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  • Writer's pictureEddie A. Rosa Fuentes

Sermon: My Dignity Goes Beyond My Humanity

Updated: May 23, 2022

Sermon preached in Augustana Chapel at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.


February 7, 2022

 

Mark 7: 24-30 From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

 

Today I will be preaching under the theme: My dignity goes beyond my humanity.


May the word of my mouth and the meditation of my heart responds to God’s Justice and the development of God’s Kinship.


...


Last week I was talking with a friend and a mentor. They were telling me a story of their experience in one of their seminary courses. They, who were born and raised in a Spanish speaking country, came to study at an English-speaking seminary. I this course, they needed to select date to do an oral presentation, and they selected the following week to present. Astonished, the professor exclaimed about them presenting the following class, and the student responds, “I just want to get rid of the class.”


You probably can imagine the face of the professor.


Please also imagine the clueless face of the student, as the student wanted to say that they wanted to be done with the presentation, and that day found out that what they said could be understood as a derogatory statement.


They literally got lost in translation.

***


In the countries that we call America, formed by Abya Yala and Turtle Island, prior colonization, many communities had their worldview and cosmology, in addition to their political, economic, religious "system," for the lack of a better word, as they did not arrange their world similar to the west.


Abya Yalans and Turtle Islander had their own understanding of what it means to live in this particular "human" body. I remember a friend of mine, Prairie Rose Seminole, as I was talking about my Doctoral Project, telling me that in her Community, in the Lacota Language, they understand this embodiment as "Embodied Spirits."

However, since 1492, after a pretty long debate, in which Bartolomé de las Casas and Juan Ginés de Sepulveda were involved but were not the only participant of it, the colonizers told the indigenous and African communities if they were or not humans. Sadly, with the imposition of this new discourse and the erasure of our ancestors’ discourses, we started to believe that we were actually humans.



Now, let me tell you about a single mother. A mother who had a sick daughter. Like many other mothers, she will do anything for their children.


This mother was not a Jew, in a space where Jews had the power. She was actually from the region of Syro, in particular Phoenicia. She was a Syrophoenician woman. She was as a woman of color in a white world, as a queer person in a cis-heterosexual world, she was as an undocumented person in today’s US society.


She was according to the Jews in that time, less than them.


And let me just say, that Jesus was a Jew.


She was so less than them, that Jesus’ response to her request was with an insult. He called her a dog. This dog is not like the dogs that we today have in our house that goes out in costume in Halloween. This dog is not the dog in the nuclear family composed by mom, dad, son, daughter, and... you know who comes next... yes, a dog. This dog is related more with a stray dog, or if we use today's slang this dog is a synonym with a word that starts with the letter B.


But using Rev. Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder title to her book. “When Momma’s Speak…." Hmmmmm!, even Jesus gets in line.


I wanna take particular attention to what momma said, and she said, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”


Hmmm….



Let me read this again, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs."


Don't you think that this counter argument to Jesus' insult is interesting? "Even the Dogs..." I wonder why she did not say… "hey! hey! hey! I AM NOT A DOG, I AM A HUMAN." But she said "Even the Dogs..."


Some scholars will call this a rhetorical core for her argument considering this as a self-Deprecating argument. The fact that we take this as a rhetorical strategy and not as a believed counter argument is also interesting. Why do we understand this as self-deprecating? As a decolonial scholar, I need to ask this question. Because, who told us that human is above all.


Except God, of course. And I mean... Queen B… Beyonce.


The only reason we understand this argument to be self-deprecating is because we actually cannot come into terms that human and dogs can have the same dignity, and we then consider the human above the rest of creation. We consider dogs to be inferior. We understand that there are such things as non-humans. But what makes us such humans in the first place?


In Aberrations in Black, Roderrick Ferguson “Extend the interrogation of the human as a technology of racialization." And he takes this interrogation even further when he uses this extension "to show how black subjects’ citizen, morality, and humanity is dependent on their submission to sexual regulations." (see Chen & Luciano, Queer Inhumanisms)

For queer people... for black people... for indigenous people... for other people of colors, the human has become a technology of control. In such a way that by us believing that we are human and they by treating us as if we weren't, we are put in position of debility. Why? Because now we need to prove to the unequivocally "human" that we are actually human.


However, the Syrophoenician woman wasn’t under the control of the human, and or the Jews, namely Jesus. She, as a person of color... as a queer person... as an undocumented person, was aware of her dignity even beyond her humanity. She said, "I am a B-word, so what?"


I still will eat!



Gloria Anzaldua, in Borderlands/La Frontera, reminds us that dehumanization is an opportunity to redefine what it means to live in this body.


The Syrophoenician woman was not going to waste time in meaningless argument. She was clear what she wanted, she was clear of her experience, she had faith in herself.


She had a spirituality even beyond the Jew spirituality, as she was not a jew, and she was not evangelized by Jesus to become a follower either.


Her dignity was beyond any identity politic society might have hook her up and try to make an argument. She was clear, she was not a human.


and you know what? Her daughter was healed… YES, she was not a human… and she ate.


Anyways, you might be asking what happened with the story of my friend and their professor. Wel, words matter, they provide worldviews.


Human and embodied spirits are different things.


And anyways, now I can just now say that "I got rid of preaching and chapel."

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