An awakening has been happening across our society. People increasingly recognize how long-standing, systemic issues have prevented many from flourishing. But often Christians are not sure how best to engage. Does it help to march and hold signs? What can we do to contribute and not further complicate things?
Read an excerpt from Join the Resistance, in which faith-rooted justice advocate and activist Michelle Ferrigno Warren equips Christians to join Christ’s restorative work in the world. The excerpt has been adapted from Chapter 2, “Brave Steps.”
Over the years, in countless conversations, is the question, But what do I do? People who are waking up and beginning to care about injustice, but are outside of directly experiencing it, want to know. When the awareness of racial inequity and injustice begins to unfold, and the unsettling truth and reality of what is going on sets in, we ask: How can we fix this so it doesn’t have to be this way? This is a natural question that is good and problematic in several ways. It’s good to see the pain and suffering of others—otherwise we wouldn’t know there was a problem. As we walk into new levels of awareness and see the need for change, it is good we now desire to see and move toward doing something to make change. This is a good thing.
It’s also problematic. The work of resistance does not begin when we see and step into it. The movement is bigger, deeper, and wider than this moment and our awareness of it. Whether we know them or not, others have been aware for a long time, share our desire for change, and are already working in big and small ways to make change. We need to learn the personal and collective history of those who have carried the water before us, then join them. We learn from their conviction, their courage, and their work. After the marching is over, we come back to their tables for the long, ongoing work of change.
We stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us. It is our job to ensure that we steward our season well and pass the torch to the next generation, leaving a good investment effort for others. This is the ongoing work of service—not to make a name for ourselves, not to build a social brand or identity on our knowledge, engagement, or greatness, but truly to serve alongside a present-day, faithful cloud of witnesses.
There’s a lot more going on than what is initially seen, and it takes time to understand the problems. While we listen and center those voices closest to the pain, we serve and choose to become students. We live with an understanding that we must keep our eyes open to injustice’s deep reality and efforts to alleviate it. The longer we stay, not trying to insert our solutions, the more we grow to understand solidarity alongside suffering.
Servants of the resistance know that one big solution, one fix to such a layered problem—aside from the return and implementation of a new kingdom—does not exist. We do what we can, and we don’t stop, as though eradicating injustice was on a checklist or timeline. We come to understand that the problems are as layered as their solutions, some with unintended consequences yet to be seen. We come to understand that our questions of what we should “do” begin with service and the brave choice to walk humbly.
Humility allows the enormity of injustice to move through our entire selves. It allows grief and lament to grip us. It provides us with a lens to recognize that all we think we are (good people) and all we think we have (good societies and systems) are often a result of exclusive efforts and greed. We can choose humility, gratitude, and conviction to change the status quo instead of becoming defensive, protective, and territorial. Brave steps forward mean we leave the comfort and privilege of the other side. It means we see the truth of God’s heart, the ways in which humanity has gone astray, how we have gone astray. Brave steps are humble steps that intentionally choose to stay alongside those in need of change.
It takes bravery to move beyond tears of guilt into true tears of lament and shared solidarity, to decenter what we want to do and humbly join others in the work they are doing. Serving the movement means we give humbly and generously of our time, money, and resources with gratitude that we can help carry the water a little farther up the hill. Doing the work of resistance is a long work; it’s hard to consistently submit to its length. Not only that but it’s hard to submit to being in a serving posture that long without recognition. Here’s the raw truth, you never stop serving the movement and that takes real courage.