It Takes Courage: Rev. M.L. Daniel on Activism
Have you read the comment section on any of the headline news stories recently? I have to admit that I frequently make the mistake of reading the comments and it never fails that I am appalled, saddened and ashamed of what many people post in the name of Christianity.
“… Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor….” Zechariah 7:9-10
Have you read the comment section on any of the headline news stories recently? I have to admit that I frequently make the mistake of reading the comments and it never fails that I am appalled, saddened and ashamed of what many people post in the name of Christianity. I have grown weary of pundit Christians (the people the news outlets march out whenever they need a “christian” perspective on an issue, or the anonymous people who hide in the shadows of the comment section of news articles) who speak as if they are speaking on behalf of all Christians on everything from sexual violence, domestic abuse, poverty, marriage equality, to gun control, to Black Lives Matter, to ISIS, to the Syrian refugees crisis. ENOUGH! You do not speak for me!
What I know for sure is that words have power—power to be divisive, oppressive, and discriminatory; or to unify, empower, and liberate. I choose the latter. We need only to look back over history to see examples of how injustice, inequality, oppression and discrimination have been perpetuated by people of faith in the name of religion. If we are honest, it has been destructive and the way forward requires a radical transformation.
As a Christian, I choose the path of justice, kindness and mercy as my guidepost, and take seriously the command to care for the widow, the orphan, the alien and the poor. It takes courage to stand with the voiceless, the marginalized, the abused and the abandoned, and to not just see them, but to desire for them to thrive, and not by the lowest common denominator. It takes courage to stand in opposition to systemic institutionalized oppression and to call power and privilege to accountability. It takes courage to put justice, equality and liberation before institutional protectionism, individualism or supremacy. It takes courage to leverage your power, means, and influence on behalf of those who have nothing to offer you in return. It takes courage to embrace and embody a conviction driven and informed by justice and equality, because it just may cost you something to do so.
I have the privilege and honor of being a part of Move to End Violence, a program of the NoVo Foundation. Move to End Violence’s vision is the eradication of violence against women and girls. Towards this end, it is partnering with creative thinkers and organizations that are aligning around a shared vision and engaging across sectors to find bold solutions to ending violence. It was Move to End Violence’s courageous vision and the prospect of collaborating with the movement makers that attracted me to the program. Not unlike my own organization, FaithTrust Institute, the movement makers represent agencies and organizations that have been educating, counseling, training, and resourcing communities for decades in an attempt to bring an end to violence and to level the playing field, particularly for women.
“Silence is the residue of fear.” Poet and educator Clint Smith said this in his TED talk “The Danger of Silence.” It is difficult and terrifying to be the “lone voice in the wilderness.” It is so much easier and more effective to speak out when you are part of a movement. It excites me as a person of faith to collaborate with individuals who understand what it means to be courageous, who at their core embody a conviction of justice and equality, and who see the benefit and need for cross collaboration to achieve liberation.
What I know to be true is that there is power in group activism to effect significant change that just does not exist working alone. As the mother of a daughter, I desire for her a future where her gender is not viewed as a liability or as the justification for denying her rights or opportunities, and where her faith speaks of and embodies liberation for all.
The opportunity to be part of a movement that actively seeks to counteract the entrenched systemic oppression, divisiveness and individualism (as evidenced by the comment sections in headline news stories) fills me with hope. As we move from the season of Thanksgiving and gratitude into the seasons of light, giving, and New Year’s resolutions, I invite you to pause a moment and consider what you would give or be willing to give up if it meant that there would be justice, equality, and the end of violence and abuse against women and girls? What would you give to truly level the playing field for women to not only be seen, but to thrive? What would it mean for our world, policy makers, communities, and families, if women were given the unfiltered, unfettered, opportunity and access to the resources necessary to lift them out of poverty, discrimination and violence? Let’s talk. What role are you willing to play? And who will you work with?
Rev. M.L. Daniel is a Program Manager at FaithTrust Institute, an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and has her own law practice. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and a Juris Doctorate from Howard University, as well as a Masters in Divinity from Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry.
M.L. brings a simple philosophy to her life’s work—that all people are social engineers for change. It is her desire to help faith based organizations and faith communities in the areas of “Spiritual Law,” which includes boundary violations, ethics, policy writing and reviewing, and more.