I am wearing one of my Superman t-shirts today, the newest one. I say “one of” because I think I have seven. The Greeks kept statues of their heroes to help instill their virtues on the viewer, I wear mine for much the same reason. I wear it to remind myself that I both have the power to change the world and the responsibility to do so.
I often don’t feel the former but often am burdened by the later. Little things cause it, and big things. Watching my wife go through a difficult colonoscopy prep, reading my friend’s encounter with a creep in a parking lot on Facebook and, of course, listening to the news. Just for example. I feel powerless to help people who are suffering and sometimes that is true, sometimes I am.
But not always.
I am a white middle class male in a position of respect in America. I should be able to do anything based on cultural convention and precedence alone. Lord knows that alone has gotten a lot of men out of the consequences of their actions, surely I can do something good with it. I can use that influence. I can be an advocate for what is right. I can put resources together. I can bring knowledge to the ignorant and compassion to the hurting. I can do that and I can do more.
I have power. So do you.
It starts with the smallest of things. Being kind. Being polite. A dollar sacrificed when you only have two. Looking someone in the eye and talking to them like they are a person. You would be amazed at how much that can change someone’s life in ways you will never know.
You can say “No.” Say no to they guy being a creep to that woman in the parking lot. Say no to the way someone speaks to a waiter. Say no to someone using racist, sexist, or generally xenophobic language and ideas. Say no to stereotypes and generalizations and dismissal of human need. Say “no” to injustice whether it is happening to the guy down the street or the woman at the store or even if it is happening to you.
“But!” you say. What about being thought of as arrogant or nosy or wrong. What about the consequences. I would be embarrassed.
First things first. If a human being is hurting and if you are also a human being capable of being hurt then that alone makes it your business. Be kind. Be polite. Be firm. Say NO. Treat victim and victimizer like people but do not tolerate injustice.
People will do everything they can to take away your power. Society has been pretty successful at minimizing the power of women and people of color and the poor and every outsider. But even if you are one of those you have power. You have power to say “No.” You might not be able to do anything about the consequences, but you can at least do that much.
Gee Pastor, what makes you think you can say all that?
The Gospel According the Luke, Chapter 4
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
I have the power. I have the power to proclaim good news to the poor. I have the power to proclaim freedom to prisoners. I can help the blind see. I can end oppression.
I have the power.
So do you.
So, what keeps us from using it?