Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public. – Cornel West
These are difficult times, and I am afraid. I’m afraid for me and for the people I love. I feel rushed. I feel urgency. I don’t have time to convince you. I don’t have beautiful language or academic words. I only have this. If you are a Christian who can’t hear me, who doesn’t believe I’m in pain, who doesn’t believe the pain is real, then we have a problem. You have a problem.
You make shallow and uninformed calls to love the oppressed. We need to love Muslims, you say. We need to love Black people, we need to love LGBTQ+ people because they are our siblings, they are family. However, in the very next breath, you pass off false information, toss off stereotypes, hold off from helping the people you just called “family.”
You say, “But I have never done a racist/Islamophobic/sexist act.” And you talk amongst yourselves, convinced that agreeing about love is the same thing as loving.
Martin Luther King, Jr. argued that nonviolence “is an imperative to action.” That’s why King’s Poor People’s Campaign was envisioned as a “new and unsettling force.” It was to be disruptive. It was intended to make the issue of poverty impossible to avoid. King was assassinated before seeing that campaign unfold, but his words proved true again and again and again. Throughout the Civil Rights Movement, disruptive action created results. Protests – riots even – made people pay attention.
But the work remains unfinished. And being a liberal, progressive Christian just isn’t enough. Especially if you’re comfortable in the tension between Empire and Kingdom. You cannot serve two masters. If you’ve chosen the Kingdom, you must refuse and resist Empire. If you’ve chosen Christ, you must refuse and resist Caesar.
Early Friends knew this. They broke laws. Caused public disruption. They ran toward trouble and defied the “justice” of the unjust. Refused to pay taxes and tithes, criticized Empire, and made enemies. They were fined, beaten, and jailed. And they grew.
Just over a year ago, I came out as bisexual to those who know and love me. But for the sake of Christian connection, I put myself back in the closet in order to avoid hard conversations, criticism, isolation and the potential loss of relationship. It hurt. I started to lose myself. I became judgmental, defensive, angry, and isolated. All the things I’d been afraid of.
Friends and family tried to reach out to me, to be close with me. They called, texted, and emailed regularly. I shut them out. I kept telling myself, “They won’t understand” because I knew they couldn’t accept me—at least not the real me. What I was forgetting is that many of these people already love and accept me. Always have. Always will. What’s more, many of them suspected I was struggling with something bigger than my anxiety.
Anyone who claims to be a pacifist, or at least to practice an ethic of nonviolence, has been challenged about its application. It’s not practical, people say, it’s not realistic.
The challenge is especially common during times of imminent or ongoing war. To combat evil or rescue the powerless non-violently is impossible, they say. But I think there’s something deeply true and promising about impossibility.
One afternoon earlier this week, I was driving in the car and flipped the radio to the local AM Christian station, as I occasionally do. Generally their programming ranges from pre-recorded sermons to shows about parenting and marriage advice to "current events" programs which tend to mirror whatever the latest point of outrage on conservative talk radio is (Liberals! Gays! Intellectuals!). On this particular afternoon the topic of the show in progress was ISIL (or ISIS or Islamic State or Daesh or whatever we're calling them now).
The guest on the show, a "global security expert" whom I've never heard of, was making the case that the U.S. and Europe needs to "get into the gutter" and use the same "cold-blooded" tactics of brutality that ISIL uses. "If you don't want to fight the way they fight, you're going to end up being a victim,” the expert warned.