A few months ago, a friend of mine was in Sydney, and we caught up briefly at an event. As we parted ways, he said, “Steph, pray for us this Friday; we’re probably going to get arrested.”
Now, knowing this particular friend, he wasn’t anticipating being on the wrong end of a drug bust! No: he and a bunch of other Christians were planning to enter the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection’s electoral office, kneel, and pray. And keep praying, until they received an answer to the question:
When will all the kids in Australia’s detention centres be released?
And that’s precisely what they did. And whilst they didn’t receive an answer to this question the police did come and take them away.
Two weeks ago, my friend invited me to participate in a similar action – this time, at the Prime Minister’s office.
Now, to give you a bit of background about me: I’m pretty much as straight-laced as they come. I grew up in Sydney’s leafy north shore area, played oboe in the orchestra, was school captain, did debating every Friday night for ten years, and am now finishing off a law degree. My family is comprised of a disconcerting number of clergy, and my idea of a perfect night is going to bed at 9pm with a cup of herbal tea to read a book. Wild, right?
So, you can imagine that my decision to participate in this sit-in at the Prime Ministers office was made only after extensive consideration.
I’d love to share with you some of the elements that featured in my decision-making matrix. They are ultra-condensed for blog-purposes, but feel free to contact me to get the VerbosityPlus edition (in fact I’d love you to!).
My 5 reasons for taking radical action:
1. Fear is never a good reason for making decisions in life.
My first reaction to my friend’s invitation was one that baulked at the likely consequences. Would this jeopardise my career prospects? Would my credibility in ‘respectable’ circles be diminished? Would my family think I’d ‘gone too far’?
But we are not made to live according to the dictates of fear, a life shriveled down to self-interest and conservation. We are made to breathe deeply and live boldly and beyond the realm of the easy and the comfortable. Love draws one out of oneself, so that our attention is no longer inward, but outward and upward.
2. Love gets skin in the game.
A guy called Dallas Willard once wrote that you know what you believe not by what you say you believe, or even by what you think you believe, but by what you do. I’ve always liked to think of myself as a ‘social justicey’ type. You know, the type who sponsors kids and volunteers at every community event and writes letters and posts links on FB. But if I’m honest, I’ve always felt a nagging sense of the inadequacy of all those efforts. Why?
Because it was always calculated to remain within the confines of what was convenient for me.
If the conditions in detention are having the effect on the 1,023 kids subjected to them that the medical professionals say they are, then I can’t stay at arm’s length.
3. I was sure of my convictions.
Martin Luther King said in one of his sermons,
“We are called to be people of conviction, not conformity; of moral nobility, not social respectability. We are commanded to live differently and according to a higher loyalty.”
If we don’t know what our convictions are, we cannot live boldly. So, I had to be sure of what my convictions were, both politically and theologically (I am a Christian, just in case you were wondering).
4. Keep a soft-heart and a tough-mind.
When it comes to responding to seemingly unresolvable political dead-locks (like the one Australia seems to be stuck on when it comes to asylum seekers), it is tempting to throw your hands up, and disengage. It’s tempting because you don’t think your voice will be heard, nor your efforts effective.
When all other avenues of seeking policy change aren’t working, we need to come together and imagine new, creative and beautiful ways to make love heard. For me this inspiration stems from asking the God of love to break my heart for the things that break His.
5. Love requires resources I don’t have.
One of the best things I have learnt so far in my short life, is that I need help. I am not self-sufficient.
Love is often inconvenient, painful and scary, and sometimes we feel too constrained by our own apathy, fears, and desire for self-protection. But when faced by those barriers, what would happen if, instead of just trying harder to do it alone, we surrounded ourselves with a community of others seeking to live out of a deep sense of love and justice?
Whilst I know many non-religious friends who demonstrate an incredible amount of love through their actions, for me, I depend on the God who ‘is love’ (John 4:8) to strengthen me for this task. And it is Him that I turn to when I come to my end.
It is my hope in writing this and having participated in this action, that you might seek to join me and others, who are seeking to live from love more and more every day. Because it is when we live in love that we are most fully human.
- For more information on the #LoveMakesAWay movement that is behind the current series of prayer ‘sit-ins’ (including upcoming trainings in non-violent civil disobedience) please go to their Facebook page.
- To sign up and hold a ‘Welcome to My Place for Dinner’ event through World Vision Australia for asylum seekers and refugees during Refugee Week, 15-21 June 2014, click here.
- Take a moment to read Martin Luther King Junior’s, “The Letter from Birmingham Jail”