A week ago Saturday, I participated in the Women’s March L.A. with two dear friends from college (one my former roommate) and another long-time local friend. A protest march with 750,000 other people is probably the last thing I’d ever see myself doing. So why did I march?
First, let me establish a few basic things about myself:
- I have voted in every presidential election since I turned 18 (and for both Democratic and Republican candidates)
- I don’t hate men (in fact, I’ve been happily married to one for almost 28 years and proudly parented one for almost 24)
- I am a woman of faith (Christian)
- I acknowledge and honor the President, and pray for him every day
- I come from a military family (my son is active duty and my husband and father both retired)
- I am not completely aligned with either major U.S. political party (I wish there were more moderates in government today)
- I love my country deeply and I’m proud to be an American
- Up until Saturday, I have never participated in a march, rally or protest of any kind
So, why did I march? For me, it came from a deeply spiritual place.
A book that has profoundly influenced me is “Faith and Feminism” by Helen LaKelly Hunt. See Alive and Well Women: Our First Grant! Hunt points out that early feminists were women whose faith propelled them to action in areas of human rights, such as the abolitionist movement. The second wave U.S. feminist movement became secularized in the 60s. Elsewhere in the world, however, feminism and faith continue to be more closely aligned.
Through the lives of some early faith-based feminists, Hunt illustrates the “journey to wholeness” which she proposes as a structure for both personal evolution as well as for bridging the religious-secular split in modern feminism as a whole. The five stages of the journey to wholeness are (1) pain, (2) shadow , (3) voice, (4) action, and (5) communion.
My journey to the Women’s March started with a growing recognition of pain. I have challenged myself, particularly over the past 10-15 years, to cultivate relationships with a wide spectrum of people representing other religions, ethnicities, gender and sexual orientation. Through these relationships, I have become acutely aware that I largely won the birth lottery. I was born into a white, Protestant, Republican, middle-class, educated family in the United States of America, and for most of my life I have been blissfully oblivious of this great privilege. Other than some bias I encountered in my professional life as a woman, I have not faced the severe discrimination, mistreatment or hardship, even hatred (some of it on a daily basis) that my diverse circle has forced me to recognize.
During the course of the most recent presidential election and transition, my pain only increased as I witnessed the escalating racist, misogynist, homophobic rhetoric, and saw the effect on people I’ve grown to cherish as friends. I increasingly sensed this intense pain pushing me toward a doorway to action, demanding a deeper meaning and purpose to my life. I thought and prayed daily about what Jesus would do, and discerned a growing conviction to use my voice to speak my truth. I wrote about this in Speak Up!. Finding my voice means finding the courage to tell my story in an authentic way. It’s somewhat frightening writing this post, even having cordial conversations with close friends and family who do not share many of my political views. I worry about damaging or losing those relationships by speaking my mind. I’m learning to see these as opportunities to practice speaking my truth with love, and with respect for other viewpoints.
I have now come to the stage of action. Helen Hunt writes that once we have found our true voice, it’s time then to act and to bring our values into the world in a concrete form. For me, the Women’s March was the first step (no pun intended) in that process. I understand that big shifts are underway in our country as we move from more liberal philosophies and policies to more conservative. I have concerns, but I am not deeply disturbed. This, after all, is what democracy is all about. I pray that these macro shifts bring the intended economic benefits to our country. However, I do feel deep concern that, in the midst of these shifts, there may be severe displacement and hardship on the poor and powerless and our planet. Perhaps we are moving toward a country where the government no longer provides the same level of safety net, in which case I feel called as a Christian to step into the breach. Part of my responsibility as a Christian is to help care for, and defend, the “poor'” which includes a broad range of disadvantaged groups. My biggest fear, however, is that the treatment of certain classes will be worse than neglect; rather, that government-sanctioned or government-led persecution may result. I worry about the erosion of what I believe to be deeply valued democratic principles. My fear of this has only escalated in the week since the inauguration.
And so I marched. It was a day I’ll never forget – a glorious, crisp sunny day in Los Angeles, a brilliant miracle in the midst of several cold, gray days of heavy rain. My college friends came from out of town to join me and another close friend, and we met my niece and grandniece downtown. We wore Wonder Woman accessories. The mood was upbeat and positive, the signs hilarious, heartrending and clever, and a pervasive optimistic hopefulness settled on the huge crowd (and in which I never felt the slightest bit unsafe).
I didn’t agree with everyone and everything at the March. But my participation represented a show of support for those whose voices may not be heard and who may be in danger. It represented a celebration of my constitutional right to free speech and assembly. It represented expression of a deeply felt conviction that my faith compelled me to show up and speak up. It represented my steely resolve, along with my close-knit group of females beside me, that we will not cede ground that we and other women before us have fought so hard to achieve. I am sad, but not deterred, that some considered the march disrespectful, un-American, unpatriotic, or sacrilegious. For me, it was exactly the opposite. And by the grace of God, look out world, I’m only getting started!