A woman I love very much once told me my greatest strength and greatest weakness were one in the same: righteous anger towards injustice. Those words have stuck with me for many years now. I had mixed feelings when I first heard this. I had always been told righteous anger was a great sin. In fact, I had even been told anger itself was a sin. So I couldn’t understand how this weakness could also be a strength. But my self-proclaimed godmother then explained that my inability to keep quiet when justice goes unserved will be used for God’s glory one day. Little did either of us know I would be called into missions; into a ministry that refuses to shut up when women are trampled on and served cold plates of rotting injustice day after day.
Earlier today I sat at my kitchen table and wept as I listened to a woman talk about the massive failings of christian culture. I felt her righteous anger as she said, “Following Jesus Christ does not look like silence or complicity to a system who butters our breads and fills our coffers while we stand on the necks of those created in the image of God. It does not look like praying and singing and giving money on top of screams and suffering and filth.” She had just told the story of her visit to Cape Coast Castle in Ghana. She spoke of how she stood in the deep, dark, low dungeon of the castle, surrounded by the ghosts of slaves who had been beaten, abused, sold, and killed. What stuck with her most was not the proverbial haunting of these souls but what sat just one floor above them: the chapel. Directly above the tortured souls of African men crying out for help and mercy were “christians” worshipping in the name of god. As the speaker stood there in utter shock and disbelief, the tour guide said, “Heaven above, Hell below.” But the speaker disagreed. She said, “Heaven was not above. Because staying above is not what Heaven does.” Heaven plunges into the dungeon.
Often times I struggle to find the appropriate amount of anger I’m “allowed” to feel towards injustice. And I believe the portion of righteousness she saw in me, is where I must be careful. Later on in the tour of Cape Coast Castle, the speaker comes face to face with the tour guide. The guide tells her, “Diane. Do not just blame yourself or your people alone. Because we sold our own.”
So many times we categorize people into an ‘us’ and a ‘them’. But there is no ‘us’ and there is no ‘them’. We were and are all created in the image of God. Therefore every time we bury our heads in the sand and pretend to believe the horrors of this world do not exist we sell our own. And, “We are selling our souls as well. We sell our own when we protect our christian system and deny or ignore sexual abuse or rape or domestic violence because exposure would threaten the work of God. We use the name of God to justify the dungeon of our decision…..Many have thought that if you avoid the dungeon you can keep yourself clean. But to do so is to fail to follow our Savior out on to the dungheaps of this world.”
I am not too naive to think that I am above those who have created dungeons. I am, however, redeemed from the dungeons I was thrust into and the dungeons I created by way of silence and complicity. And I believe that’s what my godmother meant when she warned me of my strength and my weakness. I have vowed to no longer stay silent. I have sworn to plunge into the dungeons with the anger and love of my God steadily by my side. I have promised to help rescue those who cannot rescue themselves from the depths of hell by introducing them to the Savior. But I must not be blinded by the truth:
The despicable dungeons I want to tear down are the very dungeons I helped create. And so did you.
To hear the entire speech by Diane Langberg titled, “As He Is, So Are We In This World”, please click here. I strongly encourage you to take 19 minutes out of your day and walk into the dungeon.