Watching the huge crowds of people marching worldwide Saturday reminded me of the 1960s, when there were demonstrations for civil rights, women’s rights, an end to a war, the environment, and many other causes.
We’ve come a long way as a society. A lot of progress awaits. In every instance, change arrives in the same way.
It starts with courageous and prophetic people who insist that the status quo is no longer acceptable. We see it in the spirit-filled young people challenging our acceptance of the ongoing slaughter in our society.
Several lines in scripture remind us: “I send you prophets.” We hear that promise fulfilled in the thousands of young voices calling on us to repent of our failure and transform our society.
We’re also reminded that prophets gather a following, but they’re not popular with most people in their societies. They get treated badly by those determined to keep things just as they are.
And when the movement begins to gain traction and it appears that change is occurring – it’s going to be more than just a march or a speech – those invested in the status quo will fight back ruthlessly to protect their privilege and profits.
I send you prophets
But finally, things reach a tipping point. Significant change occurs, and then we stagnate. We find ourselves at a crossroad again. New prophets emerge to lead the next part of the movement.
That’s how the process works. We’ve seen it play out many times and in many ways during the last half-century alone. What’s required now is persistence and faithfulness.
The moral arc is long, but it keeps bending so long as we keep tugging.
We saw this when a young woman in Montgomery, Alabama decided she wasn’t moving to the back of the bus any more – enough was enough. Her courageous determination sparked the Civil Rights Movement, a long struggle that has made much progress but remains a work in progress. The Promised Land hasn’t yet been reached.
We’ve seen generations of courageous women say it’s long past time that they’re treated as equals in society – more than a servant or sex object. We’ve come a long way, with a long way yet to go. The #MeToo movement is just beginning to transform the world in ways no one thought possible even a few months ago.
In a comparatively short time, there’s been great progress in making sure gay people and transgender people are treated as equals.
Bending the arc
We’ve changed how we think about physically and mentally challenged people, finally recognizing them as fully and wonderfully human in every way.
People are working to help the needy, the immigrant, and the refugee receive the respect and the care they deserve as children of God, even as others argue they’re dangerous and lazy and should be ignored.
We’ve seen mothers who lost their children to drunk drivers change an entire culture’s outlook and save many lives despite great opposition from those who wanted things to remain the same.
Movements take time. They have an ebb and flow – two steps forward, one step back. People lose interest or get distracted. Others get tired of struggling. Some insist that a little progress is enough and the movement should stop.
There can be no stopping. When it feels like we’ve hit a wall, we need to remember it’s only temporary so long as we maintain our resolve to keep going.
There will be times when it feels like all the hard work and all the progress have been crushed and buried in a cold, dark tomb covered by a giant rock that no one can roll away.
Let this week remind us that those who are co-workers with God never get buried for long. Someone always rolls the rock away. Love always rises and re-emerges, as strong and as determined as ever.
Let us rise with it, too.