Guest blog by Emily Ewing, Proclaim member and Proclaim seminarian coordinator, 4th year student at Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC)
Over Thanksgiving this past year, instead of spending time with friends and family giving thanks, overeating, and taking long naps, I was privileged to participate in the Dialogue of the Americas on Faith, Migration, and the Economy. Thanks to support from ELCA Global Mission, I didn’t need to pay for the plane ticket to Quito, Ecuador for the event.
The event was an ecumenical gathering of pastors and theologians from North America, largely the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean. I was the only seminarian at the event and one of the youngest people there. Throughout the event, people presented papers they had written around the topic of faith, migration, and the economy. In our breakout groups, we discussed wide-ranging issues from identity to the church, scripture, justice, and empire.
One of the topics that kept coming up for me was the concept of imago Dei—the image of God. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created humankind in hir image, in the image of God she created them; male and female he created them.”* While we were discussing the themes around identity that came up during presentations, we kept coming back to an understanding of humankind as the image of God, or rostro de Dios (literally translated, it is “face of God”) in Spanish.
Some of our conversation was around who all this includes (we decided that it included everybody). This meant that when we heard Rev. Dr. Nancy Cardoso articulate the situation of many women who migrate, we had to recognize that the face of God is the face of sex workers and domestic workers throughout the Americas. This then led to conversation about how God’s face, God’s image in humanity, is not complete when some are marginalized, murdered, and oppressed.
From there, we explored the concept that most drew me in: that humankind is made in God’s image. It is not, in fact, any one individual who is made in God’s image, but only together, collectively that we are made in God’s image. To be the full rostro de Dios, we must all be present, all be in the face. This changes how we interact with each other. It’s no longer just that each individual we encounter bears the image of God, but that all those who are affected by oppression and marginalization, all those who oppress and marginalize and all those who are in between or do both at different times are the image of God together.
For those of us from the United States, it means that we have to ask ourselves what it means that we are building a wall through God’s face. We have to question the foreign policies that cause so much harm and suffering in other countries and lead to the movement of God’s face. We have to recognize our interconnectedness and our need for the Other and others in order to be complete.
*Note: In an effort to use more expansive and inclusive language for God, when necessary and appropriate, I alternate pronouns for God between ze/hir/hirs/hirself (gender neutral/third gender pronouns), she/her/hers/herself, and he/him/his/himself, rather than restricting myself to either “God” or “He” as can be more common.