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This morning, as I pondered what to write on the celebration of Martin Luther King Day, the stark contrast between the Poor People’s Campaign and last year’s Women’s March came to mind. I envisioned both the mule-drawn wagons and the women wearing vagina-style attire and shook my head.
I have no idea what the women hoped to achieve nor what they protested. The vagina hats are all that stuck in my memory. Did they accomplish what they hoped? I doubt it.
The protest I will never forget
I will never forget Reverend King’s march, however, nor the civil rights for which he protested. Did he accomplish what he hoped? Yes. His protests didn’t change every heart, every circumstance, but they changed a lot.
We live in a far different society, in many ways, than the one in which I grew up. Everyone can enter by the same door, sit in the same waiting room, eat in the same restaurants now. If we work hard, we can all go to college, get a good job, make a nice living for our families. We can attend the same church and worship together, side by side.
It was not so when I was a child, for the color of your skin determined your opportunities.
Martin Luther King: One man took a stand
One man saw injustice, prayed it through, then took a stand. He endured threats and persecution, yet he persevered. Photos, taken on the day before he was killed, show a man who knew what his actions were about to cost him. He knew he would soon be killed, yet he pressed on because he had taken a stand for right and he would not back down.
It’s one thing to talk a good line. It’s another thing entirely to live what you say you believe. Where are the people today who take the kind of stand Martin Luther King took? Where are the people today who live what they preach in the public arena?
I wrote the words you’re about to read last January, but they’re as pertinent today as they were then. I’m repeating them because I can’t write it any better.
A picture is worth a thousand words.
I sat here for an hour, trying to find a topic for today’s blog. The photo of one of the women’s march participants shrouded in a vagina costume, as well as the ones of the women in various stages of undress with slogans painted across their bare chests, echo in my mind.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, what do those pictures say? You can draw your own conclusions.
The Poor People’s Campaign
There are all kinds of protests, but the one that I’ve never forgotten is the Poor People’s Campaign, organized by Martin Luther King. I didn’t understand what it meant at the time, but I knew it was important.
It was the spring of 1968, not long after Rev. King was assassinated. Protestors left Marks, Mississippi in mule-drawn wagons, headed toward Washington D.C. My mama carried my sister and me to see the protestors. We parked on the side of the road and stood beside the car. Silent. Watching.
The mules, their heads down, pulled the wagons. Protestors sat quietly on the plank seat as the wheels turned. It was slow progress, but it was real.
There was no doubt in my mind that something powerful was happening. I didn’t understand it, but I knew, at the core of my being, that life would change. And it did.
They counted the cost and took a stand.
That one protest will always be the epitome of effective protest for me. Quiet. Peaceful. Intense. Powerful.
Not everything was rosy and beautiful when they reached Washington, but that moment in time, as I watched at the side of the road, stands out in my mind. It’s a sharp contrast to protests like the recent Women’s March on Washington.
Inequality still exists
There are still inequalities. I want to see them corrected, and I’ve tried to accomplish that very thing. I went to college, then medical school, worked hard, and made it through.
There was sexual harassment. I took it for a while, then I counted the cost and took a stand. When I spoke up, it was clear I meant business. I didn’t shout, carry a sign, or wear a costume. When I stood up to the bullies, they stopped, because that’s what bullies do. They back down when confronted.
I practiced medicine, worked hard, made it through. No one bullied me. No one treated me differently because of my gender.
However, inequality still exists. Unfortunately, as long as evil is in the world, inequality in some form will always exist.
I know most of the protestors probably dressed in regular clothes. The media shows us the most outrageous because that’s what draws views and makes money. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to peaceful assembly and I support the right to free speech. I’m not opposed to the recent women’s march, nor am I opposed to costumes that look outrageous to me.
My grandmama taught me something, though, that we’d all do well to remember. Especially the people in the vagina costumes.
Actions speak louder than words.
“… let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18 niv.
We demonstrate who we are (and whose we are) by what we do, so we’d do well to choose our actions wisely.
The most effective protestor of all time was Jesus Christ. He entered a world filled with violence, poverty, oppression, and cruelty, and He chose love. Every single time. He chose sacrifice. Open-handed giving. Equality. Peace.
In a male-dominated culture, women traveled with Jesus, and demonstrated, by their lives, the power of Christ to transform.
Jesus’ disciples choose love.
After the resurrection, His followers chose love, as well, and that love was unstoppable. It changed the world and turned it right side up.
I doubt I’ll ever protest with signs, slogans, costumes, or marches. I hope to spend the rest of my life protesting the evil in this world by choosing love, demonstrating love, and giving it freely and without complaint.
From helping at soup kitchens to collecting supplies for the homeless, to helping rebuild homes after disasters (and everything in between), I want to be a change-agent of love in this struggling world.
Today, look for the evil, inequality, and injustice around you and take a stand. Make a difference. Protest as Jesus did, and let your actions help change the world. Pursue mercy and justice. Use words if you must, but protest with love.
“And now remain faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Cor. 13:13 nasb
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