Resistance & Solidarity:
Passive-Aggressive Politics &
Pastor Elyse Ambrose
The sandwich board outside of our church on the almost always populated 7th Avenue sidewalk has in some ways become its own ministry. I’ve received emails from people who just walk by and feel moved by the messages that we post, featuring scripture, or a quote from Audre Lorde, or even a fun quip every now and then. Most recently, the board has proclaimed to avenue passersby an increasingly necessary manifesto:
NO MATTER YOUR
You are welcome!
This is a message our congregation steadfastly affirms… a message that may ruffle a few feathers in our current national climate, even in New York City. In a time when Executive Orders set aflame our national values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; a time when hatred, misogyny, xenophobia, ableism, and much more are proclaimed from the highest rungs and shadowed corners of our society and called “good,” or rather, “GREAT;” a time when increasing efforts are being made to delineate “insiders” and “outsiders.” This is a new era. This is an old era. An era some of us have seen before, and yet, the regression, the devolution is simultaneously bringing out the worst as evil reveals itself with reckless resolve, and the best in this nation as people rise up and resist. In this climate, the sandwich board becomes a ministry of grace, of hope, and of light.
So, when one day, upon walking to the church, I discovered the bold proclamation of welcome marred by xenophobia—the “nationality” line partly erased presumably by someone who does not believe in the inclusion of all nationalities (and implicitly, some races and religions)—I was incensed. Now, nearly three weeks after the words were erased, I see it was a portent of things to come. In the past week, we’ve seen the hope for respect and celebration of difference dashed with the stroke of an executive pen. This message is loud and resounding. It has been bombastic and woefully ignorant. It has touted alternative facts and thrived on how incorrect (politically) it can be. It’s “in your face.” We hear it and we respond in great numbers all across the U.S. and the world.
And yet, my mind goes to the avenue passerby. The one who tried to scratch out “NATIONALITY,” who found we used a chalk marker to write on the board, and searched for a way to dampen his finger so that he can smear the word and make his politics known… passive aggressively. Those with passive aggressive politics lurk clandestinely, hiding their true feelings and sometimes appearing as an ally; but, behind closed doors they mumble under their breaths, they vote for exclusion, they dampen their fingers and without being detected embody less-detectable forms of the same evil we rail against in our streets, in our faith communities, and in our everydayness. Then, before we know it, they’ve disappeared without a trace, blending in with the ones who reject injustice and oppression.
Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.
– Galatians 6:7-9
I’m not a fire and brimstone preacher. I cannot say that I know what this means for people who do evil. But, I have faith. My faith is not naïve or uninformed. My faith does not look to a superhero God who swoops in to rescue us, and relieves us of responsibility and accountability. Rather, my faith is built on the belief in a God who is just, and in a God who sees us. My faith, and that of so many others’ of us, is built on the belief that we who sow resolute resistance—solidarity, radical hospitality, opposition of the principalities and powers of evil— will reap more and more God’s kin-dom. That kin-dom where we care for one another as sisters, brothers, and siblings, in the Spirit of the One who empowers us to continue, and never give up, in the struggle.