Recently, we shared the reflections of several members of Virginia-Highland Church who traveled to Selma, Alabama for the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday.” Today, we want to offer the witness of another of our members, Jean Miller, who is continuing the tradition of civil disobedience through her participation in Moral Monday Georgia.
On Friday, February 27, I was offered a part-time job as administrative assistant at The Open Door Community (ODC) in Atlanta. The ODC is a residential community in the Catholic Worker tradition. (We’re sometimes called a Protestant Catholic Worker House.) We seek to dismantle racism, sexism, and heterosexism, abolish the death penalty, and proclaim the Beloved Community through loving relationships with some of the most neglected and outcast of God’s children: the homeless and our sisters and brothers who are in prison. The Open Door wanted me to start immediately, the following Monday. However, I already had planned to participate in a civil disobedience at the Georgia Capitol on Monday afternoon, and I would be in jail until sometime on Tuesday. This caused great rejoicing at ODC. Finally, after years of not knowing what I wanted to be when I grew up, I found my place. They loved that I was getting arrested!
During the 2014 Georgia legislative session I was arrested along with 25 or so other folks who were protesting with the Moral Monday Georgia movement. The subject of that protest was encouraging the State of Georgia to repeal its so-called “stand your ground” law. That arrest was a watershed moment for me, and I was glad to have the opportunity to go to jail again. This time we were protesting the governor’s and legislature’s refusal to accept money to expand Medicaid. Since the Affordable Care Act became law, estimates are that as many as 1,200 people in Georgia have died because they could not afford to see a doctor. Medicaid expansion could have saved those souls.
I chose to be arrested because I follow the real Jesus, the one the Gospels talk about. The one who stood in solidarity with the poor, the oppressed, the have-nots. The one who was born in a barn, rode a donkey (not a horse), did not respect authority, and had women as friends and companions. This Jesus loved his enemies, taught nonviolence, and proclaimed the radical notion that living on enough instead of more, more, more is God’s will. This Jesus was murdered by the state for his teaching and street preaching. (For more on this Jesus, I urge you to read Ed Loring’s book, The Cry of the Poor. Ed is a founding partner of ODC.)
I’m pretty sure I won’t be executed for my civil disobedience (though in Georgia anything is possible!). Frankly, my symbolic overnight stay in jail was just that, a symbol. I was never in any real danger, and, if my charges ever get to court, I might be sentenced to community service. Ironic, since that’s probably what Jesus would be in favor of.
Friends, Jesus’ way is hard. We live in a culture that has turned the Gospels upside down and inside out. Compared to the prosperity gospel or the notion that being poor is a person’s own fault, Jesus’message is countercultural in the extreme. What’s a follower of Jesus to do? I ask myself that question every day. I pray that you do, too.