When did we all become activists?
Was it when social media made it accessible for us to change our profile pictures?
When we realized we each had a platform to make our voices heard?
Was it when pictures of refugee babies drowned ashore shook our moral core?
When our hearts would break when our fingers scrolled?
Was it when we could hear the stories and could no longer ignore that diversity strengthens us, differences refine us, nuances make us whole?
I never set out to be an activist but I marched twice in the last month. When millions poured into the streets for the women’s march the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, a breastfeeding mother, Jen Stewart Fueston, penned these beautiful words: To the Women Marching, from a Mother at Home:
“In the quiet, we hear your chanting.
Remember us with you, we are the rear-guard.
I am carrying him like a banner, feel him
cutting his teeth on my curdled milk.
I am sharpening him like an arrow.”
When did a nursing mother become as fierce as protesters tearing up the streets?
I was raised to be a good Christian girl, which meant I was to be small, quiet, and tend to the needs of other before my own. It’s antithesis to the image of a protester, one who shouts to have their agenda heard, who inserts themselves into the public and demands attention and the spotlight.
But what happens when you are trained to be small and quiet and tend to the needs of others is you can actually hear their voices. And when your heart collects enough stories of suffering, it bursts open with groans and cries for an end to our neighbor’s pain. Turns out when your heart breaks apart at the seams, it cannot be patched up and the lament, sorrow, and also joy pours forth endlessly.
First, you tell one close confidante. You share your own story and you tell her this is why you care. You feel relieved it no longer suffocates you — giving your story airtime means giving yourself air. You feel a tiny bit more brave and you dare to tell a few others. You put your passion out there, knowing others may not care and it may crush you. When you survive the rejections you grow even more bold. You broadcast it now because you know it’s more important to be true than to be liked. The criticism becomes fierce because the world does not like it when you aren’t small and submissive, but now the fire is lit inside of you and the taste of authenticity is so sweet and one day you find yourself marching on the streets, shouting slogans with abandon.
Perhaps it is because the Trump administration is doling out executive orders that dehumanizes others, and the situation is so severe it demands action. This is true. But it is also true that those of us who were raised to be submissive Christians have listened from our quiet corners of stories from vulnerable children, oppressed people groups, foreigners in need of emergent aid, and we are saying that the Christ-like love preached at us requires that we now rise up and advocate for our fellow neighbors made in the image of God.
We may have been taught how to lead prayer circles and bake cookies for outreach, but now we will learn how to organize and resist.
We may have memorized the Apostle Paul’s exhortations but now we will chant the prophet’s repeated calls to justice.
We spent years in devotions shaping our character into holiness and now that Christian charity calls us into action.
The truth is there is no divide between a private faith and politics. The same love that drives a sleep-deprived mother to stay up nursing her child also protests for other babies to have a chance of survival in life. Advocating for public policy is not any more or less important than preparing a healthy meal for the family. Personal piety and social action intertwine to weave a full tapestry of faith.
But I also recognize my inadequacies. I am a writer, a mother; my training has been in theology, not activism. And although I believe injustices compel all of us to contribute in our unique gifting, we would be wise to defer to those who have had years of experience resisting. Some of the outrage we are feeling in light of recent news has been a constant way of life for people who have had a history of marginalization and erasure. Now is the time to follow their lead as people who have already been laboring tirelessly for years.
I don’t know how it happened. I can’t tell you the moment when my faith compelled me to get up off my knees and move out into the streets. I don’t know how it came to be that my friends who are teachers, pastors, lawyers, humanitarians, businesspersons, mothers, fathers, students, and children are now studying policies, poring over executive orders, and using their voices to inform, plea, and resist.
But what I do know is that we are only getting started.