International tragedies come to popular consciousness so often now, we know what to expect: a wave of public thoughts and prayers, followed by criticism of those thoughts and prayers, and criticism of the criticism until attention dissipates or there’s another international tragedy to move toward.
One of the most pointed critiques of the cycle came this year in the form of a cartoon by Kristian Nygard. The cartoon flows so well because it captures the distance between speech or comfort and intervention or change: in a material world, we need material actions, and unexpressed thoughts, ungrounded prayers, and well-substantiated doctrines don’t take us far enough.
Black Christianity offers three premises that might help us disrupt this pattern. From Kelly Brown Douglas’ book Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God:
1. “Black prophetic testimony calls people to moral participation. This is a participation marked by a commitment to freedom, love, and life. Such participation is a matter of faith.”
2. “To have faith is to accept the invitation to be an ‘active presence in human history.'”
3. “The only way to change the realities of the world is through moral participation in history.”
We can’t change this world through thoughts and prayers that we never express or manifest, but through our active presence and participation, we can play a part in the re-creation of our world.
We just need to do something, and not “later,” but today.