Opinion

A Christian packing list for the Women’s March on Washington

A woman spools yarn as she takes part in the Pussyhat social media campaign in Los Angeles on Jan. 13, 2017. The campaign is providing pink hats for protesters in the Women's March on Washington, the day after the presidential inauguration. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

(RNS) On Saturday (Jan. 21), I’ll join thousands in D.C. for the Women’s March on Washington. My first stop will be at a local congregation, one of several hosting a prayer service and warming station for marchers. I’m an anti-racist feminist Christian, and for me, faith will be part of the day.

I’ve been disappointed with Christian silence and even active resistance to social justice imperatives, but my commitments to justice stem from my faith, and that’s why I march.

So I’ve been poring over numerous guides and packing lists. I’ve got the app. I’ve got my sharpies, my layers, my trail mix, my map.

But as a Christian marching for justice, what should I pack? What is my way, my fuel, my gear for the journey?

I’m convinced that these days, when the justice forecast seems particularly bleak, it’s best to put one foot in front of the other, starting humbly, powerfully, right from where I stand. Be intentional to do the things I can do to carry on, in order to do the work that must be done and stay healthy.

Sure, one alternative is to walk around defeated, a zombie. There are days, recently, I have done this. I have cried. I have wanted to stay in bed. My body sometimes shakes. One time I hyperventilated.

But given the circumstances, all I can do is the job I’ve set out to do, the job I know how to do, with justice, kindness, humility. There is urgent work to be done in our world, and we must get on it. Jesus was an activist. Martin Luther, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr.: These are Christians who followed Jesus’ example of action for justice. We each have gifts, and as Christians, it is our call to use them to mobilize: health care for the poor, full inclusion of the LGBT community, welcome to immigrants and all faiths, value for the lives and voices of people of color, equity for women.

Sometimes that means making myself call senators even if I feel nervous. Sometimes it means thanking someone who is working hard for equality. Sometimes it means writing a post on Facebook from an anti-racist Christian perspective. One time I worked with colleagues to crowdsource an “Ally Advent Calendar” listing daily justice actions that can be done by anyone, any day, Advent or not. I’ve realized I need the dailiness of it.

As feminist poet Marge Piercy writes in “To Be of Use”:

“The pitcher cries for water to carry

and a person for work that is real.”

The trouble of this very real work, I know, is that it can be devastating. What I have come to expect is that each day I will read about or watch things that will cause me to come undone.

But here’s what we know as Christians:

We are already broken.

Imperfect, weak sometimes.

And we love anyway. We pray and then get to work anyway. We have faith and believe in our worth, anyway. We search for work that is real, but we need fuel to do it.

What I’ve learned as a Lutheran is that grace and forgiveness are tools for justice. Why?

Because grace frees and feeds us, radically, to do the hard work that must be done. If we believe that our value comes not from whether we succeed or fail, are lauded or criticized, but rather from God’s deep, unwavering love and faith in us, ALL of us, then we are liberated. We have gotten free. We can’t fail. And then we can work to liberate others.

As black feminist writer Toni Morrison says to her students, “When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”

Because of God’s radical grace, we draw from a store of energy and power that cannot be drained. We have inherent worth because we are loved, forever. The cup is always full, overflowing, and God is the source. “Let justice roll like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.”

So, when we march, when we work, when we write and call, we have a uniform, we have the gear we need. It’s not a plaid school jumper or a monogrammed polo, not even a solidarity armband or a pussycat hat, though I wear those things too. We put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience. We wear love. These are our impenetrable armor.

God provides us with a pathway toward justice, and as Christians — who have at times failed or remained silent in the moments when we have been called to speak out — we see what to wear, we have our sustenance, and we understand how to move forward. The world may break our hearts, but each day, we already know what to do.

As Christians, God sends us out the door, ready to go. So let’s get to work. Now. I’ll see you at the march, and beyond.

(Anna Czarnik-Neimeyer is a social justice writer, facilitator and speaker)

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Anna Czarnik-Neimeyer

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  • Excellent. Christ, Advocate for Women, was among the first feminists. Keep a smile on your lips and a song in your heart as you fight evil.

  • Science is wholly against you. The significant number of in utero surgical procedures performed by skilled surgeons to the benefit of those persons not yet born demonstrates both the fact of their life and their humanity.

  • How about the women who wanted to join the march but were denied due to their pro-life stance on the question of birth. Gotta love that leftist tolerance and forthright double standard.

  • You know that the Women’s March has explicitly said that there is no room for pro-lifers, right? So, as a “Christian” you are rallying for the continued right to violence in the womb.

    Abortion is murder. You can talk to the Father about your choice.It won’t be a pleasant conversation.

    “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”

  • Persons not yet born is not a real term. A person by definition is born. Personhood begins at birth. Hence your legal existence begins with a birth certificate.

  • Are you sure they were denied or are you just running with what is currently an assumption and rumor?

