Wake me up when this racial stuff blows over: five suggestions if you’d rather sit this one out

I had two posts on my Facebook timeline when I got going the other day. The first an article about the disease of being busy (and the practice of having heart to heart connections with others rather than allowing yourself to be too busy in the brain). The other was a post from a friend wondering whether I’d help start a Buy Nothing Group in our neighborhoods. I would but I’m too busy. Just kidding. 

Opening my heart to others even in small things like when asked how I’m doing might make my heart more available for the bigger things going on – like the redistribution group above, worshiping with my peeps on a Sunday, or when my middle schooler is wondering which Harry Potter character was snogging with Ginny Weasley. My own busyness could push me towards an exhaustion where I’d prefer to turn my brain off until things seem to settle down, or I become inactive enough that my friends “get it” – they should stop bothering me.

I feel for people – some of them my friends or relatives – who are feeling like during this cold rainy day on the eve of MLK Day that it would be more pleasant if we could hibernate until the racial stuff gets back to normal after this holiday and probably Black History Month. I have compassion for folks who aren’t feeling the #BlackLivesMatter stuff, the MLK D.A.R.E. march, or that we totally re-shaped our sunday meeting this week and next to make some serious space to connect with God and act for redemption. If you are feeling some ambivalence or avoidance and you’re a person of color it must be even worse. Many people in the US these past months are experience a profound confluence of efforts – and what I think is direction from the Holy Spirit around race & class justice & injustice.

Here are five suggestions if you might feel like you’d rather sit this one out.

Don’t hide away. You matter too much. Talk through your ambivalence with your cell or friends. At worst you’ll face your likely fear of being judged, but you might actually get understood or at best directed by God for your next steps.

Don’t wait to “feel it” before you try it. Sometimes our feelings need to catch up with our actions a la working out, reading non-fiction, praying, cleaning the bathroom, etc.

Let your sense of powerlessness face Real Power. Bringing up our sense of “this stuff is too big for me,” or “I’m not sure I really think MLK was that good,” or “what will marching actually do?” to God is a healthy spiritual activity. I suggest walking down closed off Broad St and Market st with possibly 10,000 others (many of whom are wondering the same things as you) will likely erode your sense of powerlessness.

Bring someone with you who understands your heart. Why come alone to the Circle of Hope meetings tonight or next week when they could be strange? I don’t think our normal is very normal, but you could risk something by talking about Jesus or even race with someone who might not be on your wavelength. Why not explain yourself and see if they want to try it out with you? You might find some comfort and strength for the challenges of the next week.

You might prefer to be like the sleeping bear right now, but God might awaken a fierce mother bear inside you. That would be so interesting, someone reading this is having a visceral reaction to the possibility. Why not put our attitudes on the line and let God deal with us? All we have to lose is the status quo. I guess the IWW, Marx, Assata Shakur, or a bunch of other fun people would also say all we’ve got to lose is our chains.

I have a feeling about this week. It’s not any other MLK Day I’ve experienced. Something profound is brewing. I want to be part of something great. Will you come and give it a try with me?

Muddy Waters – I have been listening to him a lot lately and love this pic. Cool, right??

Tonight: Sacred Jazz musician Warren Cooper will leading most of our meetings at 5PM & 7PM getting us to consider “The Status of the Dream…Visioning Justice Peace.” We still have 2 open slots for our 24hr prayer vigil starting at midnight. Tomorrow we march (end to stop & frisk, $15 minimum wage in Phila, and a fully funded democratically run school district) and Imagine (looking at our final 2015 Circle of Hope Map). Next Sunday Warren returns to bookend the week with “Selections, Reflections, and Ejections.” For now let’s turn to Jesus and let the blues, jazz, and gospel guide our souls to that old Dream of Shalom. 

Let’s un-domesticate the MLK holiday

It wasn’t until the year 2000 that all 50 states officially observed MLK Day. Ronny Reagan went down as the President signing the idea into a law in 1983 (first observed in 1986) after half a million people marched on Washington – even though the first draft of the bill was submitted to Congress four days after his assassination in 1968. I think in some ways it’s still a bit ironic for the US (of all countries) to celebrate such a radical who might be best remembered for galvanizing and leading a movement fighting systemic injustice waged by the same, largely unmoved government. The cunning empire, of course, loves to embrace a sentimental and sanitized version – and why not throw an American flag in there, too? 

For many of you reading this, the years I already mentioned may seem like ancient history – or at least during a different world. It wasn’t for another dozen years after his speech at Riverside Church in NYC 365 days before his murder that King delivered the famous “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” speech (text and audio here). Among other profundities, he declared “Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin [applause], we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

I didn’t know Martin and know very few people who ever even met him. For such a public figure, for a martyr, for a legacy – I think we need to keep learning and trying to finish the work King began. This year we should be celebrating his 86th birthday. Instead we are fighting to supply meaning to a holiday that the state would like us to believe is a marker of progress. I am psyched that a bunch of Circle of Hope leaders – particularly Sara and the rest of the Compassion Core –  are trying to make something special of it this year. Here are three ways to get into it.

Prayer

Don’t pretend for a second that the man and the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s were not soaking in prayer or centered on Jesus. We already have ten people signed up to keep it going for 24hrs on the holiday. Want to add to the growing list? Sign up here.

Solidarity

It’s easier to remember quotes from speeches than it is to march. There are already almost 1,000 FB users RSVP’d to get out to the MLK Day of Action, Resistance, and Empowerment March (press release for non FB users here). I think ending “stop & frisk,” a $15 minimum wage, and fully funded and democratically run school systems are all good enough reasons to shut down Broad St then Market streets for a few hours. Don’t you?

Imagining

We schedule 60min per month for the Leadership Team and others interested to stoke our collective fire at the Imaginarium. This time we’re finalizing Circle of Hope’s 2015 Map. Action, Resistance, and Empowerment must extend beyond one day. I think being part of the church is a great way to keep it going.