This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Fierce urgency

As the presidential race becomes more intense, the rhetoric, division and hatred have intensified. There is a deep-seated hostility toward marginalized people.

John Powell

The idea of a postracial environment has taken a backseat. During the pre-civil rights era, blacks were considered inferior and had no place in “civilized” circles. Hispanics were tolerated since the population was small. With changing demographics, the majority population began to believe that their perceived superiority and way of life were at stake.

Our communities are quickly becoming international and multicultural. This phenomenon has changed the political, social, religious and economic fabric of our relationships. The cry from many in the white community is, “White is right! Get back!”

In the past, many white political and civic leaders have used dog-whistle politics — coded racial language directed against minorities. However, now they openly demonize people in the margins to remind white people that their perceived superiority and control must be protected.

Many white communities are carving out their territory. Marginalized people and their allies are focused on acquiring equal access to justice. The clash of cultures and values has increased intolerance, hatred and violence. It seems like we are teetering on the edge of chaotic collapse.

Where is the church as our communities seek to find equilibrium? Taking action contrary to that of friends, neighbors and family may be seen as meddling and intrusive. It might be viewed as a crime to intercede where not invited.

But I ask you to commit such a crime. Take a stand for righteousness and justice.

People are afraid of each other. They are searching for answers without knowing the questions. We who follow Jesus’ “third way” understand that according to Micah 6:8 the question is, “What does God require?” God requires that our actions are just and merciful. We defend those whom society rejects.

Enter into dialogue and take concrete action against white protectionists. Organize people to advocate for justice-focused legislation. Consider holding a prayer vigil in a public place until the legislation is enacted. Boldly acting with an eye toward justice can alleviate hostilities.

Jesus has sent us to be justice seekers who work to bring sanity and reconciliation in times such as these. Christians who have experienced rejection understand that. We take pride in our hospitality and desire justice for all.

Jesus invites us, “Follow my lead.” It’s not easy. The perpetuation of racialized oppression assures the dominant group that they are decent people regardless of injustice, persecution and violence. Committing a crime of justice has its reward. It brings reconciliation where fear has kept people captive.

In the 1963 March on Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. said: “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. . . . This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” We are at another “fierce urgency of now” moment.

It’s decision time. Are you hesitant to stand with the marginalized? Are you inclined toward being safe? You don’t need to be. You have Christ and his followers to watch your back. Count me as one for you.

John Powell, of Ypsilanti, Mich., is a regional pastor for Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference.

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