Here and Now: Rosa Parks

July 31st, 2019

I deliberately write about Rosa Parks today, to point through her to the power of here-and-now living, and that with respect to nonviolent resistance to injustice and racism. Her decision not to give up her seat on the Montgomery city bus was one made in relation to a present-moment challenge that reflected an abiding evil. It created a ripple effect that continues to this day. [1]

Through Rosa Parks we are reminded of the power which ordinary people possess to overcome evil with good — and to do so with respect to everyday things, in her case, a seat on a bus. Parks knew that the routine things of life are where the moral conscience is formed. She personified Jesus’ call for us to be faithful in little things (Luke 16:10).

Moreover, her refusal to move put flesh and blood on the Bible’s definition of justice, pointing to a quality of life in which all people are given what they need to thrive, not just the few. Her present-moment living was rooted in the fact that all people are made in the image of God and are persons of sacred worth, worth which affords them access to what others already have.

One of the most evil things in the world is the denial of human rights, which can be touted in the present moment without being actualized in it. A strange ethic of deferral exists that puts the establishment of justice at an unspecified time in the future. Martin Luther King wrote about this evil in his letter from the Birmingham jail, noting that it was a view held by Christians who alleged to share his convictions regarding injustice, but said “not now” with respect to putting them into practice.

U.S. postage stamp featuring Rosa Parks. Bigstock/Neftali

Rosa Parks stands as a living denial to any “not now” view of life that neutralizes and prevents the enactment of righteousness in the present moment. There is only one place and time for holiness: here and now.

[1] Jeanne Theoharis’ award-winning book, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks (Beacon Press, 2013) reveals the depth and breadth of Parks’ life and work in the civil rights movement.

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