October: Survivor month
No, it has nothing to do with the long-running reality TV show or whatever pop song. October is both Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Additionally, the Out of the Darkness Walk for suicide awareness will take place later this month. I sincerely hope that your faith community, fraternal organization or even workplace will observe these various struggles for survival.
However, I struggle to be fully enthusiastic about mere survival. In the gospel of John, Jesus Christ teaches that he came that we may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). The Christian rock band Casting Crowns sings, “It’s time to for us to do more than just survive. We were meant to thrive.” In an old parable about endlessly rescuing babies from a river, the moral is that we can never find the root causes of injustice if we only focus on helping people to survive for another day. Mere survival seems to me … unsatisfying.
On the other hand, there is no sense in looking for root causes of injustice if our loved ones will not live to see the results of our research. For example, many African-Americans and their allies have taken to street protest because too many African-American people do not survive encounters with police. Despite how statistics show us that we are living longer than any time in recorded history, we live in existential fear of death. Mere survival is a low bar, but it is a necessary one.
What are we to do, then? In this month of October let us take the first step of survival. Let us defy the powers of death, whether breast cancer or domestic violence or suicide or anything else, and let us live and fight for another day. This little light of mine — I’m not gonna let Satan blow it out — I’m gonna let it shine!
In this month of October let us also prepare for the steps beyond the first step of survival. I like the “Two Feet of Love in Action” model of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops. We step forward with the foot of charitable works and also with the foot of social justice. One foot is necessary to provide the immediate needs of survival. The other foot is necessary for the prevention of future deaths. We cannot move forward without both feet.
I pray that people of faith and good will take seriously the journey before us. Moses once set before the people of Israel the choice of life and prosperity, death and adversity. Like Moses, I exhort you to choose life! Celebrate the survivors in our midst, and then let us continue to take the steps necessary for all people to have life-and to have it abundantly.
— Hopkins is the pastor at Avis United Methodist Church.