I Want To Be An Activist


“I want to be an activist.” 

These were the words of Henry, a six year old, after hearing an abridged version of Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech at a Middle Project Freedom School event. This was the first time Henry had ever heard these words.

We were in a room with people of all ages and had just finished creating an art gallery, illustrating lines from King’s speech. And with this “dream” on the walls around us and ringing in our ears, Henry captured what many of us where thinking.

“I want to be an activist.”

This, I believe, is central to my Christian faith. We embody the love and life of God in the world around us, praying, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once said, with our feet. This is why we march. This is why we protest. This is why we gather and assemble and sit in and teach in and die in. We are embodying the echo of freedom and the movement of God, reminding ourselves and every generation that God has been, is, and will continue to move in us, through us, and in spite of us.

There is nothing passive about being a person of faith. We are called to be active, to be the hands and feet and face of God in the midst of whatever part of the world we find ourselves. Yet too often people of faith are found sitting on their hands, attending to their insular holy huddles, trapping God inside our steeple-topped boxes as we bicker about replacing the carpet rather than turning over the tables and taking part in faith-filled ethical spectacles.

“I want to be an activist.”

Yes Henry, you can be an activist. Our church and our world need you to be an activist, taking your six year old heartbeat for justice and seeing it grow, alive and active now and every day ahead of you. And Henry, you will need friends and mentors, pastors and parents to take this journey with you, linking their arms with yours as you find God on the street, a faith that is alive and active in the world around you.

And so to all the Henrys in the world: may the church continue to create space for you, both who you are and who you are becoming. Your six year old faith captures an eternal essence of God that we would all be wise to learn from.

And to those of us a bit older than the Henrys of the world: may we be the friends and mentors, the pastors and parents that help Henry find this path of faith-filled activism that he is called to walk on. May we go ahead of him and with him, leading him and learning from him, rehearsing the reign of God and offering a glimpse of King’s dream becoming more and more a reality.

May we all discover the force of our soul’s creativity, may we be creative extremists for love, may we realize the urgency of now, and may every step we take let freedom ring.

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