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Impressions From the Rally

I couldn’t stay for the entire rally, but the three sunburned hours I spent on the mall, surrounded by the diversity that has come to define our humanity, is an experience I won’t soon forget. Some friends thought it was odd that I was traveling to Washington, D.C. for just one day to march on the mall in support of a more concerted effort by the US to stop the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. But, as I told a friend at dinner, “This is my bowl game. I know of countless sports fans who travel to far off cities to watch their team play for a few hours. Assembling to raise awareness about the plight of the Sudanese is my bowl game.”

I stood in the much larger footprints of those who came before me and listened to those who spoke for civil rights, ends to wars, and reform in society’s areas that need it the most. Being on the mall in Washington makes you feel as though you are connecting with a history much deeper than yourself. The easy walk from the Washington Monument to the Capitol reminds you of the lives lost before you were conceived in order to preserve not just a nation, but the intangible qualities its represents: equality, freedom, and justice. While America has its setbacks and lapses, the freedom to assemble is easily taken for granted as you clap and sing along with those who share your viewpoints. Al Sharpton, Maunte Bol, Barak OBama, George Clooney, and Joey Cheek spoke with clarity and passion. People responded with clapping, shouting, and a deep resonance in the soul that only concerted action can prove exists.

One of the immediate and lasting impressions was the vast amount of Jewish people who participated. There is an obvious intrinsic connection for them, as descendants of a horrible genocide themselves. Not wanting to be in a long list of genocides, and instead wanting to prevent one instead of mourn it, the mall was filled with Jews, young and old, Reform and Orthodox, standing as one to say, “Never again.”

Equally representing their faith were a myriad of Jewish teenagers. Some wore matching shirts, some made signs, but all stood and listened to the likes of Elie Wiesel and Paul Rusesabagina. I looked in earnest for just as many Christian teenagers who were likewise taking a stand motivated by their faith. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any. I guess they were at a lock-in or a pizza party.

I then began to look for any Christian groups, old or young. Again, I came up empty. Right before I left, I did see two men holding a banner with their church name, followed by, “welcomes you.” Had all the Christians arrived early, and were they all sitting up front where I couldn’t see their banners and T-shirts? Probably not. It was Sunday, after all, so I’m sure they were at home eating a big lunch before taking a nap in front of the TV. Outnumbering them were not only the Jews, but the Unitarian Universalists, the hippies, the university students, and the Chinese (look for another post later this week detailing this last group).

Maybe the Christian groups decided not to go because they had other events to attend. Maybe they were all busy, or organizing prayer vigils to remember the 400,000 victims of this genocide. Maybe, as the Jews marched, the Christians prayed, and both acts will combine to initiate a wave of action that ends this devastation.

I only assumed that a religion and way of life that models itself after one known as the Prince of Peace would turn out in droves in order to bring about peace. I only assumed that a religion that normally grabs headlines with their mantra about the ‘sanctity of life’ would march for a cause that seeks to protect that very ideal in Sudan. I only assumed that a group who would have overwhelmingly come out to protest abortion rights would also participate when a protest is called to combat the innocent slaughter of human beings.

Christians do care about this issue. I have been asked to speak to several Christian groups about the reality of genocide in Darfur. The American church is slowly waking up to what greets most of the world everyday: hunger, war, disease, and injustice.

Being on the mall helps everyone to dream. And yesterday, I, too, had a dream that one day, the American church will stand up and be the ones who advocate a quality of life that includes healthcare and happiness for everyone. I had a dream that no corrupt regime in any country would even think of taking advantage of its people because Christians the world over would be ready to protest, boycott, and call attention to injustice. I had a dream that the American church could be the catalyst that brings equal rights to all human beings and celebrates the diversity on earth as a reflection of the diversity that we know will be in heaven. I had a dream that Christians in America, often the very privileged class, would give of their time, resources, and talents to bring about the change that needs to occur to ensure that every living thing is protected and given a chance to be themselves and better their communities.

I have a lifelong call to motivate the American church to be the change that is needed in order to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. It starts with taking a first step in protest, not with sitting in silence.

“Impressions From the Rally”

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