Monday, November 11, 2013

"We Can Present Our Bodies": The Spiritual Grounding of Civil Rights Activism

In her interview with the heroic (and saintly) John Lewis in the video at the head of this posting, Rachel Maddow asks Congressman Lewis whether he thinks that the methods that were so effective for the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s are still effective. Rep. Lewis replies that he thinks the methods of nonviolent protest employed by civil rights activists in the '60s remain effective for the following reason:

Because we can present our bodies. We can say, "Here we are." . . . [Y]ou have a body, and you can bear witness to the truth. You can find a way to get in the way. We all can practice the way of peace, the way of love, the way of nonviolence.

As Jean Ann Esselink explains, last week Illinois state representative Naomi Jakobsson, a co-sponsor of the marriage equality bill that her state just passed, put her life on the line in a remarkable way to bear witness to the truth. Naomi Jakobsson and her husband Eric raised eight children, six of them adopted.

When the day for the vote on the marriage equality bill arrived, Rep. Jakobsson was with her son Garret, whom she and her husband adopted from South Korea in 1968. Garret was in hospice care, and his death from Pick's disease was imminent. In the week leading up to the vote on marriage equality, Jakobsson chose to be with Garret as he approached death, and with his wife Beth and son Gunnar.

But last week on the day of the House vote, when Rep. Jakobsson received a call telling her that her vote was critically important, she made the excruciating decision to leave her son's bedside and drive to Springfield to cast her vote. The bill passed by 61 votes. one more than it needed in order to pass.

As soon as her vote was cast and the bill had passed, Rep. Jakobbson drove back to the hospice facility in which her son was receiving care. She arrived ten minutes after Garret died.

As Jean Ann Esselink says, Naomi Jakobsson, her husband Eric, and their entire family deserve the profound gratitude of the gay community. Like John Lewis and many courageous people who presented their bodies as they gave witness to the truth of the equality of all human beings in the eyes of God during the Civil Rights movement, Naomi Jakobsson put her life on the line last week. 

Suggesting to me, as she did so, that there's a profound spiritual component to the struggle for rights for LGBTI human beings, no matter what many religious bodies and religious leaders, including the Catholic bishops of Illinois and the leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, say to the contrary . . . . 

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