My main responsibility for my first two Sundays back has been to prepare the sermons. This past Sunday, the note from Murray was "brief sermon on the topic of the satisfaction that comes from resisting evil". And I laughed out loud. A brief sermon on evil. During a summer service on one of the few nice weather days we've had here in Calgary, I was to address evil and the satisfaction of resisting it AND I was to do it briefly. So, I tried. Here is a summary of my efforts...
|Nino Jose Heredia/Gulf News|
To stand up to the systems that are embedded in our society is hard. For one thing, we don’t often even realize we are even in the system until something extreme happens and gets our attention. And, when concerns are raised by certain groups of people, it can be very difficult to understand their point of view, because, after all, if you have never had their struggles or been a friend to someone with similar challenges, you just don’t know. You don’t know what it’s like.
When we DO recognize that something is not right, that people are not being treated fairly, that certain laws, certain politics, religious beliefs or movements are racist, fascist, inhumane, cruel—when we DO see what is wrong and we decide enough is enough, it is not an easy thing to say “No. Stop.” It takes courage. A whole LOT of courage. Speaking out makes you visible, makes you vulnerable. It feels scary, your heart rate goes up, you probably start to sweat. It’s nerve-wracking, isn’t it, when you say “stop”? It takes a great deal of strength, but we know our world needs people to do exactly that—stand up, potentially putting themselves in harm’s way so that those of us just humming along in our lives can be given a wake up call to whatever injustice is taking place right in front of us.
When I think of how difficult, how scary it would be to be that person who stands up first, I think of a story Randy Pausch (The Last Lecture) wrote in his memoir about teaching first year computer science students that if they were going to make an impact in the world of computing science, they had to be willing to be the first penguin. You know, that penguin at the front of the line of penguins approaching the edge of the ice floe, getting ready to dive into the ocean to look for food. Into the icy cold water where leopard seals and sea lions just hang out, waiting for them to jump in. When you’re the first penguin, your odds of being eaten by a predator is much higher than the penguins who follow you. Your odds of being singled out and people being angry with you increase significantly when you’re at the front of the line and are willing to jump into the fray first. Standing up to an evil system is like being the first penguin into the water.
We know the risks to standing up can be huge. Jesus knew the cost would be his own life and yet he spent most of his three-year ministry being that person who said ‘stop’. Who said, ‘enough is enough’—no more would injustice be accepted from the Roman Empire. No more would the Jewish leaders who were complicit with the Romans be held up as righteous leaders. No more would hunger and poverty be viewed as the fault of the oppressed and marginalized. We spend a lot of time remembering how courageous and strong Jesus was to lead the way in demanding change in his time. Today I would like to spend a few minutes remembering the people of our recent time who have also been courageous and strong when exposing injustice in our world.
Ghandi & the Salt March - 1930
|Statue commemorating Salt March in New Delhi|
Rosa Parks -Montgomery, Alabama, 1955
Parks refused to give up her seat in the coloured section of a bus in once the white section was filled. As a result, she was arrested. Her protest and act of civil disobedience caused her to lose her job. Her husband quit his job after he was told that he could not speak about his wife or her actions.
When the American athletes, John Carlos and Tommie Smith won the gold and bronze medals in the 200m race, they brazenly chose to raise their hands in the Black Power salute. When one of them forget their black gloves, Norman, the Australian silver medal winner, suggested they share the one pair of gloves they did have-which is why the two men have gloves on different hands. In solidarity with the African-American athletes, Norman also chose to wear an OPHR badge (Olympic Project for Human Rights--an American organization to protest racial segregation). Because Norman chose to visibly support the actions of Carlos and Smith, he was reprimanded by the Australian Olympic Committee upon his return home. His athletic career was compromised because of his actions--as were the careers of Carlos and Smith.
Archbishop Oscar Romero - El Salvador, 1980
Throughout his ministry, Archbishop Romero spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture--particularly in the country of El Salvador. He was assassinated in 1980 one day after giving a sermon in which he called on Salvadoran soldiers, as Christians, to obey God’s higher order and to stop carrying out the government’s repression and violations of basic human rights.
|Jeff Widener, 1989|
What began as students protesting against the Chinese government in the spring of 1989—demanding democracy, freedoms of press and speech--ended with the Chinese government declaring that the protestors were terrorists and counterrevolutionaries. Martial law was declared and on June 3 tanks opened fire and killed or injured thousands of people. The photo of the anonymous 'Tank Man' was taken on June 4th by a western photographer who had to smuggle his film out of the country. The man impeded the progress of the tanks until he was whisked away by someone standing in the crowd nearby.
We need to celebrate these people. These incredible acts of bravery and courage that sometimes we really understand only with the benefit of time and hindsight because we just didn’t know--we just didn’t see, at the time, that it was happening. We need to recognize what the moments when these people and others like them stood up and spoke out because when the time comes for us to say--even in a small, little way--‘enough is enough’ we can draw upon their leadership to encourage us to speak out. That we can do more than whisper under our breath. We speak out loud. We an say, “Stop.” We can wear a pink shirt, a rainbow pin, we can walk in a parade, we stand in silent protest, we can write a letter to newspaper, we can attend a demonstration, we can go to a rally, wearing a cross declaring we are there on behalf of Christianity which implores us to love one another, we can be the first in line, ready to jump in so others can follow.
And that's as brief as I can be on the topic of resisting evil!