(Originally published in "Love and Justice for All" column in Unity Magazine Nov/Dec 2021 issue)
My name, Ogun, is the god or Orisha of Iron in the Yoruba religion that originates from, and is still practiced in, parts of some West African countries. When asked, my parents said they found the name in a book and liked it so much they assigned it to me. They had no information of our lineage past a handful of generations, as is quite common for the descendants of enslaved Africans. A few months ago I spit into a tube, mailed the sample to ancestry.com, and eventually received confirmation that I am indeed descended from the Yoruba peoples that once inhabited the countries now known as Nigeria, Benin, and Togo.
Was it just pure coincidence my name coincided with my ancestry in such a direct way? When my parents first read and spoke my name out loud did the strands of their DNA that bore the imprint of our origins hum with awareness? Or was there some deeper, soul-level recognition of a spiritual lineage that transcended time and space?
The Yoruba religion predates Christianity by at least a millenia. It initially found no welcome in the West as slave owners attempted to systematically erase any reminders of the African Homeland in order to dehumanize and control their human chattel. In spite of their best efforts, and countless horrific homicides, enslaved Africans survived, as did their descendants, as did their spiritual beliefs. Yoruba is but one of many African religions alive and growing in the West as black North American, South American, and Carribean people seek to come home to themselves however they can. Ultimately, every religion is an attempt to understand God, and can ideally be practiced by anyone. But is there something deeper to practicing a religion to which you are ancestrally connected?
Justice suggests a righting of wrongs, or more broadly, making whole again by restoring what was taken or by replacing with comparable measures. For centuries, untold damage was done as Christianity sought to make Jesus’ Great Commission a reality. In order to “...make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” [Matt 28:19-20], the rights and abilities to practice ancestral reflections of God were stripped away, co-opted, or appropriated. Over time, in much of the Western world, Chirstianity became an experience centered around white-body comfort, with the implicit understanding that it was the right and only way.
We in New Thought believe we are more evolved than that. We believe that our spiritual communities and centers are open and welcoming. The striking lack of diversity in most of them would beg otherwise. While the intention might be “everyone is welcome here”, the impact on bodies on culture (non-white people) is “we want you participate in our white-body comfort zone and we don’t want to do anything different...except for maybe Black History month.”
As I wrote previously, Spiritual Justice can be understood as removing the self-imposed roadblocks to the fullness of our Divinity. One of them is the unconscious preservation of white-body supremacy in all its subtle forms, including and especially religion and spirituality. This isn’t an accusation of racism, but rather an invitation into self-awareness. It’s a call to momentarily soar above the waves to see that we are indeed fish swimming in water we do not realize is present all around us and permeating all that we do.
In other words, how uncomfortable are we willing to get so that everyone is truly comfortable?