Recently someone asked me: Why did you feel compelled as a person of faith to march on Saturday?
I’m a Love-God and Love-Your-Neighbor type of Christian. I believe that love is to be practiced with heart, mind, soul, and strength. On my better days, I’m also a Love-Your-Enemies Christian. That’s more challenging. It is my faith commitments to love and to justice that compelled me to march in Nashville on January 21 and to take my daughter, and gather up friends, and post publicly about it.
The day after the election in November, I heard about plans for a women’s march in Washington, D.C. I wanted to go from the start. It turned out the month leading up to the march was filled by family- and work-related challenges, so the Nashville march was my best choice.
The election season made clear just how much white supremacy is still the base-line of action, as Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw put it on MLK Day, although outside consciousness for many Americans. This base-line is operative even for those who say they are people of faith. The campaign season also showed how much underlying disdain and lack of care for women still exists, how many efforts are still underway to control girls’ and women’s bodies and their health. The election season demonstrated many times over how readily people respond to fear: fear of others not like them, fear of white men not being in control, fear of a loss of power, and fear of a future they cannot imagine.
White Christians largely elected President Trump. Young people, people of color did not elect him. I did not elect him, but my participation in Saturday’s march was not merely a protest of the election. My choice to march Saturday was another kind of protest – from the Latin word protestari: to testify, to bear witness. (Same word we use for the Protestant Reformation.) I was there to testify and bear witness to love. Love that is greater than fear. Love that is greater than hatred.
Since the election, many people in America have been emboldened to act on their hatred and their fear. The election incited and sanctioned people to act against Muslims, Jews, women, immigrants, people of color, gay, lesbian and queer people.
Every day I am incited and sanctioned to act on love. And to call out injustice that is based not on love but on fear and hatred. I am called every day to love my neighbors – people I meet and engage along the way – and even those who set themselves up to be my enemies, and those toward whom I feel enmity.
I am incited and sanctioned by love to speak up and act boldly on the fact that black lives matter. Why? Because for far too many centuries black and brown lives have not mattered to white people in power. This country was built on freedom, but it was a false freedom that covers over the fear and hatred, which were intertwined with slavery. That same fear, hatred and sin of treating people as less than human haunts and taints in every aspect of American life, including religious bodies and the justice system. There are direct lines from slavery to Jim Crow to mass incarceration (that disproportionately jails and executes black and brown bodies). I can do no other but speak up in love and act boldly to undo these injustices.
I am incited and sanctioned by love to speak up and to act boldly on the fact that women are fully human. Why? Because women are still paid less, valued less, raped more often, and denied healthcare and leadership more than men. We need institutions to change, and the church – even the very progressive churches – needs more change, more equality, more love for the full humanity of girls and women.
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My poster on Saturday quoted Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Hatred cannot drive out hatred. Only love can do that.” Love is the key to change. I am incited and sanctioned by love to speak up and to act boldly in love. Sometimes that means marching. Sometimes it means feeding those who are homeless, the working poor. Sometimes it means teaching world religions in a prison. Sometimes it means asking seminary students to write about their social location.
I am not worried about alienating my fellow Baptists or fellow Christians. I’m far more intent on waking them up. With Jesus I want to incite them to wake up. To speak up. To act boldly in love.
I am incited and sanctioned by love to speak up and to act boldly on the fact that religion flourishes in freedom and all religions need space to worship as they see fit, and for none of them to be given undue privilege or influence by the government.
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I have a job (several) and responsibilities, and I pay a lot of taxes at my house, gladly because I think our public contract is to “form a more perfect union.” What I bring to that union as a baptist and a professor and a mom and is the idea that there is space for everyone and when some are marginalized, those of us benefiting from privilege are required – by our commitment to following Jesus – to give up some space, some money and some power to make room for others.
We have some serious work ahead of us. I think marching is the beginning. Not the end.