BY TINAMARIE STOLZ | July 17, 2019
“Tinamarie, you’re risking arrest….again? Seriously. Why do you do this?” a dear friend asked.
Honestly, it’s a solid question.
In February of 2018, I participated in non-violent civil disobedience through the Catholic Day of Action on behalf of the DREAM Act with the Benedictine Sisters of Erie. I never thought I would ever willingly risk getting arrested once, let alone twice.The circumstances leading up to the Catholic Day of Action for Immigrant Children this Thursday are complex—a broken immigration system; violence, poverty, hunger, and a lack of opportunity pushing numerous families north; and unsanitary and inhumane conditions inside detention centers greeting children upon their arrival.
But why I feel called to participate in nonviolent civil disobedience again is simple—sometimes I just have to put my body in the way.
Sometimes, there are policies, laws, or attitudes so egregiously unjust and contrary to the love of God that posting on Facebook, calling my representatives, and dialoguing with those around me simply does not cut it. Of course, it is crucial to raise awareness, inform your representatives of your views and concerns, and bring others into the conversation. Yet, there are times when actions cannot stop there.
I know this might sound a bit bizarre, but there are times I believe the Holy Spirit invites me to hear and feel a microscopic reflection of God’s pain for the world. Actually, I believe we are all welcome to—even implored to—recognize this genuine reflection of God’s pain. It moves me. Literally.
When I take the Gospel seriously and allow it to pervade my interior life—my mind, heart, spirit, and body—the resounding and radical message of the Gospel transforms me. And if I can be open, I am given the gift of new eyes to see and new ears to listen. Then, almost automatically, the Gospel directly points my new eyes and ears to those closest to God, to those Jesus spent the most time with—people who are marginalized, in this case, children who migrated to the United States and are
placed in unsanitary and inhumane conditions inside detention centers without their families.
When I observe the injustices of our world with Gospel-centered eyes and ears, those who are marginalized do not stay “the marginalized” or Those poor people! What a shame. Instead, they become family. One. Because God created us as one. It is only natural that hands and feet come next. They simply cannot sit still while my brothers and sisters are hurting, especially when there is an action that could help stop their pain.
This time my spirit heard God cry out, Those are my kids. How could I not put my body in the way after that?
At the end of it all, risking arrest isn’t about me—it is about my little brothers and sisters living in unacceptable conditions. If I am arrested for non-violent civil disobedience this Thursday, I peacefully and non-violently accept the consequences. Because my arrest is truly nothing compared to what my little brothers and sisters have faced before their treacherous journey north, on their journey here, and in our detention centers (even upon the best circumstances).
God does not call everyone to non-violent civil disobedience. But God calls everyone to faith in action.
Tinamarie Stolz is an adjunct theology professor and campus minister at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, PA. She holds a master’s degree in theological studies from the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio.