I marched on Saturday. By myself. That’s a pretty big deal for this crowd-phobic introvert.
Before I go any further, let’s get this distraction out of the way: I am pro-life.
I marched in St Paul because I am pro-life. Pro-All life. I believe in a life ethic big enough to include both fetuses and those already born. Prohibition of abortion through legislation does not address the root issues leading to termination of a pregnancy; I’d rather focus my attention toward creative solutions that would help prevent women and families from reaching the place of desperation — things like health care and childcare. Before you cite trends about abortion declines/increases, I’d ask you to check out this article from Snopes, a reputable fact-checking website.
Further, slandering women as vile heartless monsters or irresponsible children who refuse to take responsibility for their choices helps no one. I reject slander and name-calling. I choose respect, curiosity and radical grace.
Love is showing up and listening.
I marched because love means showing up and listening. If we have all the “truth” and all the “rightness” but cannot listen and speak in kindness to those who are scared and hurt, we don’t have love. We have platitudes and empty religion. When we mock others or shame them, we do not love. We have self-righteousness and arrogance.
Too often “speaking the truth in love” is Christian code for bludgeoning the other with a shaming onslaught of opinion and hostility supposedly endorsed by Jesus. Love implies commitment and respect, not throwing words like daggers at a human heart in order to eviscerate them or prove how right or smart we are.
Liberals can be just as shaming and hostile as conservatives and just as quick to us vs. them mentalities. This is not about taking sides of Democrat vs. Republican as though one side is saintly and the other is evil, or as though one side has a monopoly on speaking for God.
As Richard Rohr says in Everything Belongs, “Being over against is a lot easier than being in love.” All of us Christians like to have Jesus fully on the side of our agenda, and yet Jesus is not so easily tamed by our humans hands — regardless of how right or Biblical we think we are. We’re dealing with the God who so loved the whole world (John 3:16), not the God who only so loved us.
Jesus ate and hung out with prostitutes, homeless people, the religious elite and tax collectors alike. The tension Jesus lived ought to give all of us some heartburn as we navigate his example. Jesus welcomed all who would come. Rather, Jesus went to all who would have him.
God calls us to love as wildly and broadly as God does and to welcome with the same abundance which we have freely received.
In response to the love I receive, I reject the pull of either/or logic. I reject shame language. I reject slander, libel and name-calling. I reject willful ignorance. I reject the impulse to sit this one out and stay comfortable. I reject hatred. I reject self-righteousness and pride.
I choose tension and complexity. I choose mercy, compassion and kindness. I choose love. I choose to show up. I choose to learn from people who do not look like me or see the world the same way I do. I choose respect. I choose to ask questions instead of assuming. I choose empathy.
I choose justice over silence, knowing there is no true peace without justice. I choose humbleness, recognizing I do not know everything. I choose to speak up even if it’s imperfect, knowing silence hurts those who are marginalized. I choose to confront my white privilege.
I choose to fact check headlines before I click links, react, or emote; fake news goes both ways — right AND left. I choose truth over “alternative facts.” I choose to research what I can do in my community rather than shaking in my boots on the sidelines.
I choose to stay in the conversation with people who are scared; I don’t need to reason them out of fear. “Wait and see” is not a helpful response for the person terrified no one will stand with them if the worst comes to pass.
“Wait and see” says “I don’t care about your fears (or I can’t handle them), and I will not stand up with you if the nightmare comes true because I cannot even pretend to hold your hand right now.”
Too often white evangelical culture remains unaware of or ambivalent about the damage to our witness caused by silence and indifference about systemic issues of racism, poverty and sexism.
Who does God call me to be?
Frankly, I’m not worried for me. Whiteness insulates me from the dangers others face. Whiteness means I don’t have to care much because the system already protects me. I could take a pass and bury my head.
But, that’s not the person I want to be. That’s not the woman Jesus calls me to be.
Jesus calls his followers to deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow him.
I marched so I would know if I could put my body in the pursuit of justice. Could I really do it, instead of just talking about it or asking others to do it?
Knowing others might judge my choice or make assumptions about my character or values, I needed to see what I valued most. We all have our professed values — the things we say we care about, and then we have our actual values — the things we put our bodies, money, time and talents into.
Do I value love and justice more than my public image and security? Am I willing to follow Jesus’ call on my life, even if none go with me?
Going to the march alone, I discovered the answer is, “yes.” As the song I sang in childhood goes, “Though none go with me, I still will follow.”
I didn’t bring a sign. I didn’t wear a pink hat; that felt like trying on an alter ego or selling out myself to be cool. I came as myself to listen and learn.
And it was a profound experience. Not because it changes something out there, but because marching changed me.
Marching may not have changed the world, but it changed me.
I am not alone.
Hope bubbled up as I took in the sea of people spilling from the capital steps and down to the Cathedral. Seeing men marching with women in matching pink hats, I cried tears of joy. Men who stand alongside women and promote women’s voices get enormous respect from me.
I desperately needed to know others care enough to put their bodies in the conversation not just their words on the internet. For the first time in months, I could breathe. Why? Because if it all goes south and the U.S. turns authoritarian or fascist, at least I won’t be the only one standing up to say “No.”
I can do hard things.
Hope bubbled up further as I stepped out of my comfort and into a place of risk. I can do hard things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me. I can show up. I can face my fear of crowds and being alone in a sea of strangers. I can be afraid and do hard things at the same time.
Walking alone on my way to the march, I looked into the deep brown eyes of the man in the black down jacket on the street corner, and I talked to him when he approached me hungry for breakfast. I can be nervous and choose love at the same time.
I can navigate my way through a throng of people safely. I can make connections in a sea of strangers and find holy kinship there.
I can hold my ground about why I marched even if others disagree; I am no longer starved for the approval of strangers and acquaintances. I found something that matters more than generic public opinion. That’s a major growth hurdle for me, and one worth celebrating.
There is power in the process of standing with others.
I grew frustrated as I waited near the back of the parking lot for the march to begin. I stood and stood, with my toes growing prickly and numb from the icy blacktop. The crowd grew impatient and grumbled, too. Why aren’t we moving?
I wanted things to happen at my pace, so I could check off an activity for the day. The sooner we march, the sooner I can go home. The urge to feel good about myself and cross a task off my to-do list overtook the call to learn.
And then I took a few breaths and realization dawned. Perhaps, marching wasn’t the point. Standing was. Perhaps the process mattered as much or more than the destination.
Feeling like a stranger in a foreign environment, I had to wait in the awkward middle alongside everyone else. What is solidarity if it is not standing alongside others in the midst of discomfort? In standing, I learned the most. I heard stories, saw tremendous creativity, witnessed strangers becoming sisters and brothers, and that was beautiful.
What about you?
What are the things that bring you hope? What are you so passionate about that you’re willing to get your body involved in the discussion?
What helps you sidestep the impulse to break down the world into us vs them? What helps you make your circle bigger and more inclusive?