On an unseasonably warm Saturday in January, I gathered near the steps of the Indiana State House with a few thousand of my fellow Hoosiers to take part in a Sister March of the Women’s March on Washington. We gathered to celebrate the beauty of diversity, the freedom to speak, the ability to demonstrate peacefully, and the power that comes from working together.
While women and men were drawn to march for a variety of reasons, I was compelled to move out of my cozy Saturday spot on the couch and into action because my faith teaches me that whenever a line is drawn in the sand, Jesus stands on the side of the marginalized, the poor, the outcast and I, too, am called to move to that side.
The march in Indianapolis drew a rich diversity of age, gender, race, sexual orientation, and religious background. There were long time activists and first-time marchers. Not everyone who gathered agreed on every issue. But as one of the faith leaders noted, we were drawn together not by fear or hopelessness, but by the force of love; love of self and love of others, even those we have not met yet.
Personally, I marched because my mother taught me that my faith is grounded in not only personal holiness, but also social holiness. I marched because my grandmother encouraged me to learn and explore and use my voice in ways she could have only dreamed of as a woman my age. I marched because as a citizen of the United States I am concerned about the treatment of women and minorities. I marched because as a citizen of the Kingdom of God I believe in upholding the sacred worth of all people. I marched because I am a member of a global connectional church that works to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world and you simply cannot do that by staying where you are comfortable.
Marching is uncomfortable for some. The work of justice is not easy. There are some in the church who say the church has no place in politics. However, as Aaron Niequest, lead pastor of The Practice at Willow Creek Community Church recently wrote, "If the church is not political, it is irrelevant to the world God so loves. If the church is partisan, it becomes a tool of the Empire." I did not march for one party or another. I marched to be an active force for good in the world. Participating in the march was a lesson in citizenship. It served as an important reminder of where my allegiance truly lies.
My first citizenship must reside in the Kingdom of God. When a question arises over a policy of my nation or a value of the Kingdom, I will use my voice and my actions to show my love of God and my love of neighbor, whomever that neighbor may be. We, as American Christians, want to claim dual citizenship, but for some time now I have wrestled with whether or not that is truly possible. My citizenship is in the Kingdom of God and I am a temporary resident of the USA. I fear too often we live as temporary residents of the Kingdom of God coming in and out as it benefits us. When our comfort and security come into question, we cling to our American citizenship and let go of our residency in the Kingdom. Are we brave enough to take risks in order to pursue a God who entered into the suffering of others?
Maybe you have found your heart stirring in these times but are unsure of where the Spirit is leading you. Maybe you participated in a march and want to connect with other United Methodists who are working for the transformation of the world. I would love to hear your story. We need each other for strength and accountability. This is an important time for the church to let go of the need for safety and security and instead be bold enough to cling to the promise of Jesus.
If, as Wesley said, the world is our parish, we cannot draw arbitrary lines in the sand on who we will care for. We are in this together. May we work for a more perfect union and a more perfect world. May we live with open hearts and open hands as citizens of the Kingdom.
Candace Landry is a member of Meridian Street United Methodist Church.