Under the shadow of your throne
Your saints have dwelt secure
Sufficient is your arm alone
And our defense is sure.
“O God, Our Help in Ages Past”
The night after the election, as people all over America sorted out their very different feelings about the outcome, I gathered in our chapel with a couple dozen church members to eat homemade soup (aka first line pastoral care) and sing hymns. We were, universally: shaken, grieving, angry and frightened: not just for ourselves, but for the many vulnerable people who we feared would suffer even more under the new regime, if even a fraction of our president-elect’s campaign promises came true.
We opened with the hymn above–and critiqued it after we sang it. How could we sing without irony that “our defense is sure” when already that day hundreds of stories of copycat harassment and physical attacks were popping up? Some of the reports included: a Muslim woman on the street had her hijab ripped off, and was told to strangle herself with it. Dozens of boys reportedly grabbed girls’ vaginas in the hall at school, saying “if the President can do it, so can I.” Swastikas were painted in school bathrooms and on billboards. Students and adults, in many different parts of the country, yelled at Latinos to “go home to Mexico, we’re getting that wall now.” The N word and gay slurs enjoyed a fine resurgence, spat hatefully at shocked strangers.
The truth is, our defense is anything but sure. God does not promise us safety. What God does, is invite us into the safety of each other, if we will accept the challenge and call. There is a movement afoot to invite those who want to be allies in public places to wear a safety pin clearly and visibly wherever they go. And if you want to help people in danger even more practically, here’s a meme, which I’ve tweaked a la UCC:
If you wear a hijab, I’ll sit with you on the train.
If you’re trans, I’ll go to the bathroom with you.
If you’re a person of color, I’ll stand with you if the cops stop you.
If you’re a person with disabilities, I’ll hand you my megaphone.
If you’re an immigrant, I’ll help you find resources.
If you’re a survivor, I’ll believe you.
If you’re a refugee, I’ll make sure you’re welcome.
If you’re a veteran, I’ll take up your fight.
If you’re LGBTQ, I’ll remind you that you are beautiful and beloved, just as God made you.
If you’re a woman, I’ll make sure you get home ok.
If you’re tired, me too.
If you need a hug, I’ve got an infinite supply.
If you need me, I’ll be with you. All I ask is that you be with me, too. Together, we’ll be the strong arm of God.
God, divided, we are so vulnerable. Together, we make your defense real and visible and durable. Give us courage to stand up for one another. Amen.
Molly Baskette is Senior Minister of the First Church of Berkeley, California, and the author of the best-selling Real Good Church and Standing Naked Before God.