In these uncertain times, many of us feel powerless. We are living in a pandemic that is not going away any time soon.
The death toll in our country has already doubled that of the Vietnam War with more people dying every day. Protests against police brutality on communities of color continue in all 50 states and around the world. The problems are so big that our minds struggle to comprehend them.
What can I possibly do to make any real difference? Last week, a member of our church who is 9-years-old decided to use her voice as best she could. She chalked three simple and powerful words on the street in front of her house, “Black Lives Matter.” Mira said, “I think that black and white people, they should be treated the same and I wanted to show my support and how much I really care about black people.”
You would think such a simple message would be accepted by everyone without hesitation, but that’s not the world we live in. A neighbor called the police on her, alleging vandalism. Though deeply frightened, the police were called on her, thankfully, they told Mira they agreed with her message and suggested she write it even bigger next time. We all have a voice and no matter how big the problems of our world may be, we can do our part to speak up for justice and equality.
Christians are those who say, “Jesus is Lord.” We seek to follow a savior who lived his life in solidarity with the harassed and oppressed. Jesus did not passively accept the world as it was, but instead spoke of a kingdom where the poor find good news, the captives are released and the oppressed go free. By resisting the power structures around him, Jesus, a man of color, was executed by the state. You would think that Christians, of all people, would understand that those who are on the underside of worldly power have a vantage point much like Jesus did.
From a Nazi prison cell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “It remains an experience of incomparable value that we have for once learned to see the great events of world history from below, from the perspective of the outcasts, the suspects, the maltreated, the powerless, the oppressed and reviled, in short from the perspective of suffering.”
We are living in a moment of great suffering, which means we have the opportunity to see things from below. If Mira is brave enough to use her voice to amplify a message of equality, what is holding you back? None of us are truly powerless. We all have a voice, and we will all be remembered for how we used our voices in this moment of history.
There should be no controversy over saying the words, “Black Lives Matter.” The fact that there is shows we have a long way to go when it comes to racial justice and equality. Solidarity with the oppressed is not optional for Christians. It’s part of the job description. Thanks, Mira, for showing us the way.
The Rev. Joel A. Esala, Circleville Presbyterian Church and a member of the Pickaway County Ministerial Association.