By Bill Mefford
This past weekend I was in downtown DC walking and watching the crowds file past the monuments taking in the sights. Since it was Memorial Weekend there were lots of folks as people stream to DC anytime there is some king of national holiday celebrating past wars. As I was walking near the Lincoln Monument I noticed a bell tower off to the side about 25 feet tall and some people camped out near it. When I went to check it out I could immediately tell that it was a peace group.
They were Quakers – and I love Quakers. I fell into a great conversation with one of the guys who was there and we talked about some of the history of Quaker-led direct action against war, particularly nuclear war. He told me about the 1950s when the United States was testing nuclear bombs in the Pacific Ocean near the Marshall Islands. To protect the devastating impact this was having on the people in the impacted area (who didn’t know about the tests) and to stop continued militarization and nuclear proliferation, a group of Quakers illegally sailed from Hawaii directly into the testing zone. They did this several times and were stopped each time. They wanted to bring attention to the impact of nuclear weaponization and they wanted to stop it. This was in 1954 and was followed by a number of actions in support of the Quakers across the country and the world. Finally, in 1963 the United Nations acted (because the United States would not) and passed the Limited Test Ban Treaty, which prohibited the testing of nuclear weapons underwater, in outer space, or in the atmosphere.
What amazes me about these bits of history that so many of us know so little about is that these things happened because small groups of people had a shared passion and shared vision for real and concrete change. One of the things I have feared about the amazing marches we have seen so far during donald trump’s reign of error has been that far too many of us wait for someone else to organize an enormous march for injustice to be challenged. We figure that we aren’t important enough, articulate enough, or knowledgeable enough to start a movement to end some specific kind of injustice so we wait for someone else to organize a march or a religious leader to make a statement – or something. We wait for anyone but ourselves.
That is laziness. That is also really bad theology and comes so very close to disbelief. God has literally created entire histories through people whom the rest of the world discarded or ignored. God chose women in horribly patriarchal societies, Samaritans, people living in the desert, and even a baby born in a smelly barn and changed the course of history.
What we HAVE to realize if injustice is to be effectively resisted is that so often the biggest of changes occurs in the smallest of ways; through small groups of people with shared passion, led by people directly impacted by injustice, and willing to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to achieve real, concrete change.
Justice requires shared passion and shared vision with a small group of people and the persistence to see it through.
That is why Fig Tree Revolution exists and why we continually invite you to join with us, why we want to join with you. We want to hear from you – what is your passion, what do you want to change or build, and how we can support that work? I know in my own life that achieving justice is a lifetime of sharing my passion and vision with others, hearing others’ passions, and coming to a greater shared vision as a result.
This is what spurs my sister Sophia Agtarap as she and others in Tennessee have created the Moral Movement for Tennessee.
Shared passion and shared vision is what drives my sisters and brothers with United We Dream as they organize undocumented immigrants to resist the anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies of the trump administration.
A passion to contextualize learning and raise up new leaders was what drove my brother Matt Russell to create Project Curate and begin an amazing new way to train and disciple leaders in Houston.
And Steve Pavey has this same passion to connect the movements for an end to mass incarceration and an end to deportations together with movements for justice for Palestinians.
What is your passion? What is your vision? It’s not a question of self-confidence, It is a matter of faith - do you believe God wants to use you to rid the world of poverty, oppression, inequality, violence, racism, and hatred? If your answer is yes, then join us.