Sometimes people ask me “Esther, why are you so outspoken? Why can’t you just talk about love? Why can’t you just love?”
Oh, but I am. Being outspoken in the face of injustice *is* love.
Here’s the thing. Love takes many different forms. It looks different ways at different times for different people.
Love looks like a gentle word to a friend who is hurting. It looks like taking a meal to a family dealing will illness or injury. It looks like a hug for a little one having a nightmare at 2am. It looks like donating money to a loved one in need. It looks like a handmade scarf for a friend who has moved to a cold place and is homesick, sending flowers to a loved one going through a difficult time, traveling to be with a family member or close friend who’s about to have a baby, and listening quietly to a loved on who is in pain. It looks like driving someone to doctor’s appointments, watching a friend’s child for an OB appointment or while they’re in class, and visiting a friend who’s in the hospital unexpectedly and taking them toiletries and a change of clothes.
Love also looks like protesting racism and police brutality, participating in marches against systemic and institutional injustice, calling your Congresspeople and asking them to fight against Executive Orders that are unconstitutional and harmful to vulnerable people and asking them to vote against unqualified Cabinet nominees who stand to do a lot of damage, and mobilizing fellow USAmericans to also call their Congresspeople towards the same end (and helping them find the right individuals and contact info to be able to do so). It looks like participating in protests against bans on refugees and immigrants based on their religion/skin color/country of origin, donating money to organizations working to help the refugees and immigrants being unjustly targeted and detained, and volunteering your services as an attorney pro-bono to those same refugees, immigrants, and organizations. Love looks like speaking up about the school to prison pipeline, systemic and institutional racism in schools, and funding organizations helping the citizens of Flint, Michigan who still don’t have clean water because “the government doesn’t have the money to help them” (but we totes have billions of dollars to build a wall that will do nothing to improve national security and serves to accomplish nothing good and much bad). Love looks like using your privilege to speak up and raise awareness about LGBTQphobia and the violence faced by transgender people, especially trans women of color. It looks like holding the feet of your elected officials to the fire when they try to take away healthcare protections for vulnerable members of society, speaking out against anti-semitism, and pushing back against ableism and the mocking of disabled people. It looks like calling out hate speech. Love looks like calling a spade a spade and not letting people hide their prejudice and bigotry behind “religious freedom” while they try to strip civil rights – INCLUDING RELIGIOUS FREEDOM – from marginalized people. Love looks like saying “No, it’s not ok to ignore our history of racism, genocide, and colonization while making heroes out of men like Christopher Columbus”. It looks like being aware of the white supremacy and racism historically present in feminism among white women.
“But… Jesus was love. You should be trying to be more like Jesus.”
That’s precisely what I’m doing. Jesus did indeed preach love… Jesus preached love for EVERYONE. Jesus didn’t just preach love for people who looked like Him (and, by the way, Jesus didn’t look like a white European dude with blue eyes and blonde hair, Jesus was a Middle Eastern man [and was NOT a Christian] and, quite frankly, probably looked more like the refugees we’re now turning away than like me or most white USAmerican politicians who are supporting the new President). Jesus preached love for all people. Jesus preached compassion for *everyone*, not just people with the same belief system or the “right” nationality.
Yes, sometimes Jesus’ words were gentle and soft.
And sometimes, Jesus’ words were… less so. I doubt that His “You brood of vipers” and “whited sepulchers” speeches were seen as very nice by the recipients. And in answer to the question “What Would Jesus Do?”, sometimes, Jesus would get a whip and knock over some tables, and I have a sneaking suspicion that if Jesus were here now, He’d already be going to town on the people perpetuating atrocities in His name.
Love doesn’t just look one way. Love can be uncomfortable, blunt, and outspoken. Love can be loud, passionate, and fierce. Love is not just words. Love is action. So if you tell me “I love people” but you’re not backing it up with your actions? That’s not the Christlike love you tell yourself it is.
I’m loud and outspoken because that’s how Jesus loved and loves me. I’m passionate because that’s how I was created, it’s who I am. I cannot say in one breath that I love God, and then sit back and be quiet in the face of injustice. Love, for me, in this time and place, looks like protests, activism, awareness, education, pushback, and advocacy. And if you try to stand in the way of my love for my friends and family, my love for my fellow human beings who are threatened by injustice and bigotry, I won’t be okay with that.
My love is not silent in the face of injustice. It is a fierce roar.