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He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice,
and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
Pride has a lot to say about our self-sufficiency. He wants to claim that we got where we are from working a lot harder, being a lot smarter, being a self-starter. Pride says “thank you” in a polite kind of way that secretly thinks well I would have gotten here anyway without you.
When we’re humble, we know the truth. The truth is that if we had been traveling alone, we would have landed thousands of miles west of here, in a barren and ugly dried up desert.
And when we’re humble, we’re grateful.
On Saturday, 3 million people marched around the world against injustice. Seeing so many women who had never marched or protested before gave me goosebumps. They were there because someone invited them, or they read an article on Facebook, or maybe because they had always wanted to but didn’t know anyone else that did – and now, finally, they knew everyone who did. My heart is with the baby activists, because I’m a baby activist too. And like all the women out on the streets with signs for the first time, I am just here because good people in good places invited, educated, challenged, encouraged me.
1) Candler School of Theology. Candler, never assume that the uncomfortable, confrontational, theologically conservative little White girls who fight change tooth and nail in all their classes will come out the same way that they went in. Because I didn’t. I was so uncomfortable meeting James Cone, Alice Walker, Ada María Isasi-Díaz. But Candler met me where I was, and without Candler, my theology would be so White and yes, so Male. Thank you for teaching me.
2) The Fund [Forum] for Theological Education. I am humbled by my cohort leader, a queer woman of color. I am humbled because I met her at a time in my life when I was insanely resistant to “social justice” of any kind, and her job was to lead me through basic concepts of Christian social justice. I am humbled by her because no matter how much I resisted, she never treated me with anything but kindness. I am humbled by her persistence. It must have cost her to sit there with us, and with me. Thank you for making space for me.
3) My White friend who collected her people – me. “Y’all collect your people,” Black folks say to White folks, reminding us that often our job is to speak truth and stand in the gap with our White friends and family and colleagues, because too often our “Black Friends” are asked to constantly explain, educate, rebuke, console us at the expense of their own peace and sanity. I am so grateful for the faithfulness of a White friend who never got tired of talking with me about social justice and racism and the criminal justice system and whatever else I would pull out and throw at her. She never stopped being gentle even when I asked the most asinine questions about systemic racism, and never stopped her faithful, relentless Scriptural challenges to the darker parts of my political engagement like my nationalism or ethnocentrism. She “collected her people” well. Thank you for collecting me.
4) For my Black colleague at Candler who tagged me in a photo. I showed up to a die-in with #BlackLivesMatter on the steps of Candler’s chapel because someone that I barely knew tagged me in a Facebook post. I had never been to a protest before. I heard mourning, rage, Scripture being wept and shouted. I had never heard my Scripture spoken like that. Scripture was being “de-colonized,” de-Whitened, given back to the oppressed, taken out of safe spaces and White spaces and the glittering halls of power. Christianity was raw and gritty and a lot more like when Jesus was strung up on a Cross in the dust two thousand years ago. And I only showed up because someone reached out, invited me to sit in and listen to this kind of Christianity. Thank you for inviting me.
5) Atlanta. Well gosh, here’s where I start to cry. This city is built on history and stories and activists and non-profits and community organizers, and she opened up to a rural New Englander and told her to “come on in, stay awhile.” Oh I love you, you racially diverse, deeply religious, incredibly gay, confrontational and passive aggressive liberal city in a sea of Red. She doesn’t let me hide away in passivity from what the world is doing. I can delete Facebook, but I can’t not go out in my city to buy food, drink, walk, run, play, and every time I step outside you are so you and so different from me in how you dress and talk and look! This city of transplants was glad that I came, and she also demands that I be glad that everyone else has come, too. Thank you for your diversity.
6) Black Twitter. Getting to sit in on cultural and political conversations with the best Black theologians and activists alive is a miraculous gift. Learning how to shut up and listen when the Other talks is a spiritual discipline, and Black Twitter is great practice field. Thank you for your faithfulness.
7) My conservative Christian New Hampshire homeschool subculture. Yup. Grateful. Because I grew up learning that Scripture had a lot to say about political systems and that we don’t just vote with our hands but with our feet. I grew up going to Town Hall meetings and shaking presidential candidates hands. I grew up arguing policy over the kitchen table. I grew up doing Mock Trial and learning how our justice system works and doesn’t work. I wrote letters to congressmen and was in a commercial for a Senatorial Candidate. I learned that when things are bad, we don’t just shut off and shut down, but put on our boots and get on the streets and fight for justice. My belief of what justice is has changed since I was in high school, but the foundation of activism was laid when I was a baby and my mom went to the school board to change the laws around homeschooling. I come from active people, and whatever I do as an adult, it’s built on a deep stone foundation that assumes yes, we can make a difference. And as Christians, yes, we should.
And to all of us, tired activists and cranky theologians, exhausted writers and frustrated journalists? It matters. The faithfulness, the invitations, the collecting, the educating, the challenging, the gentleness – it all matters, every bit of it matters. And thank you all.