The Spiritual Practice of Protest

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We received the news not so long ago; a potential; 39% cut across the board, not counting huge sums already lost this year. 1.1 million for one school, 1.8 million for the other. The devastation coming for these schools is frightening, so when I saw the note telling us buses were loading up parents to drive to our state’s capitol to fight for funding, I started thinking. Soon a friend and I had our plan. Pull the kids out of school and drive up on our own the night before. We’d spend the morning visiting the Abraham Lincoln museum and then give our kids the best civics lesson we could. We packed up the van and drove a second grader, two first graders, and a preschooler 250 plus miles south on what should have been a four-hour drive to their first protest. What could go wrong?

Well, that’s a story for a different time. What I will tell you is while we sat in a theater watching a performance on the gathering of historical Lincoln documents, the voice on stage speaking to us the words, “our past illuminates our future” rang out to such a degree it was as if they were physically with us, asking us what we were going to do with it.

I’m a children’s minister, and as such I spend time teaching about spiritual disciplines. And there in that moment, as both mama and pastor to my three babies, I was to teach about a new spiritual discipline, the discipline of protest. We were here in our state’s capitol to be part of pushing back the darkness. We were putting feet to pavement, turning the beliefs we hold into something real and concrete. Everything I believe about education and caring for the children of our city, state, and nation is informed not just by personal experience, but by seeing the way that Jesus cared for children; for seeing the value he placed on each and every life. There is nothing that can shake the belief He would be next to us, holding up a sign, calling out for change.

I come from a Pentecostal background. The kind where our prayers are loud and full of movement. Where things are called out, brought to light, and broken in Jesus’s name Amen and Hallelujah. And while I don’t pray that way anymore, yet another story for another time, while we walked around the Capitol building I had the same Holy Ghost shivers up and down my arm I did when I’d hear someone pray aloud on a Sunday morning when the worship portion of the service went on and on and God had something to say to folks. As we held our signs and moved our feet we pushed back against the darkness. We spoke of Kingdom and hope and caring for the least of these. And when a group of high school students chanted for equality with whistles and stomping feet it was as pure as any worship music played in any church and I sensed God’s pleasure.

“What happens,” she asked, “when this doesn’t work and we lose the money.” Her face was pink from the hot afternoon sun and her eyes a mix of hope and sadness. “We walk again. We write again. We call again. We get in our cars and drive and march and shout and pray and hope again. And we keep doing it all over and over again. We are followers of Jesus and when we pray, ‘Your Kingdom come Your will be done,’ we back it up. We don’t wait for miracles, we ask to be part of them.”

I have no doubt we will be back. We will write new signs and say new slogans but the spiritual practice of protest will remain.

Brenna D'Ambrosio
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