You might remember McKayla Maroney from the 2012 Summer Olympics. She was favored to win the individual women’s vault, but she slipped during her routine in the finals, which earned her the silver instead of the gold. An image that captured McKayla at the medal ceremony, her lips pursed and her arms folded in disappointment, went viral, morphing into a meme with the caption, “McKayla’s not impressed.” The image would be superimposed onto many other scenarios. McKayla meets Obama—she’s not impressed. Space mission to Mars—McKayla’s not impressed.
McKayla received all the attention in good humor. Yet I believe the sentiment behind the meme reflects our current moment as the church in North America. As we consider our political climate, many of us find ourselves striking a “not impressed” pose. We only need to revisit our election exit polls data to recognize the current state of the evangelical family. Many of us are beyond disappointed with the racial, political, and ecclesial landscape.
Just as disheartening is the action and rhetoric President Trump has used in his short time in office. How do we faithfully engage those in the church who can’t (or won’t) see the realized fears of many vulnerable and marginalized people? What gain is there in trying to convince those with arms folded in indifference? Do we accept a new normal and get used to the rhetoric coming from the highest office in the land? Do we become extremely localized—staying in our urban or suburban or rural bubbles? Do we simply become spectators, returning indifference with indifference?
For the church to sit back with arms folded is to betray our individual and collective imaginations. Scripture teaches, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5, NIV).
We are called to a work of resistance—as contemplative as it is action oriented. It’s a call to stay open and alive, not to give in to numbness or normalize what is outside the bounds of human dignity. I say this not as a partisan statement but as a prophetic task.
Providing light to indifferent eyes requires a miracle in openness that would pry open folded arms. In contrast, we see Christ’s arms extended outward as he hangs upon the cross.
Prayerful conversations that leave us open to the pains and concerns of others have a way of opening our eyes in wonder and surprise.
This season I have found myself praying more. Constructing new language in symbols and metaphors of hope and resistance. Naming racism more directly. I’ve also committed to reaching out to a range of diverse pastors, to offer spaces for conversations that matter, conversations that will hopefully lead to wise action.
Jesus modeled artful conversation—it’s a major competency needed for discipleship. Prayerful conversations that leave us open to the pains and concerns of others have a way of opening our eyes in wonder and surprise.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once wrote, “An individual dies when they cease to be surprised. I am surprised every morning when I see the sunshine again. When I see an act of evil I don’t accommodate, I don’t accommodate myself to the violence that goes on everywhere. I am still so surprised! That is why I am against it. We must learn to be surprised.”
Surprised imaginations are alive in wonder, open to see what God would show us. During Lent we take time to reflect, resisting the captions that try to define us. The gospel reminds us that our world does not have the last word. God still wakes the dead and is into surprises.