A Year in the Life: Taking a Knee with Thousands of Protestors at City Hall in San Francisco
By Christine Trainor
I am here with my son at the protests in San Francisco, again. Hundreds of thousands of people all over the world are coming outside, even in the time of pandemic, to protest too. I want to believe that this time things will change, but I am not holding my breath.
At least I have my breath to hold. George Floyd was not given the choice. Breonna Taylor was not given the choice. Hundreds of thousands are not given the choice because of the color of their skin.
I appreciated the irony of what Stephen Colbert said in his opening monologue the other night, “I didn’t think anything could overshadow the COVID pandemic in the news cycle. I just want to go back to when I was afraid of my groceries!”
It is understandable to be afraid. We should be afraid of disproportionate force being used against citizens and constitutional rights being stripped. We should be afraid of supporting a status quo that systematically disadvantages people by skin color. We should be afraid of normalizing a world where kleptocrats sacrifice their citizens for their own short-term personal gain. We should be afraid of the spiritual values we hold dear being hijacked for photo-ops. We should be afraid of losing one more life to injustice. We should be afraid of losing our souls in silence.
We should be afraid and then use that fear to propel us to action.
This entreaty is not a political plea. It is grounded in the teachings, practices, and beliefs that we hold sacred in our faith community. In this time of pandemic not seen since the outbreak of flu in 1918, in the time of economic collapse not seen since the time of the Great Depression, and in the time of racial unrest not seen since the Civil Rights Movement, the way forward requires empathic and moral leadership.
In the encouraging words of the Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston:
“Now is the moment for which a lifetime of faith has prepared you. All of those years of prayer and study, all of the worship services, all of the time devoted to a community of faith: it all comes down to this, this sorrowful moment when life seems chaotic and the anarchy of fear haunts the thin borders of reason. Your faith has prepared you for this. It has given you the tools you need to respond: to proclaim justice while standing for peace. Long ago the Spirit called you to commit your life to faith. Now you know why. You are a source of strength for those who have lost hope. You are a voice of calm in the midst of chaos. You are a steady light in days of darkness. The time has come to be what you believe.”
The time has come to be what you believe. In big ways and small, in ways grandiloquent and humble, in ways public and private, in ways urgent and gentle, we must resist word and deed that corrode our humanity and capacity for compassion. We must “strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being” (The Baptismal Covenant). We must stand in solidarity with those who can be helped by our power and privilege. We must listen and learn to have our own presuppositions challenged. Instead of wondering if God is on our side, we must critically ask ourselves if we are on God’s side.
An Episcopal priest and author, the Rev. Christine Trainor has served congregations in Connecticut, New York City, London, Southern California, and the Bay Area. She has written for theological journals, The Scripture Project, and for Forward Movement—where contributions include What Are You Waiting For?, Observing Lent, Resurrection Living and meditations in Soul Proclamations: Singing the Magnificat with Mary, The Bible Challenge series, and Forward Day by Day. A graduate of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale and the University of Virginia, she lives in San Francisco on the verge of launching her two college-aged children.