You Still Have the Power to Change the World. Use It

Commentary
By Joe Kay 10-10-2018

Feeling discouraged today? Outraged? Some of both? Did the voices of powerful white men mocking and marginalizing a courageous woman make you sick and despondent?

Do you feel powerless to challenge and change the deeply entrenched privilege that was on display last week?

Don’t give into that feeling. You have the power to change the world. Look at how it’s changing already.

One of the truest lessons of our greatest stories — including the Gospels — is that just because your power doesn’t work this time, that doesn’t mean it’s not still there and capable of changing the world the next time.

When I visited the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis earlier this year, I was deeply touched and inspired by how one woman’s brave decision changed everything. Many times, Rosa Parks had obeyed the white man’s directive to move to the back of the bus, feeling powerless against the system of white supremacy. But one time — this time — she said no.

Shaking inside with fear, she stood up to the powerful white man driving the bus. He won that round — she was arrested. Her powerful “no” didn’t change the world that day, or the next. But over days and years, it challenged her society and changed it in ways she never imagined.

One woman, backed up by the strength of a movement, has made a difference, and she will again. That’s not just our history, but our faith.

One account of the Jesus story begins with a fearful young woman deciding all by herself whether the story would even happen. She lived in a male-dominated society. Men made all the important decisions. Women were treated more as property than persons in significant ways — just like today.

But the angel chooses not to visit a man, but this young woman whose courageous decision will embody God’s love and justice more fully in the world. The powerful will be knocked from their thrones, the lowly will be exalted, and the hungry will be fed.

Let it be, she says.

Let us do the same.

Along the road, remember that you are never alone. Many people are committed to the proposition that we are all God’s children and must be treated that way in all respects.

And never forget that God is working with us too, which means that we shall overcome ... some day.

God is always on the side of the oppressed, never on the side of the oppressor.

God himself stands with every man who tells their story of church abuse, never with the church leaders who mock and dismiss them.

God herself stands with every woman who tells her story of abuse by powerful men, never with the abusers who mock and dismiss them.

God supports those trying to get at the truth, never with those who are trying to ignore the truth to keep their system of privilege in place.

Look at how far God has brought us already.

Rosa Parks never imagined we’d have a black president a half-century after she said “no” to the white driver on the bus.

Church leaders never expected that those whom they’d abused in private would march into their temples and overturn the tables of power, preventing them from sweeping their stories under the sanctuary carpet yet again.

Powerful men from Hollywood to Washington never thought they would have to pay any price whatsoever for their abusive behavior.

The times, they are changing. God is making all things new. The moral arc is bending, slowly and inexorably.

The angry voices and the disgusting mockery by men last week were an unmistakable sign that they sense their white male privilege is waning. Their world is changing — they recognize it, they feel threatened by it.

And there’s no going back. They can slow the change, but they can’t stop it.

So, push on. Don’t despair. Don’t let one day’s events distract from the bigger picture. Change never happens quickly or easily.

You have your power to change the world. Keep using it. It's working already.

Joe Kay

Joe Kay is the associate minister at Nexus United Church of Christ, Butler County, Ohio. He also writes a weekly blog at https://joekay617.wordpress.com. His email address is listed on the blog, in case you care to contact him directly.

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