His friends were livid. His wife and infant were in the house when they bombed it. If his family had been in the living room, they could have been killed. Clearly something had to be done.
The atmosphere was near riot when the police chief pulled him aside and asked him to do whatever he could to stop the madness. Dr. King stepped out onto his porch and gave this to the crowd:
“Don’t do anything panicky.
Don’t get your weapons. He who lives by the sword shall perish by the sword. We must love our white brothers, no matter what they do to us. We must make them know that we love them. Jesus still cries out in words that echo across the centuries: ‘Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that despitefully use you.’
We must meet hate with love. If I am stopped, our work will not stop. For what we are doing is right. What we are doing is just. And God is with us.”
I read these words late one night, shaking. Oh my God, I thought. This is what we need.
I became a feminist in 2009. As a sociology major, the gender course was required. But, I told myself, I didn’t have to like it. I’m not a feminist. I could never be that confrontational.
I ended up with a C in the course. And honestly, my professor was doing me a favor. But I think he understood that in spite of the turmoil that was my life at that time (a new marriage, a young daughter, my husband freshly unemployed, and the brilliant decision to take on 18 credit hours that semester), I had genuinely learned from him. I learned that we’ve developed whole cultures and civilizations that oppress half of our population. At the time, I was deeply embedded into the modern abolitionist movement. In that class, I learned some of the systemic reasons that slavery exists.
Frankly, it kind of messed with my head. Around the same time, we’d starting going to a new church. They taught an introductory class called “The Journey”. Many of my liberal and progressive Christian views have their roots in that class. We actually took it three times. They joked we could teach it. But both Jermaine and I were completely enchanted that this way of following Jesus existed. Toward the end of the second class, we were chatting with the people around our table, and it suddenly occurred to me that the pastor, the man teaching the session, probably didn’t believe that men were the spiritual heads of all the households. I don’t know what part of the class made me think that, but I had to ask.
“No,” He smiled, “I think we’re equal.”
I had never met a Christian who held egalitarian views. It rocked me. It was becoming clear that the world as I knew it no longer existed. But the problem with systemic oppression is that knowing is only half the battle. Now what was I supposed to do?
In 2012, I spoke at a conference on how to teach our kids creative nonviolence, how to deal with bullies and oppressive systems. For the past several years, I’ve been increasingly drawn to what Walter Wink calls “The Third Way”—an alternative to our natural fight or flight tendencies. Dr. King was a shining example. Mother Teresa, too. And, of course, the great Nelson Mandela. According to Wink, Jesus was the originator of this radical creativity. If you read the stories of the ways he handled confrontation in the Bible with an eye for mischief, you can see his humor and his humanity. Jesus offered us a compelling way to deal with oppression and evil.
At its core, it’s love. It’s loving people so much that it brings them to a place where they cannot help but see the oppressive system in which they are participants. For years, we’ve dealt with sexism and patriarchy by hiding, and by taking it when we could no longer hide. The history of feminism has shown us a new way. We don’t have to lie there, the Women’s Liberation Movement told us, we can fight.
And we did! And we are! And it is good! Our militant ways have created a ruckus. Those who seek to keep us down know, at least, that we’re going to fight back.
But, I would argue that there is another way we haven’t fully exhausted.
Feminists can be serious lot. We are pissed off. People have hurt our mothers and our daughters for far too long. We’re tired. We don’t understand why we got the short end of the stick. It doesn’t seem fair.
It’s not fair. This is not the way the God of the Universe created the world to be. We know it. We can feel it in our bones. And we see how it affects our brothers, too. When being unemployed can be tied to your worth as a person. How not wanting to play with guns can earn you the nickname “Vagina”.
But ranting rarely alters opinions.
I believe in real change. I believe we can help create a world where women are not judged by the hem of their skirts. I believe that whatever our religion, we can meet sexism with love. We can use Jesus’ principles to create a new kind of ruckus. I believe, in doing so, we can change hearts and minds. We can change cultures and attitudes. We can get conservative ladies and badass boys on our side.
We can love our way to a new normal. And we can do it, not out of anger or fear or disgust, but with love and humor and massive amounts of creativity.
I’m not saying it’s the only way. But let’s call it a third option.
This is the second post in a series called 31(ish) Days of Meaningful. If it moved you, please share the love on Facebook or Twitter. And, if you want to catch the rest of the posts in this series, sign up here and get them straight to your inbox.