Some of you may remember a sermon I preached last year about "Getting our practice" in standing up for our neighbors. I let you know at that time that I was participating in the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.
The PPC gathered for education, training, hearing from the poor of New Hampshire and sharing from each of our experiences. The target of our work was the "Interlocking Evils", as MLK called them, of Systemic Poverty, Systemic Racism, the War Economy, and Ecological Devastation. 43% percent of Americans are poor or low income, and suffer disproportionately from each of these evils. That's a lot to recon with, which is why we brought together people from all sorts of groups, to form a broad coalition. For six weeks, we marched in 36 states and in Washington D.C. Our tactics included rallies with prayer, song, and storytelling. We marched and held teach-ins and symbolic actions. Sometimes, for those trained and ready, this included civil disobedience.
I was arrested on the day when we focused on the War Economy, as we held a teach-in in the State House Hall of Flags. When asked to leave at closing time, eight of us, who had prepared ahead of time, persisted. Two weeks ago we had our final day in court and were found guilty of trespass. We each made a statement to the court about why we had chosen to risk this outcome. My own statement is linked above if you click on the video. The statements of my colleagues in disobedience can be found alongside my own on Facebook.
I want you to know that it was good practice.
Our voice of solidarity was heard by the poor. Our voice of challenge and encouragement was heard by those who have the power to alleviate poverty. I learned about the tactics of civil disobedience as part of social justice work. I learned about the court system. I gained a sharpened sense of when and how I might take these actions again. I learned about myself, and how to name and hold my center in a moment when what was "allowed" and what was "right" weren't fully aligned.
I wouldn't do things the same way again, but when would I ever! The problem is a familiar one in life; that until you try something, you don't know how you should have done it to begin with. So "Go", Jesus says. And if you go towards your poor neighbor, your marginalized neighbor, your bullied neighbor, your sick neighbor, you will be headed in the right direction as you stumble your way into understanding.
It was good to practice alongside those of you who marched also, and to practice with those of you who asked, "why?" or said, "I wish you wouldn't." I pray that all this will contribute to God's glorification on earth, and to the lifting up of those among us who suffer, often at the hands of systems that we ourselves have created and perpetuated. Lord have mercy. Lord open our eyes. Lord guide our feet.