I have heard many people lately say that they are sick of the politics of our society. They can’t stand to see or read any more of it. They have started tuning out, turning off the news or refusing to read about the latest developments. They sadly shake their heads when there is yet another affront on dignity, morality, civility, respect, and truth. They lament the mess and misplaced priorities of our leaders. And then they go on with their daily business.
This in itself demonstrates a harsh truth. If you can afford to just tune it out, then it means you are in such a privileged class that you don’t believe you will personally be affected by it. I struggle mightily with this, because I do realize my privilege. I am white. I am a Catholic Christian. I am heterosexual. I make a good living with meaningful work. I own a nice house in the suburbs. I encounter some obstacles and uncomfortable situations because I am a woman. But clearly, I’ve got it easy in so many ways.
Yet this life is not all about me. As Jesus constantly reminds us, we are all connected. We are all children of the one God. We are called to live out the Gospel in this world. So I have a responsibility to defend those who don’t have my privileged status – those who are Jewish, Muslim, immigrant, black, Latino, poor, refugee, marginalized, or oppressed. I want to shake sense into those who believe that this country ought to be “white again” or that the primary legislative purpose of a political party is to tear down everything ever done by the other party. I want to stand up for those who need healthcare, food, decent housing, education, and work assistance. I want budgets that cut back on military spending and that quit enriching only those who are already wealthy. I want a government with checks and balances that upholds the dignity of all people and of the earth we call home.
This does not mean choosing a particular political party or politician. It is a choice for the principles we are called to uphold as followers of Jesus Christ. Pope Francis proclaims all of these as part of discipleship, and in our scriptures today God warns us that we must speak out when we see injustice, oppression, and evil. In fact, God tells us that if we do not speak, we ourselves will die for the evil we failed to call out. That’s pretty serious stuff!
In practice, it won’t take a lightning strike from God to inflict that “death” upon us. The more we ignore and stay silent now, as these evils emerge from the shadows and while we still have hope of countering them, the more they will indeed take over and eventually affect us, too. Our nation is on the verge of changing our very identity, our core values and beliefs, and the basis of our system of government. As those things erode, they are very hard to get back, and we will not emerge unscathed.
Where do I start? How can my voice be heard? Dear God, it is so much easier just to turn off the news and live in my own little world!
It helps me to know that Jesus was never concerned about questions of what effect one person could possibly have. He just started doing things, speaking out, witnessing, and teaching people. He spoke the truth to powerful figures even when they didn’t want to hear it. He didn’t stop in the face of threats or trials. He stayed true to the message of God’s love and compassion, of the inherent worth of every person, of the common good, of healing and inclusion, until the only way they could silence him was to kill him. Of course, not even that worked! God does not give up. God is not defeated by death. We must not be either.
Therefore, in order to follow Christ, I must start somewhere. Personally, I choose to begin on two fronts. I will speak out, march in protest, write and call my representatives, and do everything I can to fight against the white supremacist, neo-Nazi movement. People fought and died to be free of those ideologies. Millions died because of them. I will be peaceful, but I cannot, will not, stay silent.
My second cause is healthcare. I know and work with too many people who will be without health insurance, necessary medications, or services if the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is repealed. I see too many disparities between the treatments afforded to the rich vs. that given to the poor. Yes, the law is flawed, but so much of it is still good. If our political parties worked together to improve it and fix the flaws, it could be an amazing system that upholds all of us and protects the most vulnerable. I pray that we can collaborate to create a just law and claim this as a joint victory, coming together as God would have us do, for the good of all.
You may start elsewhere, whether because your primary concerns vary from mine, or because you outright disagree with me. That’s fine. As Jesus says, you owe nothing to anyone except to love, and there are, unfortunately, plenty of issues to go around. Just choose something and start making your voice heard in love and compassion. God is holding all of us to account for our actions and especially for our inactions. We will be judged for our failures to work against the evil that exists in this world.
Will you speak out? If you don’t, who will? God is calling. Let’s answer.
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.corgenius.com/.