Sabbath, Justice, and Systems of Exploitation

Walter Brueggemann positions Sabbath in direct contrast with the call to come out of Egypt in Hebrew Scriptures. Having endured slavery and hardship beyond our knowing, the Israelites are called to leave the exploitive conditions of Egypt and to receive the Word of God in the desert. It is here, they receive the command to remember the Sabbath.

You and your family are to remember the Sabbath Day; set it apart, and keep it holy. You have six days to do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is to be different; it is the Sabbath of the Eternal your God. Keep it holy by not doing any work—not you, your sons, your daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, or any outsiders living among you. 11 For the Eternal made the heavens above, the earth below, the seas, and all the creatures in them in six days. Then, on the seventh day, He rested. That is why He blessed the Sabbath Day and made it sacred.

(Exodus 20:8, The Voice)

It is a day to be different. To be in direct contrast to the systems you have come out of.

I appreciate Brueggemann's interpretation. If we participate in a system of capitalism, then what do we do to remove ourselves from that production system on our Sabbath? Set ourselves apart?

How do we move from slavery to freedom?

In the current system and time of the United States, my thoughts have been captured by the exploitative systems of our day. And they unjustly include every system known to humanity! Education, justice, healthcare, ... all of them. Especially with regard to privilege, whiteness, and racism.

Privilege is the idea that certain people inherently have more power because of who they were created to be. We know that our history privileges Western European patriarchy that are cisgendered and heteronormative. Maybe that needs to be broken down:

  • Patriarchy: men have more political and social power than women
  • Western European: traditionally termed Caucasian, they have more political and social power than other ethnicities
  • Cisgendered: if your gender identity matches your primary sex characteristics, you have more political and social power than those who identify in the genderqueer spectrum
  • Heteronormative: people who have traditional male/female relationships have more political and social power than those who do not identify this way

The only other major category of privilege is regarding economic status. Economic status is more difficult to quantify because even those who are poor but are male, Western European, cisgendered, and heteronormative have privilege over those who are not.

The United States has produced a system where privilege is built in. In other words, because women were not able to vote until 1920, they were not able to have a say in the systems that support their womanness until relatively late in the game. Because the Voting Rights Act did not pass until 1965, African Americans have not been able to have a say in the systems that support them. Cisgendered and heteronormative is so powerful that there are still laws that protect discrimination against these categories. And so on.

Privilege is built in. The systems of exploitation carries on. I could pull many articles that reference recent laws that force women to have transvaginal ultrasounds, that allow businesses to discriminate in the selling of their goods and services, that allow businesses to fire people for who they are, not what they have done. Privilege is current. Exploitation is happening today.

And so, what exactly can we do about it? And what can we do about it on our Sabbath day?

We are called to Come out of Egypt! Lay our privilege down! Confront and recognize systems of exploitation! This is a perfect way to remember the Sabbath.

For folks who do SoulCollage(R), make a privilege card.

For folks who are poets and other writers, write something illustrating privilege or releasing privilege.

Use your imagination! Releasing rituals could include:

  • Burning your list of privilege
  • Release it to the wind
  • Create a mandala
  • Send it to heaven
  • Yoga
  • Let it float away
  • Create a ceremony

How do you write down your privilege? It is simply a list of the significant factors detailing who you are. Some of those factors have privilege, some do not. In sociological terms, know your social location. Social location is a bit of the who you are. It most often includes class, education, gender, religion, and such. Some of your social location lends you privilege and some of it does not.

Who are you? What privilege do you carry? What can you do to release your privilege on this day?

PS: A Comic that makes privilege clear is here.

My Social Location created at wordle.net
My Social Location
created at wordle.net

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