Thesis 31: Most Of Us Are Just Ok

This post is part of a series of meditations on each of Luther's "95 Theses." You can view all posts in the series here.
31. Rare as is the man that is truly penitent, so rare is also the man who truly buys indulgences, i.e., such men are most rare.
On Sunday, August 10th, 2014, I woke up late after sleeping in and did something exceedingly rare: I bought a newspaper.

I usually skim straight through the overly sensationalized local news full of murder and stereotypes. On this morning, though, I did not. I found a short article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about a young black man who'd been killed by a white police officer out in the county. He'd been unarmed. I rarely react with such conviction, and even more rarely make good on my initial reactions, but I decided to attend a prayer vigil mentioned at the end of the article.

I didn't know much about Ferguson. I didn't know who'd be able to go with me. I didn't know exactly where to go except to punch the block address into Google Maps and trust that I would end up at the right place. Two friends, both also white, agreed to come with me.

We were the only non-journalist white people in the whole crowd of hundreds. I was the only white male. The awkwardness was real and palpable from the outset. We had as many conversations as we could. We knelt in prayer with the community around the spot on the pavement where Michael Brown had bled into the street for four hours. As the tension and energy started to rise in unfamiliar ways after the vigil, we decided to leave. Walking back to the car, we paused a block from West Florissant to see the beginning of the end of the QuikTrip.

So much has happened across the globe since that weekend. Enough has been well-documented by others that there's no need to repeat it here. But in sitting with Luther's 31st thesis, I've realized something that continues to surface since this summer: Most of us are just normal people making lots of mistakes. And that's powerful.

We have lots of new heroes. Protestors, clergy, and outspoken local politicans have given us hope for real sustainable change in our city. They have repented of our broken system and made good on their vow to create a new one that is more just. We have many new targets of our ire. Police chiefs, mayors, and white supremacist organizations seem to be buying indulgences from each other to keep our broken system afloat despite cries deep from the hearts of those at the margins.

But most people are just like you and me. We fuck up a lot. We do some pretty awesome things every so often. And we will be able to effect massive change when we realize that we are the ones we have been waiting for.

One common theme among books of revelation from the first few centuries C.E. that ended up uncanonized is this: Inwardly seeking and finding an increasingly true self is practically synonymous with one's search for God. Introspection leads to right and just action. In all of our search for saviors, we seem to be stumbling through our communal salvation because we've forgotten that the real power for revolution lies within.

At a protest at the Edward Jones Dome during the Ferguson October weekend, one of the leaders (who would likely bristle at being called such a thing) asked the crowd to draw in tight, fists in the air, as we spoke aloud each line of a now-familiar refrain originally coined by Assata Shakur in 1973.

She called. We responded. After arriving home that evening, the significance of this act struck me. It was liturgy stripped bare of all pretense. It was a public declaration of our belief in love, our allegiances to a greater good, and a flesh-and-blood promise to those pressed into the huddle with us. It was what power should be.

May we walk boldly into the new year knowing our own power, both individually and collectively. Though most of us are just ok, that is all we need to be, for we are together. May we make Assata Shakur's words our liturgy, our prayer:

It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.

Photo: Rev. Dr. Deb Krause, Academic Dean at Eden Theological Seminary, at the clergy protest on Moral Monday, October 13, 2014, part of the Ferguson October weekend of protests and action.


  1. Is it that words make the heart want to say no more. Or words that make the head rage.

    1. Neither. It is that, for the most part, words fail to hold the spiritual and emotional complexities involved. With new experiences like these, I've had to give them time to find their own vocabulary.


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