There’s a powerful voice making the case for holiness, ringing through the halls of Congress right now—and that is 30-year-old Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.
Videos of her questioning and congressional time regularly go viral. Her statements are prolific and prophetic. They are a call to action.
Her words call out the powers who think they are challenging the status quo. And to the white establishment, she’s holding them accountable.
AOC is our new DC darling, and she’s a Hispanic American woman, with a working-class background, reflecting the image the United States is becoming. More and more, the United States is expanding as a blended country—by race, belief, and family unit.
She’s an emergence of this generation embracing that unity, a reflection of them. And she’s fierce.
It’s her ferocity as a woman, as a young woman, as a brown woman, that her white, patriarchal-minded, and older opposition aims to take down because they see her as a threat. Her voice is the desperate cry against oppression. The Black and Hispanic communities across the country are disproportionately affected by the discrimination of the white, upper-class, and often racist one percent. The discrepancies not only keep our brothers and sisters underfoot but are often justified by religious misinterpretation.
In the most recent video (see below), her outcry, she quoted (and clearly knows) scripture, putting her white male colleagues to shame. She admitted her conflict as a legislator, mostly because of our church and state separation, but she made it clear, “The only time religious freedom is invoked is in the name of bigotry and discrimination,” and that “It is deeply disturbing, not just what is happening here, but what this administration is advancing, is the idea that religion and faith is about exclusion.”
She’s right. There’s a deep hunger among Christians today for inclusion, especially among the millennial generation, who recognizes there has been deep-seated segregation, since the country’s origins. The founding fathers had slaves, they didn’t interpret the Bible the same, and they didn’t intend for the country to have a “Christian” agenda—in fact, it’s what they fought against.
England was ruled by kings and queens who corruptly negotiated with the Church. Moreover, the founding fathers of the United States had slaves, which dampers the statement that “all men were created equal.” True equality, particularly within the Christian faith, is about inclusion, whether it be race, gender, or sexuality, particularly in the 21st century.
Growing up in Colorado, from the time I was 11 years old, in a mostly white mega-church, and largely associated with politics and “anti”-style advocacy (anti-LGBTQ+, anti-abortion, and pro-Republican), there was an underlying theme of “divine rightism” that permeated through the messages. There was always an urgency to bring people into the four-walled building rather than meeting them where they were, unless it was to take a summer mission trip to convert brown people through patronizing offerings.
There was something missing in it for me, particularly because we moved from another state (Ohio) where our church groups, family members, school sports, and friends were far more diverse and inclusive.
White evangelicalism got it wrong; inclusivity doesn’t exist because the mega-churches are filthy rich. They make profits, and leading pastors live on large plots of land and own helicopters. The white evangelical politicians made it their mission to assert power and establish “divine rightism,” through political associations, the very thing the founding fathers fought against, who were, by the way, not all dedicated Christians but many Deists, that is, perhaps they believed in a higher being but certainly did not see the United States as a Christian or religious country.
Cortez said she believed if Jesus walked through the halls of today’s government he’d be labelled a radical and rejected. She distinctly notated a story of a rich man approaching Jesus, asking him what he must do to have eternal life (and the man quoted the law he was privileged to learn), but ultimately walked away sadly when he was told to sell all he had, to give to the poor, to abandon his wealth, and to follow Jesus. “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle,” the scripture says (Mark 10), and AOC reminded us too.
Holiness is about giving to the poor, and healing people’s wounds, physical and mental. Holiness is making sure children have a quality life, and that orphans are cared for and given a home, no matter what the loving parents look like.
It is not holy to subject children to cages. It is not holy to charge people more than their salary to be, well, to be whole. It is not holy to deny people love, or whom they love. Holiness is about unconditionally anointing all people their sacredness. It’s about loving mercy and acting justly.
Dr. King once wrote in his letter to white Christians, the Letter from Birmingham Jail, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed…We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.'”
That was 50 years ago, and it echoes today.
Justice is missing, and the disproportionate numbers are among our black, brown, and indigenous brothers and sisters. The wealthiest politicians buy and sell religion on the backs of people fighting to be recognized, fighting for their identity to be noted, fighting for the simple right to exist without worry that someone will stop and frisk their child tomorrow or will stop them from voting, or worry that their home will be taken or they can’t receive care when they return from the front lines of war.
In order for oppressors to be brought down, the people must unify across tribal lines, racial lines, and class lines in one voice. And to get to that space, we must be willing to hear each other’s needs, and as a white people of faith and spirituality, denounce the laws and vile pronouncements of oppressors. Recognize the Pharisees selling and cheating in the temple and confront them.
We can’t use cute language anymore. It’s time to stand up for what’s holy.
AOC’s call reverberates, and we need to pay attention:
“All people are Holy, all people are sacred, unconditionally, and that’s what prompts us to transform.”
So let’s do that, so we can transform the country for the liberation and justice for all.