When we got into the car to go, I asked my twelve-year-old daughter, “Do you know why we are marching today?”
“To protest Donald Trump?” she replied.
I explained that some people may be going for that reason, but that was not the reason I was going.
“Are there any positive reasons you can think of for why we are marching?” I asked her.
She went on to name several things Donald Trump had said about women. “I guess those are all still anti-Trump things,” she said.
“I am marching because I am a mother, I am a sister, I am a daughter, I am a wife, and I am a survivor. That’s what I am saying if anyone asks me,” I told her.
I had already thought through this question. As a pastor of a church with people who have diverse political affiliations I am committed to being able to minister to everyone in my congregation. I have served churches in which my political views are in the minority and I have served churches in which my political views are in the majority. Both have challenging aspects, but nothing that I have experienced previously in terms of partisanship feels like it relates to what is happening in the United States right now. Those old partisan dynamics were difficult to navigate—it took discipline, but not one ounce of moral compromise.
The decision to march was not a partisan one, it was a moral one, and it was a spiritual one. If I didn’t march it I would be listening to a frightening interlocutor—and his name is despair.
Party affiliations are not creating the alienation at the root of what is happening. The challenges are much more painful—and if I stay silent or still in the face of this situation I would not be doing my job as a pastor or a mother.
Donald Trump should not be mistaken as the root issue that we face right now, nor should any political party. He is a container for many of the things this country has failed to address for generations. And those things that he refracts in these impulsive first few days in office and all along the campaign trail are plain and simple: patriarchy and white supremacy.
And the dynamics of patriarchy and white supremacy have tentacles that spider through every institution that props this country up: economic, political, religious, and academic. He did not rise to power in a vacuum. He is an American creation—and oh how difficult it is to see ourselves reflected back to us this way.
The challenge in the days ahead is not how to take down Donald Trump (although that may be something that would lower the inflammation of the current moment), the challenge is how to heal a wound that is oozing with a love-resistant infection.
The church got too cozy with political power. Jesus followers got too complacent with materialism. And the United States got too comfortable with the misogyny and racism that we learned to look past, or worse yet, to normalize.
Is it too late to heal these wounds? Is the patient too far gone? Will the scavengers be here to feed on the carcass of liberty and justice for all? That despair is easy to flirt with these days, but that same despair is ready to deprive us of our humanity. It will steal our hope, it will steal our courage, it will rip us out of the human family.
I marched because I believe in resurrection and regeneration—I believe our bodies and our collective body can heal or be loved into something far greater than we have been. This is not a partisan act—this is the act of a hopeful human being. I will not let racism and misogyny tell me how to see the world.
When I told her why we would march, I could have been more honest with my daughter. But I wanted her to see my resolve and my strength. I wanted her to feel the power of her developing womanhood to create new things and to be a source of life and hope. I wanted to be positive. I did not want her to see the foreboding feelings that are haunting me these days; I did not want her to glimpse the profound sorrow that I feel. My honest answer is too hard to look her in the eye and say. The bottom line is, I marched because I refuse to give up on her future.
Marcia Mount Shoop is an author, theologian, and minister. She is the Pastor/Head of Staff at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Asheville, NC. Her newest book, released from Cascade Books in October 2015, is A Body Broken, A Body Betrayed: Race, Memory, and Eucharist in White-Dominant Churches, co-authored with Mary McClintock Fulkerson. Marcia is also the author of Let the Bones Dance: Embodiment and the Body of Christ (WJKP, 2010) and Touchdowns for Jesus and Other Signs of Apocalypse: Lifting the Veil on Big-Time Sports (Cascade, 2014). Find out more at www.marciamountshoop.com