IT WAS MONUMENTAL. Can we all agree on that? I would even go so far as to say it was momentous.
I wish we could separate the event from the issues that prompted it for just a minute. Of course that’s not possbile; the matter is too emotionally charged.
As if providentially, my watch just pinged, reminding me it’s time to take a few deep breaths. Seriously. Join me. Deep inhale… Exhale. Six more. My watch now tells me my heartrate is at 61 BPM. That’s down from 318 when I started writing this after spending a few minutes on Facebook.
Why does a love for the First Amendment mean you want the Second stricken and vice versa? I love them both. I am happy we have both, and the others as well. I wouldn’t go as far as I heard one citizen opine: “I think the president should switch them and make the Second Amendment number 1, because without guns we wouldn’t have any other freedoms.” But, he has the freedom to say it.
For me and for this essay, I just want to celebrate the essence of the "March for Our Lives" for a few minutes and words. The “essence”?
Sometimes the most wonderful outcomes of something like this are things that were unexpected and unintended. I worked with teenagers for more than 30 years, and I have to say that any time you can get them to raise their eyes from their smartphones, open their ears and pay attention, something good can happen. It’s an opportunity to awaken a bit, to march on from apathy, narcissism and naivete´.
When you make a poster, join the march, become a part of the conversation, you begin to form a worldview and to be a part of something bigger than yourself. Maybe you take a giant step up Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs from safety and security needs, to belonging needs, to esteem needs, to self-actualization.
I know this from intimate experience of working with hundreds of teens and from my own personal experience.
Similar to the highly charged arguments of the day that fill our common air like so much smog, the causes I marched for and against in my day were equally divisive and misunderstood. I wrote about it in a post a few years back. Here’s a snippet:
The Kent State shootings occurred at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. The Ohio National Guard fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds on unarmed college students on Monday, May 4, 1970, killing four students and wounding nine others.
As a result, student protests were organized across the country. Hundreds of universities cancelled classes and locked down buildings. I was proud to be a part of the event at OBU. But as we sat through the day and overnight on the OBU Oval, wearing black arm bands, discussing the state of our country and world, and wondering whether we could make a difference, it all seemed a little silly and isolated. Maybe we did make some difference though. At least I was different. I wanted to DO something. I still do.
Don't skip this part. Back then, no doubt I had delusions of importance and occasional altruism. The fact is I was pretty self-absorbed; oh, not in a Justin Bieber brand of narcissism kind of way, but in a way that dictates at least this: for all of those who knew me back then, please forgive me. Maybe the Washington Elite was right--maybe I was too stupid to vote at 18. The dean of students who encouraged me not to return to OBU for my sophomore year certainly would agree with that.
My intent here is not to romanticize those days, but if I have, well... After all this was my first Coming-of-Age. It should be a bit romantic, right?
There was a recurring experience in youth ministry that I dreaded and hated. I still do. It is the experience of seeing the passion and enthusiasm of youth crushed or belittled. Let me try to explain with a couple of examples:
Every summer I would return home from summer camp with a group of students recommitted and energized to make a difference. I knew that soon they would be met with an indifference that would suck the wind from their sails. There would be patronization and diminishment and “reality”.
Another example. Numerous times in my years of youth ministry there would be a young woman with a strong sense of calling to leadership in the church. I knew full-well that the predominate attitude among baptists was that the role of women was to be a submissive wife to their husband—not a leader in the church. I hated the moment when they this ugly fact would become real for them.
When you pat an energized young person on the head and dismiss them, you plant a seed of cynicism, hopefully seeds of determination and vision will grow strong and choke those out.
You may see their efforts as being misguided, even dangerous, but I am telling you there is value in the experience for them. And who knows, maybe they will survive, get in line, register to vote and fight for a more acceptable cause someday.
Look at me: I’m still a rebellious liberal, but I’m a functional liberal. And while I love the First Amendment and the Second, and the rest, I believe there is a higher calling, a higher freedom than any a govenment can legislate. It goes something like this:
Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God. --from the Bible, Micah 6:8, sort of.
I could write that on a poster and march around the capital, the courthouse, the church, and the marketplace; if only I wasn’t so tired and cynical. In the meantime...