ELM Blog-Love in Action: Sharei Green

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Love at the intersection

Trigger warning: racism, fatphobia, pregnancy complications 

I’m not afraid of death, but I am afraid of dying needlessly. I’m afraid of dying from medical professionals not listening to me, of a “routine” traffic stop, some random hate crime just for existing in my body. 

I exist at the intersection of Black, femme, fat, and queer. I love all these things about myself but the world doesn’t always love me back. The dehumanizing of my various identities can be a heavy burden sometimes. Often being reminded of how little the world values my humanity via the media and the stories within community that aren’t televised. 

Last December, my friend, soulmate, and chosen family member, almost died. Almost died because she reported an issue while pregnant and the only thing the medical professionals could focus on was how much weight she’d gained. She was sent away with the instruction not to gain any more weight for the remaining two months of her pregnancy. Within weeks, she was having a hypertensive crisis, diagnosed with preeclampsia, and induced months early. Fatphobia almost killed my friend. Had she not been diligent in listening to her body, researching symptoms, etc. She could have lost her baby. Lost her life. And maybe the outcome would have been the same had they listened. But maybe, just maybe, there would have been better monitoring of the situation, maybe she wouldn’t have had to suffer as long, and maybe she wouldn’t have felt so dehumanized, traumatized. 

In John 12, Mary breaks open an expensive oil at Jesus’ feet and anoints them. The disciples thought she was crazy to “waste” the oil in that way but Jesus basically told them to mind their business.

A variation of this text exists in all 4 Gospels. The consistent thread through all of them is a woman, anointing Jesus’ feet. There is debate on whether it was the same woman in all the text, particularly with the Luke text as the woman was described as sinful when Mary of Bethany was seen as loving/ beloved. Whether it was the same woman or not, sinful or not, named or not. Whether with oil or tears, in all the accounts a woman anointed Jesus… and someone (particularly of the male variety) was upset about it. Whether they considered it a waste of resources because the oil could have been sold or a waste of time because the woman was a sinner and deemed by those present unworthy of Jesus’ time. But what is also consistent through them all is Jesus defending the woman’s actions. Speaking truth to power in honor of the woman who had offered what she had to Christ.

Friends, are we making decisions on behalf of “the poor” to serve our own interests? Are we building a hierarchy of God’s beloveds? Are we stealing from the common purse? Are we stealing from the body of Christ? Or are we anointing Jesus’ feet with our treasures, our time, our talents. Are we speaking against powers that would exclude our neighbor? Ignore her pain?

Jesus told Judas, told his disciples, told those gathered, and told the Pharisees, to leave her alone. Jesus made space for the woman, in a time when it would have been unconventional for a woman to be among men, Jesus said, leave her alone. 

So what does this have to do with love? 

Love in action is more than educating congregations on how to be more friendly to queer folks. It’s bigger than any congregation or the institution of the church. Love in action is caring about our neighbors. Acknowledging their intersections and advocating for them. Advocating for them when no one is looking. When it’s not “sexy” to do so. When it’s not “safe” to do so.
Sharei Green (she/her) is a Womanist theologian currently pursuing her MDiv at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.  Sharei has a strong commitment to community healing and sabbath, especially in BIPOC communities and all their intersections. She is the co-author of God’s Holy Darkness, a children’s book that deconstructs anti-Blackness in Christian theology by celebrating instances in the story of God’s people when darkness, blackness, and night are beautiful, good, and holy. She serves on staff with ELM as the operations support person.

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