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Love Before Binaries: Reverend Pennington-Russell teaches students about the power of love.

This past Friday, November 8 Julie Pennington-Russell of First Baptist Church of Washington D.C. spoke at Windows on the World. Julie, as well as being the Senior Pastor at her church, is a self-proclaimed feminist, Enneagram type three, and Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk fanatic. She has been featured on the television broadcast 30 Good Minutes, Day-1 Radio, and the Festival of Homiletics with her message of peace and grace for christians across denominational boundaries.

Pennington-Russell began her speech by speaking of her home town of Washington D.C.. Her home in the U.S. Capitol has historically been the birthplace of some of the most horrific slave trades in United States history. In recounting the first time she learned about the home of the largest slave trade, in the National Mall, Pennington-Russell described the horror and shame she felt upon learning this.

In addition to this, her church the First Baptist Church of Washington D.C. was founded by Reverend Obediah Brown; a prolific slave owner and trader. Brown’s portrait hangs on the wall outside her office, a constant reminder of the blindness which perverted early christianity and continues to scar the christian tradition to this day.

Her message compared this blindness to the blindness christians approach the separation of families at the border with today. Pennignton-Russell went on to explain that we approach politics and our understanding of people with binary: black or white, gay or straight, liberal or conservative. This binary results not only in the erasure of whole groups, but \ in a blindness to the diverse creativity of human nature. In approaching issues with a binary, instead of open hearts, we fail to proceed with the grace and love of Christ.

Pennington-Russell then explained three ways in which we can approach our fellow humans with the love of God, instead of with our own human ego, fear, and sense of self identity. First, we must be aware when we are operating solely through our Ego and sense of self. Instead, we as Christians are called to exist through our deepest identity in God. By approaching relationships and ideologies through God’s love, we are able to deny the pride and fear associated with getting stuck in our own perspective.

Second, Pennington-Russell recommends we pay attention to when we are operating solely in the rational and analytical mind. In the modern age it is easy to get caught in this mindset, instead of approaching each person as a unique individual, bringing with them experiences, perspectives, and understanding different than your own.

Her final and most important point was to notice when our velocity of movement exceeds our ability to be present in the moment. Pennington-Russell explains that cherishing and taking seriously peace and mindfulness allows us to walk through the world in love instead of fear.

When we become absorbed in our earthliness, we are subject to acting in our own self interest instead of God’s perfect intention for our lives. On our own we inadequate for dealing with God’s creation, and the complicated mystery, grace, suffering, sexuality, death, and love associated with humanity.

I the end of her speech, Pennignton-Russell urged her listeners to walk through life with a heart of contemplation. We must see as God sees: with eyes clear to the complicated mes of humanity.

We are called to see beneath the surface features and differences of people, and instead approach them with the love and grace of God. In the prophetic words of her son, “That’s the thing about love— it changes features”. When we see our life through the eyes of God, eyes filled with love, everything changes.

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