I have never quite forgiven my middle son for moving away from the Bay Area and eliminating our perfect excuse to visit San Francisco.
The restaurants…the museums…the neighborhoods…the views…the restaurants.
Once, when we were visiting him in Berkeley, where he lived, I went for a run by myself in the middle of the day.
I ran down to the bay, looped around a park that smelled heavenly due to waves of wild fennel growing everywhere, as far as the eye could see, then headed back downtown.
As I ran on the sidewalk beside a heavily traveled street, a car full of young men slowed down beside me.
One of the men leaned out the window and emitted a wolf whistle, then leered, “Niiiiiice!”
Behind my sunglasses, I rolled my eyes and focused on showing no reaction, not wanting to give the men in the car the satisfaction of knowing I was rattled.
This story is probably sadly familiar to most female runners.
Harassment (and sometimes worse) comes with the territory, #MeToo notwithstanding.
Recalling this incident recently made me think of Emmett Till.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this story, Emmet Till was the young African-American who was brutally beaten, mutilated, and shot, then his body thrown into a river in Mississippi in 1955.
His crime? Whistling at a white woman.
The men in the car in Berkeley were African-American.
I recently read a biography of the 20th Century Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Bonhoeffer was executed in a Nazi concentration camp two weeks before the end of World War II for his involvement in an unsuccessful plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.
Bonhoeffer considered Hitler “evil incarnate“, causing suffering and death for millions of innocents, including Jews, Romani, Spanish Republicans, people with disabilities, homosexuals, and people of mixed race.
The plot to kill Hitler and end his reign of terror failed because of a quirk in the design of the table at which he sat when the bomb intended to kill him exploded.
A massive oaken plinth, which supported the tabletop, shielded Hitler from the blast that killed several other Nazi leaders sitting at the table.
“It was Providence that spared me,” Hitler asserted after the failed attempt.
Was it God’s will to extend the cruel dictator’s life, allowing the torture and killing of people in concentration camps and battlefields to continue?
Was it God’s will for a 14-year-old boy to be viciously murdered for whistling at a woman?
No, emphatically not.
Evil occurs when we do not follow God’s will.
But what is God’s will? Bonhoeffer had some thoughts about that.
He believed that by relegating God to “religion“, we push Him to the edges of our lives, making Him the “God of the gaps“, used to explain things we do not understand and concerned only with our sins and secret thoughts.
But Bonhoeffer thought God was much bigger, more robust and all-encompassing, and His love wilder and more fierce than that.
Bonhoeffer wanted God to be at the very center of our lives.
He also believed that God wanted us to live here on earth, fully engaged in the world with its heartbreaking sin and beauty.
It makes sense.
What better sign that God wants us to celebrate our earthly existence and His wondrous creation than His own incarnation, living a real human life here with us in the dirt and squalor, and the rose-tinted sunrises and snow-capped mountains, experiencing real human suffering and exultation?
The world is something to be savored, not transcended.
God wants us to laugh loud and long with our friends, to take a walk in the warm spring sunshine (preferably with a canine companion, but that’s just my opinion), to sit by a fire and watch for shooting stars, to allow a painting to take our breath away, to be passionately in love, to say “yes” again and again and again.
God wants us to fight injustice, to champion the powerless, to listen to our conscience, and yes, to protect His earth, His magnificent blue-green creation.
Here are Bonhoeffer’s words: “I fear that Christians who venture to stand on earth on only one leg will stand in heaven on only one leg too.”
And here: “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.“
Bonhoeffer didn’t just speak these words; he lived according to this theology, willing to forfeit his life fighting injustice.
Evil exists in this world only if we allow it.
We are called to live a life of courage and action, to fight injustice with all of our will and our breath and our power.
How can we stand up to evil today, each one of us?
What form of injustice can we fight?
You can find the places I link up here.