Yesterday, on my way to take my ten year old son to camp, I was telling him my plans for the day. I was driving to Harrisburg from Philadelphia with a van full of Mennonites (white and non-white, citizens and undocumented) to oppose the attempts of some State Representatives to make it a crime to be undocumented.
My son’s response was surprising, and a little funny—“Mom, who invented power? And I’m not talking about electricity here!” I’ll admit that I was proud of his question and his outrage. I’m glad that he can recognize that power is being abused, and used to perpetrate violence and hate.
I reminded my son, who is prone to violent flashes of anger, that power is neither good or evil, what’s more important is the way you use the power you have. Case in point, a ten year old raging about needing to practice his cello certainly wields a lot of power in our house. So can his loving response to his little sister who just needs some big brother hugs.
I’m not the kind of person that meets with my state representative or writes letters to politicians. It’s not my style—I’m not articulate under pressure. I do better with some time to craft a statement, or in one on one conversation. But yesterday, I went to the Pennsylvania State Capital to support the Dream Act, and to oppose the attempts of legislators to make it more difficult for my undocumented friends to live in country we all love. I sat in hearings where we heard testimony from law enforcement, and from tea party activists, who called my friends “aliens”, “illegals”, and “those people”. They said that my friends didn’t care about this country, but only wanted to drain our welfare and social security system. They said my friends were murdering, raping, and stealing from citizens. The testimony was so distorted, so shockingly racist—I couldn’t make it up if I tried.
During the hearing, I sat next to an especially smug Tea Party representative from the Tea Party Immigration Coalition. After his disgusting portrayal of undocumented people in his testimony, he returned to his seat next to me. It took all I had to maintain my respectful composure as I sat next to him, especially when a woman who grew up in North Philadelphia testified about her experience as an undocumented person. As she shared her story, he huffed and puffed, he groaned and mumbled under his breath. It was worse than sitting next to a bored teenager in church. I took it on as my cause to love the hell right out of him, and to remember that even angry, racist, fearful people needed Jesus.
In Exodus 3, Moses saw the burning bush, and turned off the path to get a closer look. When he heard God calling him from the bush, he responded with three of the bravest words you could say to God—“Here I am.” While Moses had his issues—stuttering for one—he certainly was in a unique position to speak to Pharoah. As a former member of Pharoah’s royal court and as a Hebrew, he was poised to be able to speak to the Egyptians in their own language, and from their own shared experiences.
I had one of those “Here I am” moments yesterdaday. Sitting between a tea party activist and an undocumented activist, I realized that I can contribute to this conversation. I have the power—as a privileged, white ally, to speak. I don’t like using my power—I certainly don’t feel especially articulate (Moses and I have that in common!)—but in the face of the Holy One, the God of my ancestors (who themselves were immigrants), how can I not speak out about injustice? How can I not cry out to the Pharoahs of this world on behalf of my undocumented brothers and sisters?
I don’t know who invented power, but I know I have some. And I know I have to do something good with it. I may have to start going to the state house more often, I might need to start writing more letters—I don’t like doing those thing, but I have power, and my voice has an impact on these conversations. I have power—it’s time I start doing something good with it.
Crossposted at http://www.germantownmennonite.org/pastor-amy-s-blog.blog