On Tuesdays and Thursdays YOUR VOICE features political commentary from students and young professionals.
Several months ago, I was having a conversation with my youngest brother when he told me about a legislative bill in Florida that had passed permitting trained officials to carry guns in schools. He had barely finished telling me about this new legislative development when I responded with the words, "I can't even." - a deflective phrase that I used to adequately communicate my refusal to process the information he had just shared.
We continued our conversation, and I dismissed my emotions as we moved onto another subject. However, the growing weight of my own disengagement as it pertains to a larger trend within my generation challenges me to reconsider that moment’s significance. At the time, I had been wearied by the news of shootings across the United States and grown so disillusioned with the subsequent bipartisan debate dominating media coverage that I no longer wanted to think about any dimension of the issue. My discouragement pervaded and soon, I avoided all other discourse surrounding public justice issues. Ultimately, I decided that my exhaustion or emotions towards a subject would excuse me from having to think about it critically.
Deep down, as a Christian, I know that this was untrue.
I am familiar enough with scripture to recall God's charge to seek justice for the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized. Whether the subject at hand is gun reform, sex trafficking, healthcare, immigration or global politics, I understand that these issues directly impact the quality of life and freedoms available to others. Consequently, I carry my disengagement with a sense of entitlement and shame, and I remain in this tension because I know that choosing to engage would require me to take a risk I’m not ready for. It would mean having to feel the responsibility of these real-world issues and most of all, it would mean having to risk doing something about them.
The more I open up to my peers about this experience, it becomes evident to me that this is not a unique struggle. A national poll of America’s 18 to 29 year-olds by Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP) reports that less than one-in-four (23%) young Americans say they will “definitely be voting” in November for mid-term elections, despite a sharp rise in dissatisfaction with recent government policies.
To make things worse, the Millennial generation is also facing higher levels of student loan debt, poverty and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income than the two preceding generations (Gen Xers and Baby Boomers) had at the same stage of their life cycles.Many 18 to 29 year-olds today are largely concerned with how to manage their own limited resources, and they distrust other parties, either political or private, to manage such for them. These factors combined result in a collective inability to affect change, making it easier to employ our distractions and look away instead.
As pacifying as entertainment and social media can be to our unease with the state of current political and social affairs, every Instagram photo or Facebook update in the world could not silence the Spirit’s gentle yet urgent call to lend our hands to the work of justice. A work that often appears impossible if it were not for His life in our world bringing it into reality.
In praying through my own stubborn cynicism, I realize that the fight for justice will last until Christ’s return. I am not called to end it – an overwhelming and angering thought in its very futility- I am called to participate, and that begins with the steady, patient work of hope. We are called to be agents of hope in an age of apathy. This requires us as Christians to see things not as they are, but as they were designed to be by the God who created the world and called it good. This original design is ushered forth by the Holy Spirit’s work in us and through us; Kingdom come.
This work begins with prayer.
Where is your hope today? If you empathized with my own disengagement, I trust the Lord is eager to speak words of life over your heart. It took several lonely evenings in His presence before the knot of frustration in my chest began to unravel. It is out of that place of humility and attention to my own relationship with Him that I can begin to trust His leading. I am beginning to see evidence of His redemption throughout the world again and, and I’m growing more confident of my role within it.
Public justice begins with hope, and it is sustained by our individual actions. As dismissible as this topic may feel at times, it is our responsibility to engage and risk allowing justice issues to make us uncomfortable.
-Rebecca is a Brooklyn resident with a Sunshine State soul. From 9-5, she works at Year Up, a top non-profit connecting exceptionally trained young adults with corporate opportunities in order to see lives and communities transformed. In between, she often finds herself wrestling with God to see his face in the modern day mires of life and binge-watching Netflix when she gets tired. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccamariejo.