We live in a time when it is easy to lose hope and fall into despair. I recall the words of Scripture to rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and continue in prayer (Romans 12: 12) These words were written in the context of Paul asking the church in Rome to act humbly and with charity to all, letting love be more than a pretense and choosing good over evil (Romans 12: 9).
In these days after the 2016 election I am especially drawn to the words of Bayard Rustin to become “angelic troublemakers.” Bayard Rustin knew of what he spoke. He was a troublemaker from an early age, being influenced by this Quaker upbringing and being an out gay man when it wasn’t popular to be one. Bayard not only marched with Martin Luther King Jr., he helped King see the importance of nonviolent direct action.
For the first generation of Friends gathering in public worship wasn’t always allowed under the law. Yet they persisted, holding their gatherings both indoors and out. When the adults were arrested and taken to prison their children continued to worship in defiance. They were angelic troublemakers.
For Friends active in the Underground Railroad they persisted in directing enslaved people to freedom, sometimes in defiance of their home Meetings. They were angelic troublemakers.
During times of war Friends have refused to fight and suffered for it. They were angelic troublemakers.
When African Americans sat in on segregated lunch counters in the 1960s Friends were at their side. They were angelic troublemakers.
When LGBT people have demanded equal treatment under the law, Friends were there. They were angelic troublemakers.
Every age has had its challenges. I wonder what it means to be angelic troublemakers today, in 2017. What are we Called to do? This may mean once again standing with the oppressed and placing our bodies “in places so the wheels don’t turn” as Bayard Rustin advocated.
I’ve been a Friend who prefers contemplation over activism for many years now, but lately I find I cannot be silent. Hopefully I find a healthy balance between faith and deeds. Faith means nothing without good works to back it up (James 2: 14-26). I wait in expectation for where God is Leading me.
Lately I’ve been reading a book by the gay Quaker activist Cleve Jones entitled When We Rise. I knew Cleve Jones many years ago and have occasionally run into him. I’ve always been impressed with his tireless witness for social justice. It has led him down many interesting paths, some of which I’ve traveled on as well.
Like many of you I participated in a local Women’s March on January 21. I was amazed at the level of participation. This call to action has struck a nerve. In the face of trouble there is an uprising of the masses that can be channeled for the greater good. Once again I have hope because I see the rising of angelic troublemakers determined to work toward greater equality, peace, and justice.