If you are in the business of pursuing justice and peace, you need to get to work! All the structural injustice that surrounds us isn’t going to fight itself, after all. The work of resistance is challenging, casting a wide net. In doing so, you may find yourself healing the wounded, mending the brokenhearted, freeing the captive, liberating the oppressed, re-centering the marginalized, revealing the erased. In short, we need the help and you need the practice.
Excellent question. When you start waking up to the pain of the world, it’s like seeing things for the first time. It can happen anywhere, even the Barbie aisle at Walmart. There’s just so much going on.
The good news, however, is that you don’t have to have it all figured out before you get to work. In fact, if you’re convinced that you need to completely grasp things, then you’ll wind up doing nothing and helping no one.
Start with something you care about. The next steps are all concrete and can help you along your way:
1. Go online and figure out who’s doing the kind of work you care about (local, state, na-tional—whatever).
2. Write an email introducing yourself, telling them about your desire to do something small and practical to help. (Extra credit for the extroverts: make a phone call!)
3. After you’ve done your task, ask to help, again. Keep asking how you can help.
4. When someone asks you for help–if you’re able—say, “Yes!”
5. Show up when the work you care about is being done.
6. Keep showing up. Pretty soon, you’ll be up to your eyeballs in difference-making.
Because not only will you work on the thing you care about, you’re going to meet people who will help you learn more about the stuff you care about. Easy-peasy.
What if I’m afraid?
That’s understandable. Trying something new can be frightening, but there is more involved than that. The work of resistance means learning how to say no to “the powers that be” when they imperil the powerless. Sometimes you have to be brave, especially in a culture that only wants to hear an unconfrontational yes. Not an easy task when saying no in today’s cultural climate can be dangerous. On the other hand, there are people crying for help, begging you to forget your fear just long enough to brave the potential risks and make a difference.
Living life with integrity is a continual exercise in being called to do things nobody ought to be expected to do. Regardless of who, these things need doing; it just so happened that you’re the one who picked up the phone. Cheer up! God has chosen folk (much more downtrodden folk than you and me) to do the right thing. (Yes, that’s me being pastoral.)
What if I’m willing, but I don’t want to be alone?
First of all, you’re not alone. In my experience, the world is filled with people who see resistance to the forces of injustice, not as a political strategy but a moral obligation. Many of them are asking the same questions you’re asking right now. They fear the same things you do. They worry that when the music stops they’ll be the last ones standing with no place to sit down. Once you start down this road, you’re going to meet them, and you’re going to love (and be loved by) them. If the stormtroopers come for you, they’re going to find a sea of people, who have you covered on all sides. Remember, it’s all of us or none of us.
What if I’m too busy?
All right. Listen up, Elon Musk! Set down your plan for developing flying cars for a minute; you can get back to that, shortly. I promise. Here’s me, trying to be honest (with you and myself): You’re not too busy.
Let me get at this another way. Islam is held together, in part, by the observance of the Five Pillars: One of them is called Salat (the prayers). Five times a day at appointed hours, Muslims drop what they’re doing, reorient their bodies in space toward Mecca, ritually cleanse themselves, and offer prayer. Wherever they are in the world, whatever they’re doing, they stop to connect. They structure their lives around this discipline of prayer. A good many from other faiths, on the other hand, almost always structure their prayer around whatever else is going on in their lives at that moment.
What if our commitment to justice required us to reorient our lives to that work? How would that look? What if we changed our focus, so that the rest of our lives unfolded around the structure of the work of justice, instead of the other way around? You’ll be plenty busy…resisting.
What’s Next? Talk with others. Take action.
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