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Preaching Everywhere, All the Time

By Abigaïl Bassac
Translation Louise Thunin

We all know how attached the United States is to individual freedoms ; this is often mentioned in public debate. Religious freedom was recently the object of a reflection by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democratic Representative of New York State, during a hearing in which she participated. Abigaïl Bassac reports on this speech, which resembles a sermon.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democratic Representative of the State of New York since the 2018 elections, has become an unavoidable figure in American politics for three years now. Her unusual background makes her an icon for some. She was born in the Bronx, a poor neighborhood of New York City and had to interrupt her studies, in which she was succeeding, in order to earn her living as a waitress. As her name shows, she is of hispanic origin and her mother is Puerto Rican, which makes her « a minority figure » as they say today. At age 29 she became the youngest person elected to the House of Representatives. Another element that contributes to making her a political star (some American magazines have even commented on her bright red lipstick) is that she speaks her truth frankly and stands out on the political scene.
We especially know Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for her political orientation. She takes responsibility for her socialism in a country where the term is barely mentioned in politics. It is associated there with asphyxiating the economy and deprivation of liberty. Socialism, in the United States, is not perceived very differently from communism. For different reasons, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rarely meets indifference. One admires her or finds her unbearable. But in February 2020 she showed another facet of her convictions by speaking up during a hearing in the House of Representatives on the theme of discriminations. Shocked by what she had heard from self-proclaimed defenders of religious freedom, she began by saying that she was hesitating between speaking as a legislator or as a « woman of faith. » But it became clear she ended up preaching. Here are some excerpts from her declaration :
« It’s very hard to be sitting here listening to arguments, in the long history of this country, which has used The Word of God as a weapon, and the mistreatment of that Word to justify intolerance. White supremacists do it, those who defended slavery did it, those who fought for integration did it, and we see that today (…). I know, and it’s part of my faith that all people are holy. And all people are sacred. Unconditionally. And that’s what allows us to change. Because it’s unconditional. It’s not a question for us to love certain people. We love all people. There is nothing holy about writing discrimination into law. And I’m fed up with seeing that communities of believers are used and unjustly perceived because the only times when religious freedom is mentioned, it’s in cases of intolerance and discrimination. I’ve had enough of it. My faith teaches me to treat Mr. Minton (the debator with whom she disagrees) as a holy person, because he is sacred, because his life is sacred. Because one should refuse you nothing to which I too would have a right (…). It’s not up to us to refuse medical assistance to someone. It’s up to us to nourish whomever is hungry, to clothe the poor, to protect a child and to love others as ourselves. »
If this speech is worth mentioning, it is, to my mind, for two reasons. First, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is right and what she says is not only valid for the United States. Too often, when faith or religion are used in public debate, it is to exclude, to condemn. With a Bible, a Koran or the Torah in hand, we stand up for discriminations, we condemn the private life of adults, we refuse jobs to women, we insult the image of God. Faith should lead us to consider each person as holy, each life sacred, and that humiliating another human being is an offense made to God Himself. To imagine and claim that we have God on our side when we humiliate, discriminate against, when we judge a person unworthy of a position due to his or her sex is not only incredibly arrogant but it comes down to spitting in the face of God who looks on one and all.
Another reason that makes this speech worth sharing is that it is the proof that anyone, anywhere, can preach. Don’t wait for a minister to do it in your place on Sunday morning. Being a witness to the marvel that God is and the good He dispenses is not for special occasions. Quite obviously, faith led this woman to proclaim the Gospel at an unexpected moment. Open your ears, open your eyes. God is everywhere : in musical works, in books, in moments of grace and sometimes in the words of a young woman politician whose convictions are completely opposite to yours.


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À propos Gilles

a été pasteur à Amsterdam et en Région parisienne. Il s’est toujours intéressé à la présence de l’Évangile aux marges de l’Église. Il anime depuis 17 ans le site Internet Protestants dans la ville.

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