I remember that she told me that after six years, she did not want to be my best friend anymore. She told me that her relationship with God mattered more than her relationship with me. She calculated her moves with her theology, beliefs, and goals and she determined it would be better to cut out someone she loved than to learn why I was in pain and changing.
I cried. She told me I needed to be independent. She said “why do you care so much what I think? God is the only one that matters.”
For her, it did not matter who she hurt, as long as she thought she would go to heaven when she died. She made it clear: I was not as important.
Adam Toledo was 13 years old when he was killed by a Chicago Police Officer thirty minutes from my house. The report said he had a gun. They assumed he was in a gang. They claimed he looked older. He was taller. He was Hispanic.
The officer chased Adam for mere minutes and decided he was fit to make a judgement call: he chose himself over Adam. In less than a song’s length of time, he deemed this child unimportant. Disposable.
Adam was killed at 13 years old because a police officer decided he had more rights to live than a child.
The murder was thirty minutes from my house. Not a single neighbor even put up a sign. The line that determined if you mattered was where the street signs changed from letters to numbers.
There are photos of my old church friends getting married all over my social media feeds. I block some of them. I am not unhappy; I am disappointed. I was almost excommunicated for having sex outside of marriage because my actions supposedly poisoned the church. I was a danger to others because I could make new believers ask questions or be critical. But comments flood these posts, congratulating them on their day. Their day that will, regardless if they know it or not, spread illness and disease that could kill.
My gay friends and I will not be allowed to get married in the church they grow up in because they are deemed sinners. They refused to acknowledge gay and queer relationships. They say they are wrong. They are harmful. Yet my Christian friends are not called a danger when they travel the country on missions’ trips despite the highly transmissible, fatal disease that is still killing thousands a day. Despite the numbers of chronic covid symptoms. They are not called a danger because the people are dying are not important: they are old. They are disabled. They were dying already. The people that matter survive covid, so its okay.
They won’t let me marry a woman, but they’ll encourage young couples to get married during a pandemic, lest they fall into temptation. They value marital sex so highly that they would risk their lives for it. Worse; they would risk other’s lives for it. They want to be seen as good people more than they want disabled people to live.
In my city of Chicago, our mayor has been trying to evict homeless people from their encampments. People get harassed, arrested, their encampments raided, and items stolen. I did not know you could evict people from an entire city. From the state. From Earth. I do not know where she expects them to go. But I do know that the areas they police homeless people the most are the areas where the median household income is six figures or more.
Rich people do not like to be reminded of their selfishness. They don’t like to ruin their brunches by being shown evidence of the lives that had to be crushed in order for their family to enjoy the luxuries of the elite. It is every man for himself. Exploit or be exploited. The world is cutthroat and violent and covered up cries of family values or public safety or supposed “community.” Community, of course, only refers to people they like and find socially acceptable. Whatever reason they give, the message is clear: you do not deserve to be in this neighborhood. I deserve it because I worked/suffered enough/have kids/am a man/am White/God blessed me with it/(insert whatever reason here). You don’t matter because you made bad decisions/are a drug addict/are mentally ill/are Black/because you are Indigenous/because you are weird/(insert literally any reason here, none will justify the way the homeless are treated.)
Every day, there is a group of people that sit outside of the Cook County Jail to welcome people back into the world that has intentionally forgotten about them. When prisoners are released, they only have what they came in with. They are expected to have their own transportation. When men step outside of a prison for the first time in 20 years, they are expected to somehow have what they need to live in a world where they will receive no rights or recognition. They have been branded a criminal. Damaged goods.
Volunteers from the Chicago Community Jail Support mutual aid group have a tent where they give out supplies, offer their personal cell phones, and give rides to people being released from prison. No one gets turned away.
When a volunteer got shot in a gang retaliation attempt at the prison, they release a statement that they were okay; they have no animosity. The tent is out again the next morning. They are undeterred because they know that the gunman is not less valuable than the victim. The work of being present must continue.
Throwing a man in prison will not heal the bullet wounds.
Violence doesn’t stop violence.
It has been 4 years since I should have left the church. It has been over a year since I have officially come out as a lesbian stepped away from religious spaces. Over a year since I’ve been contacted for prayer. Over a year since I have had community with people with of faith.
I have cried for 4 years.
People tell me to find a new church. There are affirming spaces. There are good Christians. Find a new community.
The thing is; I can’t. I refuse to.
I can’t keep pretending that I do not need other people. I won’t let people tell me that I am less important than them. I will not let them blasphemy Jesus by using his words as a policing tool to determine who gets to matter and who does not. The church can pretend that they do not need me. I will not.
I will not be apologizing when I cry over the loss of my old home, I will not be quiet about abolition, I will not stop yelling at people to wear their masks until not a single fucking person is dying because no one’s life is worth than mine. I will not feel sorry for the nights I long to be held by a woman because I am alone; I am allowed to need. I will not stop trying to get my neighbors to break out of their normalcy and give a shit.
I was not meant to be an island. I am not weak for admitting that I need people. I am honest. But it is painful.
It is easier to lock people away, excommunicate them from our communities, or evict them than it is to learn how to be in conflict. Than it is to admit we were wrong. To change. Christians would rather be right with God than right with others. They don’t acknowledge they are the same thing.
Communities would rather blame Black people for crime than admit to their oppression that has led to crime rates. People would rather make a scapegoat than expose abuse.
People would rather peddle the thought that we are independent, that success is measured by how good we are, by how rich we are, by how holy we are, than struggle with one another. We will continue to build the walls higher, brick by brick, protecting our hearts above all else. Protecting our communities. Our homes. Our stuff.
But, personally, I refuse to burn any more people on an alter and claim it is for Christ or the greater good.
“All this is simply to say that all life is interrelated. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality; tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. As long as there is poverty in this world, no man can be totally rich even if he has a billion dollars. As long as diseases are rampant and millions of people cannot expect to live more than twenty or thirty years, no man can be totally healthy, even if he just got a clean bill of health from the finest clinic in America. Strangely enough, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.” – Martin Luther King Junior