  • Assertions are not arguments. The issue of abortion is not addressed whatsoever in the Bible and the assertion otherwise is never an argument made in good faith. While the right of women to control their own bodies is no doubt an issue the organizers support, that’s a personal matter. One can be opposed to abortion and still participate, but the slut-shamers will not be welcome, nor should they be.

  • “Science” in this case is limited to taxonomy, and that’s the most subjective scientific discipline there is. Your second sentence proves nothing. Skilled surgeries are also performed on gall bladders but no one is claiming a gall bladder is a person and excising it is wrong because it provides no opportunity to slut-shame, the raison d’etre of the fetus fetishists.

  • Actually no. Nazi Germany banned abortion. Churches loved Hitler until it became inconvenient to them.

    Without hysterical analogy fetus worshipers have to scramble to figure out why the unborn have rights, but the born do not.

  • Actually the anti-choice group was never invited. They asked to be partners and were rejected. They are marching anyway, just not associated with the main organizers.

  • I see the right wing media talking point of “The Women’s March isn’t inclusive to pro-lifers!” is out.

  • As black feminist writer Toni Morrison says to her students, “When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”

    Perfect. I’ve had the rare privilege of hearing Toni Morrison speak and chatting with her afterwards. This is exactly what Christian life ought to be, not the I’ve-got-mine-so-to-hell-with-you of the pres-elect and his followers.

    The pres-elect is all about disempowering, enslaving and humiliating. The women are marching in rejection of that mindset. Good ya women! More Power To You!!

  • No, they asked to be partners, were put on a list of partners, their inclusion got press, and the organizers then pulled their organizations name off the list.

    Yeah, sure, maybe the real story is not “pro-life group pulled from list of participating groups” and is ACTUALLY “march organizers refuse to accept solidarity from pro-life group but accidentally put them on a list of organizations in solidarity anyway”, but that’s not really a change from the pro-life supporters’ claims that their views are not welcome by the march’s organizers.

    Seriously guys. I’m pro-choice. But stop trying to obfuscate and deny. Being “rejected” after application is STILL consistent with DougH’s original post of “not being welcome”, why are you trying to debate this?? You’re only making pro-choice people all approve of excluding people with different views and are willing to lie to cover it up. You’re hurting your own side, cut it out.

  • Edward made the statement that women — not necessarily an organized group with a specific stance on abortion — were denied permission to march due to their pro-life stance. I’m allowed to ask him to clarify and I don’t think he’d mind. In any event, it seems that this particular group was not invited. That doesn’t mean pro-life women can’t join the march. Anyone can register. The registration form does not ask your opinion about abortion.

  • POLITICAL WEATHER STATEMENT!!!: Blizzard conditions soon to be in Washington DC due to snowflakes arriving for Trump’s inaugural!!!! (edited)

  • It is reported by a number of news organizations that they were in fact denied permission.

  • Your basic failure is in essentially equating a living and distinct human being in utero with a bodily organ, there is no comparison. You are two for two in expressing non-sequiters today

  • Cited on a number of news sites which you would disdain as sources, so I won’t waste my time. Then again, I accept your challenge. Fox News reported on this and the Christian Post. Feel free to scoff now.

  • There is a large difference between a legal definition and an actual definition based on science. While present law may declare that one is not a person until exiting the birth canal, such logic has been used to justify the abhorrent practice of partial birth abortion. Scientifically, a person need not have reached the point of readiness for birth to be in fact alive. It amazes me that otherwise sensible people cannot grasp this basic fact.

  • The constant ignoring of the tangible physical distinction between the born and unborn is a key failing in anti abortion rhetoric and positions. Pretending a fetus is in the identical situation as a baby does little to demonstrate one is making a rational or sensible appeal. Coupled with the complete absence of recognizing a mother as a person with her own interests and rights, it points to a stance which tries to divorce itself from reality.

  • I figured it was a group. Thanks for clarifying.
    edited: I still would like to know whether any individuals have been denied permission to march. Otherwise this is like the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade, in which the parade organizer, a private religiously affiliated group, denied gay and lesbian Irish groups permission to march. They said they could march as individuals, just not as a group. The LGBT groups sued and the courts found in the parade organizer’s favor, ruling that it was a private organization and did not have to admit groups not in keeping with their views, notwithstanding the public nature of the parade itself. [However, I believe they now have changed their policy anyway and allow those groups.]

  • I see. The Pravda and Izvestia of Union of Soviet States of America. Duly noted and dismissed as the disinformation businesses that they are.

  • A fetus cannot be considered a living being by any measure and never has been seriously by any culture or jurisprudence everywhere. It cannot sign a contract. It cannot wear a hat. It is useful to provide disinformation about it to fool the gullible and insure government control of women. This will not be accommodated. Many of us increased our contributions to RCRC to offset the UMC withdrawal. I have served as a clinic defense volunteer against the domestic terrorists you enable with your deceptive rhetoric.

