The Power of Inaction

“The opposite of good is not evil; it is inaction.” – Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

When we allow something to happen that we could possibly avoid, we do an injustice. We do an injustice to ourselves for allowing ourselves to become stagnant in the face of injustice, and we do an injustice to our brothers and sisters, somewhere in the world, that we could have helped. Injustice has many faces and comes in many colors. Injustice is not racist; injustice happens to everyone, everywhere, all the time. Some might say that injustice only happens to those who are not on the top. Not true. Injustice happens to everyone. Even those on top. We do those on top an injustice when we allow them to stay there and allow them to think that a hierarchy should be plausible and acceptable. Yes, those on top can have injustices done to them just like everyone else; injustice, unlike so many of us, is color blind.

I look at this quote every day. It is written on my mirror in my dining room and on a chalkboard going into my kitchen. The voice of Rabbi Heschel is in my head after hearing him talk about this quote on a weekly radio program on NPR. I can hear the gray-bearded rabbi talking just as though he were in my own house. I thought I lived by this quotation; but I was wrong. Really wrong.

Anyone can do an injustice, it’s actually pretty easy. You don’t have to do anything at all.

Recently I debated about the track of ordination. I thought, “maybe I’m not meant to be ordained. It would be easier if I were in a different life situation, or if I were a heterosexual male who was more conservative.” But I’m not. It would be easier to finish my degree, walk away and find a job where I can live out my life in some peace and quiet and never have to wear a collar or make hospital visits to the sick or never have to attend a Presbytery meeting and cast a vote that might not be agreed with by the majority (depending on the Presbytery). I wouldn’t have to take the Bible Content Exam, the Theology Exam, Worship and Sacraments, Polity or the Exegesis Exam. I wouldn’t have to pay the money, I wouldn’t have to make visits to my CPM (committee on preparation for ministry), and I wouldn’t have to follow the PCUSA’s rules. My life could be so much more simple if I didn’t do this thing called ordination.

My mother always said I make things too complicated.

But I didn’t make it this complicated. Others did. Other people before me made decisions that made my life and my process for ordination harder and more complicated. Some of those things are for the best. Like the psychological exam, that is something that is good. If you want to be a pastor you should be sane. End of story.

But they put into place other things. Things that make me more complicated in my journey. If it were only about taking tests, I might not be so worried. Those are obvious factors. They’re hard and you don’t pass them all at once and you will probably take a few of them atleast twice. But let’s be honest, it would be easier if I just didn’t do anything at all. I wouldn’t have to do a thing.

But what happens when I don’t do anything. What happens if I do not follow ordination, not because I don’t think I’m called, because I do; but because I don’t want to do anything complicated or hard.

Then I don’t get a vote.

I don’t get to try to make changes to a system that hurts some people. I have to try. My vote might be the one that breaks the tie. My vote might be the one that changes an institution and eases the pain that some people feel because of that institution. My vote might bring about justice for those on the margins. My vote might make it easier for someone just like me one day and make it a little less hard and hurtful of a process. My vote might allow someone else, who might have been denied before because of who God made them, to have their vote and speak God’s word to people who are listening to them. My vote might make a difference. My vote might not make a difference. But if there’s a chance that it will, then I should try for my right to vote.

If I try, it might not happen. But it might. And if I don’t try, I’ll never know. If I don’t try, I will remain inactive. I will allow an injustice to happen, at my idle hands. I don’t think I could live with that kind of guilt on my hands. I am, after all, a protestant.

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