During my years in Washington, D.C., I participated in several rallies and marches. One occurred at Ward Circle, just outside the American University campus where I was completing my final semester as a sociology undergrad. For a class activity, I stood with Professor Barbara Kaplan, waving a sign which read: “Peace Now.”
Times were calm. People drove past, waving and honking sporadically. No one much cared about some college students protesting in the nation’s capital. When my picture appeared in the school newspaper, I felt honored. Professor Kaplan patted me on the back and winked: “Well done. Now you’ll have a file at FBI headquarters.” I wasn’t concerned.
A few years later, I marched with a group of women along Constitution Avenue to a rally at the Supreme Court. We waved signs supporting women’s rights, especially for equal pay and affordable health care. On the Supreme Court steps, as I awaited the keynote address, another woman approached and started talking. At first, I thought we shared similar views. Then she barraged my friends and me with statistics about abortion, birth control and infant mortality. I attempted to shout her down, but to no avail. Eventually, I became hoarse, muttered something like, “Whatever,” and moved away. But not before I heard her say, “They’ll get you for this. You’re going to hell.”
For a while, I felt nervous, not about hell, but about what my employer might think. Or other friends and co-workers who didn’t agree with me. Then, I remembered: I’m an American with freedom of speech, who can stand on the Supreme Court steps and declare my beliefs.
Nowhere, on those occasions or any others, do I remember any violence. The usual Washington, D.C. security systems functioned properly, and we marched peacefully, albeit loudly. No one fought or feared the “other side.”
I reflect upon those times, as the liberties our founding fathers and mothers, immigrant ancestors, and spiritual wayshowers established for our well-being are threatened. I think about how each generation is called to stand up, to step out in faith — yet again — to transform our world so it becomes a better place for generations to come.
I also notice tremendous anxiety, dread and tension. I pastor to people who fear for their safety, security and livelihoods, including some young adults concerned about what might happen to them if they’re arrested. Others who campaigned for various causes still look forlorn. They hang their heads with downcast eyes. All express their concerns about the future and strive to realign with their faith.
Everywhere, it seems, we seek an encouraging word. So, to all who march, wherever they may be, I offer this ancient assurance, passed from generation to generation:
“Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you [and within you] wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
Lift your gaze, raise your heads high, and march on, Blessed Readers.
© 2017 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks. All rights reserved.