Protests and Power

Since January 25, when the protests began in Egypt, it’s seems impossible not to think about the power in protests.  Watching the news, I wonder about what happens when people gather.  It was peaceful in Egypt.  The demands of the people were heard simply by the powerful presence of those people in the streets calling attention to their own needs.

It didn’t start there though.  I didn’t know that until I went to preach about these events.  It was only then that I found out about what happened in Tunisia.  A young unemployed man lit himself on fire to draw attention to the things that he couldn’t express.  I nearly cried when I read that headline.  I can’t imagine what would lead a human soul to take that kind of action.  I can’t imagine how incredibly broken the system must be.  Then again, a month later, I’m aware of how broken the whole world feels as protests continue far and wide.  Honestly, I am overwhelmed.  I’m totally overwhelmed.  Not just because of Libya and Wisconsin, but also because Planned Parenthood and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families have an uncertain future.  It makes me want to take to the streets.  It makes me want to call upon that mysterious and dynamic force the Egyptians found in the days following January 25.  But, how does that begin?  Where does it start?

Today, I received action alert upon action alert in my email.  I filled out online petitions and emailed my senators more than I think I ever have in a single day.  This seems to be what activism looks like now, but it’s not all that powerful.  I miss the protest.  I love the rally because there’s something that happens when people gather.  There’s something that transforms us so that we can imagine something else — even when the power seems to reside in the governmental powers of 

Governor Scott Walker and 

Moammar Khadafy.  There is another power in the protest.  There is something about those people coming together that can’t be found in the click of a mouse.  And that is powerful.  That’s what I want.  It’s why I love the protests and rallies.  I love social media too, but it connects me in a different way.  I want that other power that I find in  worship.

A few weeks ago, I was asked what I think happens when we worship.  This question has tainted my experience of the protests going on around our world.  When I answered this question, in that moment, I said that worship is about praise and wonder.  I think that’s true.  It is those things, but as my beloved Professor of Worship Janet Walton reminded me throughout seminary, worship is how we practice the realm of God. In that sacred space, we practice as if that realm truly has been realized.  There are no barriers.  There are no exclusions.  It is a realm of justice and peace.  This is how God calls us to live together, even though the powers of this world make other claims.  In worship, we reject those powers.  We claim another way of being.  I like to think that’s what’s happening in these protests.  Our world is becoming a thin space where those extreme and radical ideas of our faith are being realized in the public square.  I mean, how else can you explain this picture?

Christians joined hands to surround and protect a Muslims as they prayed. 
Photo taken in Cairo by Nevin Zaki.

That is power.  That’s the power I want to find in my praise, in my wonder, in my worship and most certainly in my protest. 

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