Continuing to dedicate our lives to finding new and innovative ways to challenge the powers that be, and that’s our only chance.
Excerpt from a sermon by Juliana v. U.S. plaintiff Kiran, 21, as a guest preacher at the Alki United Church of Christ in Seattle, WA on February 18. It will also be published as part of an anthology of climate activist perspective to be published through the UCC Church. https://www.youthvgov.org/blog/2018/3/15/kiran-sermon
Often when talking to others about organizing I get the questions, “What gives you hope?” “Don’t you sometimes feel like giving up?” To that I answer, no matter how hopeless the future looks I will not give up. History makes a few things clear: there have always been issues, no one person has ever fixed them, and things are getting better just as much as they’re getting worse. With every decade comes a new host of problems, and while the sources may be the same, the solutions are often vastly different. Climate change may not be solved in my lifetime, and definitely not by me, but that’s not the point.
I took a little trip down memory lane this week to my Sunday School days and read a bit from Mark 8. Jesus is telling the disciples that things are going to be rough: suffering, rejection, death. Peter is not pleased by this update on the campaign strategy, so Jesus sees fit to explain a little more.
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”
I don’t interpret this as Jesus saying we gotta die for an old book. This resonates with me because I think he was talking about the sacrifices that come when you dedicate your life to a movement. Sometimes you spend the whole day in meetings and still don’t have a realistic action plan. Sometimes you organize a meeting to plan student-led direct action and freshmen show up just to ask you for drugs. Sometimes you spend the whole day in jail only to realize you’ve started a string of exasperating court dates for the next year. Sometimes a white supremacist shoots your comrade at a protest in front of your eyes.
But Jesus says, “you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” It’s not all going to be easy, in fact it probably never will. But that’s not what it’s about. By sacrificing our lives through dedication, we are saving ourselves from a life of meaninglessness, a life without passion. For Jesus that’s a life without the divine — I see that as a life without true community. Whatever that means to you, a saved life is not simply being alive, a saved life is a life worth living. Yes, there is the chance that we will suffer, even die. It is even more likely that we will lose. But we have a choice. We can let our narcissism envelop us and not work for anything we don’t think we can fix, or we can join movements with passion rather than expectations, and give our all simply because that is our found purpose. When enough of us give our all to the same purpose, I know we can drive change. That is how we can save our lives. Who knows, maybe this lawsuit brought by 20 youth and I really can be instrumental in reversing climate change. From Moses to Malcolm X, everyone is a link in the chain. Few links ever see the end, but every link is essential. Some call that faith, and perhaps it is. Faith, hope, whatever you call it, personally I can’t trust anything as big as society or the cosmos. But I can trust my friends, the links that surround me and remind me every day of the chain going hundreds of years into the past and hundreds of years into the future.