Waking up in the middle of the night, showering and dressing quietly so as not to wake the rest of my household, I tiptoed onto the porch to wait in the unseasonably warm damp until I saw Sarah’s lights winking up the road as her car navigated the slick dips of the bricked street. On the back seat were bags of supplies. “Enough to feed a bus,” Sarah joked, as I looked over the containers of Margaret’s baked gifts. And so began our adventure to participate in the Women’s March on Washington.
On the bus ride to the march I thought about why I wanted to march. Like each of you, I am a multi-faceted person and so there are multiple reasons that led me to Washington, D.C. each tied into different aspects of my identity.
I am an immigrant, a white South African. As a permanent resident I cannot vote so my motivation for signing up for the march was not about who won or lost the election, rather it centered on the world I believe we should be shaping for one another to live in.
While I can’t participate in elections, I am not immune to the rhetoric surrounding them. During the election cycle last year, I was alarmed by the use of language denigrating women, disparaging groups of people based on their race, religion, appearance, ability, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression (and the list goes on). I wanted to stand up and be counted among those who were saying they wanted to shape their world differently.
I think it is important that as an ordained minister I actively engage in the public square. It warmed my heart too to learn about people in my community who couldn’t attend the march and who felt I would be representing them.
Advocating, rallying, marching, petitioning – showing up and speaking out – is a vital part of my understanding of what it means to live into the example of Christ both as a disciples and as a faith leader. Furthermore, I believe it is crucial that the values of the progressive church are represented to counter what is often an unbalanced representation of the Christian church in North America in our public discourse. An aspect of my role as a clergy-person that I didn’t anticipate but was pleased to learn were the people in my community who couldn’t march but felt that they were represented by me.
Jesus stood up from within a group of oppressed and marginalized people to live and teach a set of values that countered the subjugation of the Roman authorities. As a feminist and as a Christian, I see the need for us to recognize the intersections of power and profit with race, class, gender, and all the other monikers of identity that can be used to divide and corral us. We need to educate and empower ourselves and one another to stand for the values of love, diversity, and equality seeking justice for the last, the least, and the left out.
I marched because I feel like I’ve seen the other side. As a white South African I grew up in a time when suspicion, prejudice, and hatred had been codified into law. In apartheid-era South Africa profit and special business interests were silently woven into the fabric of a society that benefited the elite at the expense of all those who were lower on the socially-constructed class system. While some groups are ravaged by this system, I saw firsthand how this evil eats at the soul of a whole nation. When I first read Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. statement that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” I heard it as the warning to protect against the complicit silence we can keep when it’s “not us.”
I am vigilant and I am concerned and so I felt the need to take action, to march in Washington, D.C. I see this as a beginning for my learning what my public witness and ministry means in this day and age. I will keep praying, I will keep speaking out and standing up. I hope you will join me.