We have been through one of the harshest election seasons ever. Now, regardless of whether any of us voted for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or someone else, all of us find ourselves in the midst of very distressing circumstances.
Fears of heightened bigotry and hate crimes have turned into reality for many Americans. Swastikas, racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim graffiti are appearing in cities and suburbs. There are unruly protests and vandalism. The Southern Poverty Law Center has counted more than 300 cases of hateful harassment or intimidation in the US since Election Day.
Like the smoke from the drought-fed fires that covers Georgia and the Carolinas, fear now permeates the air all around us. It is not just abstract, unrealistic fear. This is anxiety born directly from specific comments and actions that have singled out race, ethnicity, gender and gender identity. It is personal.
As Christians what do we do? What actions are we, empowered by and driven by the love of God, called to take?
Here is a story of hope that a few of you shared with me. These bigoted attacks and harassment — carried out against Americans by Americans — are much like the attacks that many British people and immigrants suffered at the hands of other Brits in the wake of the “Brexit” vote earlier this year.
During the height of these attacks, many people wanted to show solidarity, support, and offer safety to one another but didn’t know how. An American woman named Allison living in Britain at the time decided that she wanted to change that:
I'd like to come up with something that can be made by anybody anywhere to pin on their jacket or coat to signify that they are an ally.
I quite like the idea of just putting a safety pin – empty of anything else – on your coat. A literal SAFETY pin!
In a big city like London, or even in someplace smaller like a grocery store, or a coffee shop, we’re all just strangers to one another. It can be difficult for all of us to either reach out for help or to offer help. A symbol as simple as a safety pin can be an important first step in showing solidarity and support for people who are scared and upset at this time.
There’s now a growing movement in the United States for people to start wearing a safety pin in the wake of post-election attacks and harassment. In itself it is a small thing. But what it says to fellow Americans and our immigrant neighbors who are afraid or subject to abuse is hugely important: I will stand by you. I will sit next to you. I will walk with you. I will defend your rights in America.
You can be a part of this. There is a small bowl of safety pins on the table outside the office. Take one and pin it to your lapel or your collar and let people know that you are an ally to those who are troubled and that you are on the side of peace.
Together in Christ,
Rick Neale, Pastor
Pastor Rick Neale
Rick is serving as our contract-call pastor. He is a Teaching Elder in the PCUSA, and he has pastored churches in upstate New York and Miami, FL. After coming to Atlanta, he served as Chaplain for Oncology at Northside Hospital. His previous pastorate was at Church of the New Covenant in Doraville, GA.