Wednesday, September 9, 2015

I am. Are you?

We were in church this past Sunday, and our pastor had just prayed. I turned to Jayson, sitting in the pew next to me, and whispered, “Not one word about the aborted babies, the Syrian refugees, or the cops killed this week.” He turned back to me and said, “What are you, an activist now?”

What does that mean? Is it a bad thing?

Our conversation continued for days afterward. Jayson asked me some pointed questions:

“Babies have been aborted for years. Why didn’t you care two years ago?”
“Our church has prayer time in the morning on Sunday (before the service). Why aren’t you going and praying then?”
“Is this a bandwagon thing? Are you jumping on the latest cause?”

And then, this:

“Why are you waiting for ‘the church’? YOU are the church.”

He’s right, of course. I’ve been thinking long and hard about why I’m suddenly becoming a loudmouth for social justice. Looking back, I realized I’ve always cared about those in need or crisis, because my parents raised me to work for important causes, especially Armenian ones.

When I was in Sunday school, we supported Heifer International. After the earthquake in Armenia in 1988 (I was 15 years old) I manned the phones and cold-called for contributions. I’ve always donated clothes to local thrift stores, supported missions work like Samaritan’s Purse (Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes), and emptied my pantry for food drives.

I was a sheep. I followed.

And as much as things haven’t changed (Genocide 100 years ago, genocide now), our current situation feels so dire. Perhaps social media keeps current events in our face (at least for 15 seconds until the next celebrity scandal comes along). There’s no excuse for ignorance – no justification for inaction – no defense for apathy.

We have to act. How can we not?

Bandwagon or not, the needs are real. The crises are innumerable. The horrors are happening – it doesn’t matter that they’re happening “over there.” There is no “over there” or “someone else” or “I don’t know” or “I don’t care” anymore. There can’t be.

So I’m taking Jayson’s words to heart. I am the church. I can’t wait for someone else to lead. I can’t not do anything when my eyes see and my heart hurts and I have a tongue to speak and hands that work. I can’t turn away, I can’t hide my face, I can’t block my ears.

Well, I can – but I won’t.

Do you care about babies being murdered in abortion clinics every day? There is so much you can do:

1)      Pray. I had a prayer meeting at my house for this specific topic a few weeks ago. There were three of us. It was such an encouraging time. I also attended a prayer meeting at a local church recently, again, specifically for this subject. I have a friend who prays in her car in the parking lot of Planned Parenthood locations in town. Prayer is powerful.
2)      Volunteer. There are pregnancy care centers in every town. See if your church supports one or look one up online. Then call and ask if you can volunteer an hour or an afternoon or one day a month. I bet they could use the help.
3)      Cultivate compassion, but don’t be afraid to speak. We have to be a voice for the voiceless.

Do you care about cops getting shot point blank in broad daylight?

1)      Pray. Pray specifically for protection over our law enforcement who risk their lives for us every day.
2)      Thank police officers for their service. If you see one, express gratitude for the work that they do. Let them know that not everyone hates them.
3)      Shut down the haters. Speak truth to those who convey anger toward law enforcement. Are there bad cops? Sure. There are bad people everywhere. But the majority of officers take their duties to serve and protect seriously.

Do you care about the Syrian refugee crisis?

1)      Donate. The needs are overwhelming. Organizations like Doctors Without Borders and Migrant Offshore Aid Station and many others are doing incredible work but need our help
2)      Educate (yourself and others). Do you know the difference between “migrant” and “refugee”? There’s a difference. Using the right terminology is important. Stay up to date on current events and know what’s happening around you. I tend to avoid the news, because it makes me panic. But we can’t remain ignorant to what’s happening in our world.
3)      Make your voice heard. Contact local government. Here’s one petition you can sign to help resettle Syrian refugees in the U.S.:

What do you care about? I care about babies being murdered, because I have babies and I love babies and I value life and the Creator who gives it. I care about cops being murdered because I have friends who are cops and who are married to cops, and if I was in danger they’re the first ones I’d call. I care about Syrian refugees because my parents were born and raised in Syria and I was baptized in Aleppo. My Armenian ancestors were refugees after the Genocide in 1915-1922 and countries worldwide took us in.

But even without a personal connection to a cause, we have a human connection to the rest of humanity. And more than just a connection, we have a responsibility to act. Because we can. And if we don’t, we are choosing not to.

Am I an activist? Yes, I am.

Please join me.
OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

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