—a study indicates that 34% of Muslim schoolchildren are bullied by their teachers. so the problem is not in our political stars, it is in ourselves.
#embodiedsolidarity requires soul work. it requires privileging the perspective of the most oppressed whose poverty of spirit engenders an outpouring of solidarity with the rest of us. it requires positioning ourselves to learn the realities of the problems that we create—stop patting yourself on the back by saying your merely complicit with injustice. deal with the inner shit that emanates from owning the fact that you are a co-conspirator with institutions of oppression so long as you fail to challenge them. so long as you fail to embody solidarity with the oppressed. and #embodiedsolidarity comes with a cost. the first is believing in your soul that we are all one.
the soul work can be a long dark night. but moments like this keep me going. last week, I met ‘Faith’ & her husband in Michigan at a screening of @samegodfilm, which documents my journey from Dec 10, 2015 to today. she expressed thanks for my embodying solidarity with her, a Muslim. her kindness was so effusive and raw that I knelt down to kiss her (I was on a stage & she was below). a photographer at the event sensed our instant connection, the gravity of the moment, and captured this holy kiss.
hidden from the glare of social media is that following this moment of holy connection, she issued a vulnerable invitation to a stranger: to dine in the intimacy of her home with her beloved little ones, her husband, and her adopted mother, who had helped resettle the family from Iraq eight years ago this week. on the anniversary of a traumatic resettlement following time in a refugee camp, she cooked eight intricate dishes for me in less than 24 hours.
three years after #embodiedsolidarity, I struggle to translate for others how trauma changes your character, alters your outlook, disorients the already disordered, and exacerbates one’s feelings of alienation from the universe. quite simply, trauma doesn’t translate well.
but always, there are glimmers of light on dark journeys. holy interruptions in the form of a lavish, undeserved dinner invitation. salvific moments like an amazing note that arrives three months after a friend requested your snail mail address—but just in time. a meal made by Muslim hands that becomes for me, a Christian, the Eucharist, where Jesus’ appears in the form of food from around Palestine (did I mention the food blew my mind?!). the addition of three little ones (and one on the way) to my growing brood of nieces & nephews after little ‘Prince’ asked expectantly, “mom, is she our cousin?” and to which mom, replied, “no son. she’s my sister”.
before i departed, we sat on the floor to share hot tea laced with the perfect amount of cardamom— another sacrament in most areas of the world. I saw the holy Qu’ran sitting next to Frosty the Snowman. i hugged little ‘O’ as he showed me how Frosty sang and danced. he asked me to wear the same outfit the next time i came to visit. i said, “you won’t forget me will you”? he said “no”. I promised to wear the pants & blazer again and as I left he cried out “I love you”.
#embodiedsolidarity from a child. in my humble estate. when I needed Advent to break through, my little ‘Prince’ and my dear ‘Faith’ appeared.