Watching the huge crowds of people marching worldwide Saturday was a wonderful reminder: This is how change begins. The question is how we keep it going.
We have everything that’s required to do this work.
The first requirement is people willing to be prophetic. In this case, those are the courageous and spirit-filled young people who are shaking us out of our denial and insisting that what’s happening in our society is wrong and unacceptable and must change now.
A line in the gospels reminds us that, “I send you prophets …” In the many young faces and voices, we see that promise fulfilled. They’re calling us to repent and be transformed.
We’re also reminded that prophets gather a following, but they’re not popular among most people in their societies. They get treated badly by those determined to maintain the status quo.
And when the movement begins to gain traction and it appears that change is occurring — it’s going to be more than just a march or a speech — those invested in the status quo will fight back ruthlessly to protect their privilege and profits.
But finally, things reach a tipping point. Significant change occurs. Many people say it’s enough change and we should move on. Others realize we’ve still got a long way to go.
And society is at a crossroads again. New prophets emerge to lead the next part of the movement.
That’s how the process works. We’ve seen it play out many times and in many ways during the last half-century alone. What’s required now is persistence and faithfulness.
The moral arc is long, but it keeps bending so long as we keep tugging.
We saw this a half-century ago when a young woman in Montgomery decided she wasn’t moving to the back of the bus anymore – enough was enough. Her courageous determination fueled the civil rights movement, a long struggle that has made much progress but remains a work in progress.
We’ve seen generations of courageous women say it’s long past time that they’re treated as equals in society — more than a servant or sex object. We’ve come a long way, with a long way yet to go. The #MeToo movement is just beginning to transform the world in ways no one thought possible even a few months ago.
In a comparatively short time, there’s been great progress in making sure gay people and transgender people are treated as equals.
We’ve changed how we think about physically and mentally challenged people — we’ve begun to recognize them as fully human.
People are working to help the needy, the immigrant, and the refugee receive the respect and the care they deserve as children of God, even as many others argue they’re dangerous and lazy and should be ignored.
We’ve seen a courageous group of mothers who lost their children to drunk drivers change an entire culture’s outlook and save many lives despite great opposition from those who wanted things to remain the same.
Movements take time. They have an ebb and flow — two steps forward, one step back. People lose interest or get distracted. Others get tired of struggling. Some say we’ve made a little progress, so let’s stop here.
There can be no stopping. When it feels like we’ve hit a wall, we need to remember it’s only temporary so long as we maintain our resolve to keep going.
There will be times when it feels like all the hard work and all the progress have been crushed and buried in a cold, dark tomb covered by a giant rock that no one can roll away. It’s all over.
Let this week remind us that those who are co-workers with God never get buried for long. Someone always rolls the rock away. Love always rises and re-emerges, as strong and as determined as ever.
Let us rise with it, too.