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  • Nora Hacker


Updated: Mar 31, 2021

I confess I'm skeptical. Skeptical of the word love. So often I have seen it used to control and to silence dissent. But I know that when Pastor Annie says "Keep your mind focused on love," she isn't asking me to ignore my pain or be silent about injustice. There is nothing anemic about Pastor Annie's love. Following her "I love you" isn't a silent "but...". Instead it is always loud encouragement. "Speak from your heart! You can do this! You got this!"

I'm also skeptical of power. My faith upbringing always taught power was something evil. Maybe even the opposite of love. That any reach for power was a challenge to God's order. That our role as Christians was to pour out all of ourselves and give everything we have to Jesus, especially our power.

Oh, those people with power? The ones with titles and ordained...well, listen to THEM! They didn't reach for power. God GAVE it to them. Should I have been skeptical that God disportionately gives power to cis-het white men of at least middle class means sooner? Well, yes. But that is a different discussion.

For the last six weeks, I partook of a book club on Martin Luther King, Jr's book "Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?" And I wish it wasn't over. And I wish I'd read this book earlier. How is it not on every list? Sure, it was written in 1968...but it is still all too relevant for today.

And of course, Dr. Rev. King talks about power and love in ways I'm just beginning to understand.

"Power, properly understood, is the ability to achieve purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, political, or economic changes. In this sense power is not only desirable but necessary in order to implement the demands of love and justice. One of the greatest problems of history is that the concepts of love and power are usually contrasted as polar opposites. Love is identified with a resignation of power and power with a denial of love...What is needed is the realization that power without love is reckless and abusive and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love." pp 37-38

Should we just sit with that? Or not. Because, for me at least, understanding doesn't come just because we have the words. Understanding comes in acting on those words. Specifically only in the acting do the meaning of the words become clear.

What examples have you seen, in your life or those around you, of "love implementing the demands of justice" and "Justice correcting everything that stands against love?"

My daughter was assigned by school the task of designing her own Totem Pole and write about it. Possibly because of conversations she has had with us and others about appropriation and the exploitation and near genocide of Indigenous cultures, her spirit recoiled at the assignment. But she didn't know how to proceed. We didn't know how exactly either. She didn't want to look like she was trying to get out of work, but...

So we talked it through. We found some articles of experts explaining how they felt about that type of assignment and the book in question that resonated with her understanding. She turned in an adapted assignment where she wrote a paragraph about herself but skipped out on any allusion to Totem Poles and Spirit Animals. Then she sent an email to her teacher explaining why she changed her assignment parameters and requested that the teacher and her team rethink this assignment and novel for the future. She attached the links.

Is this using her power, her 12 year old voice, for love? Is this love demanding justice? I don't know. I mean it isn't calls for reparations or demands to seat Deb Haaland as Interior Secretary. But it is asking for change where she can, when injustice stirred something in her. Will change happen? It'll take time to know, but she is in a district that says they are committed to racial equity and justice even in the book and assignment choices. Her teacher's response was open and kind.

But I do know that taking action taught my daughter more about how to live out love and justice in her life than every conversation and book discussion ever could.

And I know that we are in a time of great upheaval. Many things need to NOT go back to normal for things to be made right.

Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote: "One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of the status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. But today our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change." pg 181

So where? Where can we use our power for love? Our love for justice? What does that look like for me? For you?

"Because it's not the wakin', it's the risin'" -- Nina Cried Power by Hozier ft Mavis Staples

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