I was so excited to show my sister a clip from a film I had just watched, where a white evangelical preacher goes into a protest in Italy and starts to pray for people. As I was describing this scene from the documentary, I quoted the director of it and said, “It’s just so exciting because you never see Christians go into protests”.
I don’t know that I ever shared this with my sister, but I saw their shoulders go down, and with a stern but almost defeated voice they said, “Karla, that’s not true. I go to protests and so did Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”
I lived with someone who was going to protests before it was the “cool” thing to do, an activist who pursued Justice with boldness, even when their immigration status was on the line if they were to get arrested. There they were, a Peacemaker in my home, and I missed it completely.
I have been thinking so much of this story lately even though it happened 5 years ago.
Recently we have seen a group of people from a very conservative white evangelical church claim to “bring worship” to the protests that are happening around the United States. Claiming to bring Jesus to these spaces with cymbals and noise in the midst of the grieving hearts of the Black community.
I know there is much to be said about their theology that comes with grandiose lights and recognition for showing up. I know it’s so easy to believe that what people need in this moment is a worship band showing up to sing songs that claim to be praise but are dripping in white supremacy. It’s so easy to believe that this is the only way revival will come to this country and if you would’ve asked me 5.5 years ago, I would’ve told you this was true.
And yet I think of my sister, who quietly and steadily showed up. They showed up for the undocumented family who needed a ride, the migrant workers who didn’t know their rights and needed protection, they showed up for the teenagers who saw them and believed that they too could pursue their dreams. They showed up for the wounded, for the mom who needed a translator, and they showed up for me when I was terrified to attend a protest because of my immigration status. My sister, though I don’t know they would describe it this way, showed up with prayer and worship dripping from their body.
Don’t get me wrong, my sister also showed up to co-lead and organize major protests in our city and around the US, but they remind me of a walk so holy that we might not get to see it in the flashy lights.
When my sister called me out they opened my eyes and I could see all the saints who stood their ground. The saints who stood their ground as the same people who worshipped God on a Sunday morning celebrated the lynching of Black people in the afternoon. The saints who I might not know by name, but who prayed for their kids as they showed up to protest in Selma. I think of Rosa Parks who taught us how to pray with our bodies when she decided not to get up for a white man.
Who do you think has been leading the way all this time? The ones who quote the Old Testament prophets, the ones who imagine a just world, the ones who lead with prophetic imagination to believe that we will turn our swords into plowshares on this side of eternity.
And I think of the gift of Love – If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. (1 Cor 13: 1-2 NRSV)
What if we imagine a world where we show up to protest not with cymbals, but with love, and what if love looks like affirming that Black Lives Matter? What if love looks like taking a stand against white supremacy? What if praise looks like reminding the state that the police officers who murdered Breonna Taylor haven’t been arrested? What if prayer is recognizing the image of God in the marginalized? What if worship was coming to the table with humble hearts to listen and learn? What if love simply looks like showing up? What if this is us coming back to life?