The echoes of “Black Lives Matter” bounce through the car. My children cradle signs made from foam board. They speak of George Floyd, their awareness growing. A sign that says, “Mexicans for Black Lives” rests in the front passenger seat. I drive. My oldest asks, “Will we be safe at the protest?” I’ve heard the rumors predicting violence, too.
“Luca, we will be cautious, and see how things look before we decide to stay” I reply. Many other families say they are coming. I choose not to ignore the weighty legacy of indigenous genocide and 400 years of systemic racial trauma. It feels important to be active as a family. We will see.
For years, I put my Bible under my pillow. I needed it to be physically close, as if God would watch over me from those pages. It’s sitting in the car, under the sign for the protest. My Bible looks angry. It shakes in my hands. The reddish tinted leather, appears as dried blood. It’s stained by tears. It knows rage. I don’t always listen.
Genesis 4:10 states, “But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!”
An envious Cain betrayed and murdered his brother. Then, he tried to hide the evidence of his crimes.
But, the ground Cain tilled spoke the truth, as witness.
The recent pandemic exposes the ancient and powerful agreements made between the European settlers coming to America and evil: blood in exchange for money and wealth.
Each indigenous life sacrificed for more power, more wealth, more dominance, brought a need for systems to maintain and collect this power. These systems required human fuel. Slavery, in partnership with Christianity and democratic government, afforded economic success; however, success cost us our integrity, souls, and faith. A callous and murderous spirit settled on the land of the Americas, draping itself in the garments of Christianity.
Slavery, rape, lynchings, police brutality, FHA housing authority, suburbs, redlined districts, immigrant detention centers (and more), are the alters of past and present to the evil gods of power and money.
This nation of “Cains” hide their crimes in Bible studies, mission’s trips, and philanthropic projects. The history of the United States shapes the narrative for future generations – a narrative set in the stone of white patriotism, white individualism, white faith, and manifest destiny.
Evangelists could not decide if African Americans had souls, but felt compelled to share their faith – and when these same Africans advocated for the justice and liberation the gospels spoke about, Christianity camouflaged itself in the promise of those rights in the afterlife.
Cain is cunning, envious of his Brother. Cain does not offer his best to God.
Karen Baker-Fletcher writes, in “Dancing with God: The Trinity from a Womanist Perspective,” “God responds to the cry of the blood-soaked earth. This is a responsive world, a responsive cosmos, where even in violence and broken relationship the relationship persists nonetheless. Blood and earth cry out to God, responding to acts of violation against body and land” (p. 89).
I stare at my Bible. The kids are talking. “Listen!” I shout. My voice startles even me and I glance in my rearview mirror. Four sets of eyes look at me.
“We listen, today. This is a way to witness with our bodies.” But, it’s not only today.
It’s millions of Abels crying out, to me, my husband, my children – my family. Its men, women, children betrayed by the Cain of their day for power and wealth. It’s the deaf ears of prior generations, including my father, mother, grandparents.
The blood of Abels of our continent cry and will continue crying out to us.
Baker-Fletcher continues, “Cain was no longer at peace with the land he once tilled. He was restless, wrestling with internal turmoil, an experiential awareness of his unbalanced self”
To bear witness is painful. Painful to suffer the shame over the years I spent comfortable and not bearing witness. Painful to answer the call of the Abels betrayed. Grief is a re-suffering, and without grieving we are restless.
We remember. We grieve because we have a responsibility to bear witness to the living and the dead. It is not too late.
Those who have passed, whose blood cries out to us – the Abels, wait for us to begin to slow down. We have a difficult choice. Will we listen? In a time of protesting, rioting, anger and rage, the blood of Abel deserves an answer.
We cannot find hope until this great suffering is given form and voice, which can lead us to lament.
The dead wait. Their blood cries out. Abel asks us, “Will you remember? Do you see the injustice?”
We are called to witness, to witness embodied.
We reflect God’s image as our glorious bodies witness one another, regulate one another, suffer with one another. It is not too late.
May we bear witness to Abel, hear his cry, and answer. May we find a way to invent new language, a language partnered with repentance to know the suffering of Abel in America.
Mother of four and wife of one awesome Mexican, Danielle Castillejo is a 2nd year student at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, studying to get her MA in Counseling and Psychology. She works and volunteers part time in an organization in Seattle that advocates for the agency and freedom of commercial sex workers. A survivor of abuse herself she continues to fight for sanity and love every day.