To create change in our world, we need to understand power. Super hero's do not just show up and fix everything... Except when that super hero is a 9 year old girl in a committee hearing.
Normal Power: There are normal ways to gain power - money, position, physical strength, education, knowing the right people.... and the list goes on. Often, these types of power are used to hold power over others. A boss holds power over an employee because of their position. A wealthy family in a congregation holds power over other families by threatening to cut their contributions.
People Power: We also have other ways to gain power - through the people. When we organize and flood a Congressional leader's office with letters and phone calls, we are exercising people power to show that the community feels one way on an issue. But once again, this type of power can have its limits as well.
Power through Vulnerability: The Christian tradition highlights another type of power - the power of the cross. This is power obtained through sacrifice and a willingness to be at the mercy of others while standing up for what you believe. As we remember those who marched for civil rights, they opened themselves up to the Klan and Jim Crow laws that imprisoned them and beat them. Far too many civil rights leaders were assassinated, but even in death, they claimed moral authority and power.
My New Superhero: Earlier this month I had the joy of witnessing true power exercised by a young woman during a committee hearing on HB 160 - The Ohio Fairness Act. This bill will prevent discrimination in public accommodations, housing and employment based on gender or sexual identity.
Now, this bill has had a large coalition of support - including business leaders - who will exercise their power of influence and relationships to hopefully pass the bill. But the moment of God's presence was felt when the 9 year old girl was willing to be vulnerable and share her experiences being bullied by adults, ignored by her school, and loved by her family.
As she recounted her own experiences, the sounds of weeping were audible from all corners of the room as others remembered their own discrimination. As she finished her testimony, the normally resigned and self-controlled mood of an Ohio Statehouse Committee hearing room exploded with appreciation and acclaim as demonstrated through a standing ovation.
The reality of discrimination: While denominations continue to have varying views on human sexuality, we should all agree that kids shouldn't be bullied, picked on, and cast out for their gender or sexual identity.
The sad reality is that 40% of homeless youth are LGBT, they are more likely to suffer from depression, and they are more likely to attempt suicide. If we want to end hunger in Ohio, we cannot ignore that discrimination based on race, gender, nationality, religion, and sexual and gender identity are factors that we must also address.
Regardless of issue, the voices of the people may shake but will change our world. They may be vulnerable to ridicule and public backlash, but these are the brave voices that will move mountains and change the world. Jesus demonstrated power, not through military or good connections with those in power, but instead through the cross. Therefore, this Lenten Season in the Christian tradition, we are called to be vulnerable.
"Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever would save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a person if they gain the whole world and forfeits their soul?" Matthew 16:24-26
I don't need to go to the movies to see a great super hero. I saw one testify before the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee.