IMG_0608Today, I want to tell you about the trip I took to the border a couple of months ago. Texas Impact sponsored a group of clergy to learn about the crisis on Texas’ southern border. We spent time learning about the nature of the crisis — causes and barriers to solutions. Then, we went across the border to hear stories from a few of the hundreds who are waiting to be granted an asylum hearing. 

Yes, I need to write about the trip, to share what I learned, what I saw, and what happened as a result. Weeks later, I finally wrote about the first part. Yet to be written are part 2  (the border stories) and part 3 (the Capitol Hill day). The plan was that today’s blog post would build on those posts and make some theological connections with an encouraging push toward pastoral activism in general, and border activism in particular, if you are thus called.

Not completed. Failure.

Maybe it’s the packing fatigue talking. All of my worldly possessions are packed and sealed in boxes. This new-homeowner granny spent the last two — or was it three — days accomplishing that. All is ready for the movers who will be here in one more sleep. My body is tired and sore but was able to get the work to completion — success! 

Activism, not so much. The most honest thing I can say about activism in general — and my own attempts in particular — is that, measured by successful outcomes, activism results in failure.

Haven’t we marched (and preached and pleaded) for equality time and time again?
The Supreme Court might yet decide that LGBTQ persons can be fired for being themselves.

Haven’t we boycotted businesses who pollute the ocean and exploit workers?
Businesses continue to exploit and pollute.

Aren’t we disgusted that today is a national holiday that “celebrates” colonization, racisim, exploitation, and genocide?
These are our character, still today.

The list goes on. The failures pile up.

Today I wanted to tell you about the mind-changing stories we clergy told congressional staffers, stories that made them sit up and listen, eyes tearing up a little. I wanted to tell you that they understood and agreed with the need for congresspersons to take back legislative authority and roll back executive actions that have exacerbated this crisis. I wanted to tell you that they finally saw asylum seekers as children of God, valuable assets to be welcomed and protected, worthy of our pledge of “liberty and justice for all.” I wanted to tell a success story. I wanted to be successful in this space, in particular, and I wanted to encourage you in your activism.

The story did not go like that.  No surprise, really.

Politics is people making decisions together for how they will live in society. We clergy were recruited specifically to bring a moral perspective to a humanitarian crisis. We clergy follow Jesus who “came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” So we don’t hear a limitation on numbers or see a border that keeps out. Jesus without love/life limits is who has called us and whom we follow.

So, of course we will fail. Not everyone — not every elected official — is primarily dedicated the common good. The gods of money and power and re-election have won their hearts and minds. 

Therefore, ever-called by the Author of Life, we who are Jesus called will find ourselves saying  yet another “yes” to good-news hard-as-hell activism. Failures included.


Rev. Sharon M. Temple is a United Church of Christ pastor living in Austin, TX. She is a contributor to the RevGals book There’s a Woman in the Pulpit and blogs erratically at Tidings of Comfort and Joy.


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One thought on “The Pastoral is Political: Activism, Failure, and Jesus

  1. I’ve just spent this morning preparing a midweek sermon on the RCL Gospel for this week from Luke 18, the widow and the unjust judge. I think this ties in absolutely to that Gospel passage. Jesus speaks directly to us encouraging us, like the widow, to be persistent and to continue to speak out against the injustice of our world. And one day, God, the Good and Just Judge will deliver his justice for all humankind.

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