  • We recognize a lot of people believe things which are not true. MOST OR SIMPLY IGNORANT, such as the absurd notion I live in a “leftward cocoon.” I assure you I live in none of the reddest states and attend church and other groups with plenty of trumistas, but most of them don’t believe in antiabortion rhetoric either. the most cynical find it useful for fooling the public but most would drive their daughters to get scraped without argument.

  • You’ve got to be kidding…can a newborn infant sign a contract, of course not, but nobody doubts its life. Nor does “law” equate to either truth or reality. Plus, the word your are attempting to use in your fourth sentence is “ensure.” And your assertion that a fetus has never been seriously considered as alive by any culture or jurisprudence is patently absurd and without historical foundation.

  • Only because it’s your ox being gored. What? The NY Times isn’t good enough for you? Tcahhh!

  • One person’s interests and “rights” do not abrogate the rights of others, including the unborn, even the courts have “erred” on the part of the unborn in certain circumstances.

  • Anti-racist?!?! Abortions kills blacks THREE TIMES rate of whites & would’ve be higher w/ Hillary’s tax-funding agenda. That’s the ultimate racism.

    These “Christian” Leftists are pro-abortion, Molech-worshiping ghouls, pushing for abortions to the child’s 1st breath. http://wp.me/p5O8SK-GH

    Welcome: Men posing as women.

    Not welcome: Women who think it is wrong to kill your children.

    Will you be promoting the much bigger and biblical March for Life next week?

  • Others in a sane sense are autonomous beings. You are pretending the physical attachment between mother and fetus is immaterial or doesn’t exist. It undermines any pretension of a sensible or moral position. Making it just self important preening on your part.

  • How about this, if you can separate a fetus from its mother, then you can consider it an individual being. Until they is possible you are just a self important narcissist who can’t accept basics of human biology or the notion that women are people.

  • By pretending a fetus is no different from the born you are just having a hissy fit. You are not making a sane argument.

    Unlike a person, a fetus is attached to its mother and doesn’t exist without her will to do so.

  • Your idol, one worshipped by the vast majority of Americans who call themselves “Christian,” but who actually have little evidence that they are in fact followers of Jesus and who instead prefer to baptize their patriotism in his name.

  • lol I’m not american. Are you responding in that manner because you are fighting Christ on some issues, hon?

  • All nonsense. Abortion can be described many ways; murder is not a factual way to describe it. It is rhetoric devoid of fact.

  • That last sentence explains the new President’s economic policy. Mooncalf, there are no “Pro-Aborts.’ We are just not in favor of criminalizing abortion. A fetus cannot be considered at all an “innocent human being” because it is neither innocent, human, or a being.

  • LOL. Last reply, then I’m blocking your anti-science idiocy (thanks, Disqus!).

    They are innocent of capital crimes, therefore innocent (though you Molech-worshipers usually protect guilty murderers who survived 10+ years of appeals).

    They are human (what else would two human beings create? Also see ANY embryology textbook OR concessions from pro-abort leaders. http://www.abort73.com/abortion/medical_testimony/

    Or consult Planned Parenthood, who called them “babies.” https://1eternitymatters.wordpress.com/2009/06/09/planned-parenthood-vs-planned-parenthood-2/

    And of course they are beings. If they were living beings you wouldn’t want to kill them.

    Pro-aborts want taxpayer-funded abortion. It is right in the Dems’ platform. If you want more of something you are in the “pro” column. And if you voted for legal slavery (or anything else) you are in the “pro” column whether you exercise your right or not.

  • That’s an interesting comment considering that with the frequency of miscarriages, God is the master abortionist himself hands down.

  • A group of women I know who wanted to march in solidarity to their feminist sisters and do not support the leadership of Donald Trump, but are pro-life, attended the march in their area. They brought pro-life signs, along with other women’s rights signs. Some even wore the “pussycat” hats. And yet, they were literally YELLED at by other women for having pro-life signs. My acquaintances in this situation had signs about “marching for their unborn daughter”, and therefore that is why they are also pro-life, and they were met with nothing less than anger and hateful speech from some women at the march. They got so much of it that they left, devastated. How is this unifying? It breaks my heart.

  • I don’t think your characterization is correct. the people were excluded because they support criminalization of abortion, not because they have “a pro-life stance” or “on the question of birth.”

  • Health care plans for the poor should cover abortion just like any other health need. That has nothing to do with favoring abortion or not. It’s just a matter which is the private business of the woman’s, not yours, that’s all.

  • As a born again believer, marching with women (or men) who rely on vile language, vulgar signs and giant lady parts worn around their heads is not an option. Christians are set apart from the world. We are to be a light, not join in. Ashley Judy’s speech, Madonna’s threats, all are examples of things that Christians shouldn’t do or say. Women brought their children to the march. Those kids were forced to listen to abhorrent language and to witness things that were ungodly. That March was no place for Godly people.

  • You are greatly deceived. I pray for the peril of your immortal soul as you celebrate and promote immorality, hatred, and obscenity.

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