We March Because We Are One Body

Last Friday, Saturday and Sunday religious leaders in Charlotte and around the state used their sermons to talk about the struggle for justice and equality in North Carolina and encouraged their communities to let their voices be heard at the Moral March on Raleigh, this Saturday February 8th.

I decided to launch my new blog with my own video contribution.

I hope to see you all in Raleigh on Saturday! The March begins at 9:30 at Shaw University.  More details at: http://www.naacpnc.org

Sermon Video Here

 Text:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ 22On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, 25that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.-1 Corinthians 12:12-26

On February 8th I am marching in Raleigh.  There is something within me drawing me there…a pain that is becoming unbearable.  I don’t feel it all the time.  I can even ignore it if I am careful…but it always comes back.  And if I don’t address it my whole body will be compromised…ineffective…even incapacitated.

Because, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it.”

Paul, an early thinker in the Christian movement chose to describe community using anatomical framework.  Like the parts of the body he believed that all people have a unique and indispensable contribution to make to each other.  The parts that are seen and unseen. The parts that are weak and those that are strong.  The parts that are “respectable” and “those that are not.”   And just like our bodies our connectivity causes the pain of one to be felt by all.

It is painfully obvious that this is not a description of what is, but a vision for what could be.  Paul was not naive.   The church in Corinth that he was writing to was a community of haves and have nots, from different cultures, and different religious communities all trying to live together.   Before long they were deeply divided, deeply broken with those with power and influence ignoring the needs of those on the margins.

This sounds eerily familiar.

The work in progress, dream of a “New South” state like North Carolina where a culturally, racially, and religiously diverse people could live in harmony has also regressed into a nightmare, a disconnected and broken body.

Some parts are being allowed to live in health and wealth while others are being neglected, forgotten and abused.

500,000 of our uninsured neighbors have been denied medicaid coverage.  2,800 of these folks may be at risk of untimely, otherwise preventable deaths.

170,000  of our jobless neighbors have been denied federally funded unemployment insurance.

The development of our children is being crippled by a $100,000,000 public education cut, while the teachers that invest so much in to them struggle to support their families on a salary that is 46th in the United States and dead last when adjusted for inflation.  Our teachers being further disempowered and alienated as we give them no support or incentive for seeking further learning themselves.

Women, who make up more than half of our neighbors, are being denied the right to make their own healthcare decisions.  And clinics that provide needed healthcare to  women in low-income communities are being threatened.

Our Muslim neighbors (and really any one deemed religiously other) have been disrespected and threatened by “Anti-Sharia” legislation.

More than 500,000 of our neighbors are at risk of having their voices silenced (who are registered voters) being without newly required  photo ID. This disproportionately affects those among us who are low income, minorities, seniors, and students.

All of us are at risk of losing the ability to have our voices heard as early voting and same-day registration is being severely limited, making voting a hardship for everyone.

The drinking water, air, and farmland that we all need for our present and future survival is being threatened by legislation expediting fracking in our state.  The state fracking panel is also currently recommending that the legislature adopt a law that does not require fracking companies to disclose the chemicals they use in the process.

Our 900,000 NC neighbors who are “the working poor” have lost their Earned Income Tax Credit and will pay more in taxes so that our neighbors who earn a million dollars a year will get approximately $10,000 in tax cuts.

Instead the whole body being strengthened, many  parts have been broken and battered, so that a few might be lifted up.

While I disagree with the politics of this administration, the problem I see is more than political.

In my mind it’s theological.  A  fundamental misunderstanding of who God is and who we are.

Many of our leaders vocally identity as Christians, but seem to forget that being a member of the Body of Christ (at the very least) means understanding ourselves to be connected to other Christians. Not just those in our church, our neighborhood, or our side of town but all Christians.  It means seeing in each other the  “the image of God”, that connects all of us no matter who we are or what we believe…It means understanding that hurting our struggling neighbor means hurting ourselves, and working for the good of our neighbor who is struggling is really and truly working for our own good.

More than this, our leaders have forgotten that though we have different functions and positions within the body, that we all have equal gifts to offer.  That our health and well-being as a body depends on everyone having a seat at the table and having their voices heard and listened to.

I ask you to march with me in Raleigh next Saturday as a witness to this truth.  That when our brothers and sisters, our fellow North Carolinians are hurting…we hurt.  That we stand together.  More than just shouting, and waving signs at our leaders, More than just facebooking, or tweeting, More than talking about this, we need to model it, by showing up together.

During one of the first Moral Mondays, one of our leaders in Raleigh was overheard saying, “I thought this was the NAACP…what are all these white people doing here?”

Let us show up in crowds that are even more shocking.

Religious, Spiritual, and Skeptic.  Black, White, Latino, Asian. Straight and Gay, and Transgender, Men and women, boys, and girls.

Let us show up and defy stereotypes for what it means to be community, to be one body together.

For many of you, “I’m preaching to the choir.”   You or those you are close to are intimately affected by what is happening in raleigh.  You don’t need to be reminded of the hurt, the pain, the rights and freedoms being threatened.

You traveled to Raleigh once if not thirteen times for Moral Monday.  You spoke, you sang, you shouted, you prayed, you wore handcuffs, and you have been growing this movement one conversation, one email, one sermon at a time. Thank you…but we are not done yet.  The choir is still needed.

Others of you are not so convinced.

Not convinced that things are that bad… that the pain is so great.  You don’t feel it.   You don’t know anybody in your neighborhood who doesn’t have an id.  You don’t know anybody at your church who is on medicaid.  You may disagree with what  they are doing to teachers, but if push comes to shove you can always put your kids in private school.

I challenge you to put yourself in the shoes of your neighbors.  Think about what it would be like if you lost your job.  If you lost your insurance.  If you were sick and had no way of getting the treatment you needed.  Think about what it would be like if you didn’t have a car, and you always voted on Sunday after church, because you went together in the church bus to vote…but now you can’t vote on Sundays anymore.  Or if despite your low income, you had to request and pay for a birth certificate or social security card in order to get the “free” id that you need to vote. How would you feel.  Frustrated? Angry? Humiliated? Hopeless?

These people are in your city and your neighborhood. If not your co-workers or your neighbors..they are the people that you see waiting at the bus stop, those who clean your office, who take care of your children, those who serve your food are feeling this way.

What if you decided to stand with them. To consider them a part of your community, your body, connected to you.

I challenge you to come to Raleigh to hear and join their cries.  To literally walk with them…It may change the way you think about the body

Others of you wish that those Moral Monday people would just shut up, because you are beginning to have a headache.  Your tired of all the noise all the shouting…you wonder why can’t everyone just move on!?

We can’t move on because we too have a headache. Because Paul extends the metaphor of the body by saying in Colossians that, “Christ is the head of the body”, the  head of the church, the head of community.

Even when we fail to share the hurts of our neighbors, God is their fellow sufferer.

Jesus spent his life living in solidarity with the marginalized, and explained that God would judge the nations not simply based on their beliefs or their religious expressions, but how they treated those called “the least of these”.  More than this, Jesus explained that in these encounters with the poor and marginalized, that we are actually encountering God in God’s self.

Whatever you think about the specifics of what is happening in our legislature, our neighbors are hurting, our communities our hurting, and God is hurting with them.

I am not asking you to change your mind, or to change your political party, but simply to hear the pain of those around you, and to be open to understanding it as your own.

I ask you to come to Raleigh… so that we might remember our connection, and move toward healing together. Amen

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