Hot Streets, Warm Hearts: Disobedience and Discipleship

thomas carey arrest
Bro. Thomas Carey, Vicar of the Church of the Epiphany in Lincoln Heights, faced arrest on September 5 in support of 60 Walmart workers who’d been illegally fired or disciplined for striking. Bro. Carey was one of the last three arrestees released that night. He submitted some words reflection on the action and how his sacrifice, while seemingly minor in the face of Walmart’s massive repression against others, brought him into fellowship with those working to build power for justice in the world’s biggest retailer.

 

Twenty one of us were arrested on September 5, 2013 in an action to protest the business practices of the largest retailer in the world, Walmart.  Coincidentally, that week the Gospel reading for the Episcopal Church (of which I am a member) had to do with counting the costs of discipleship.  How much does it cost me to walk like I talk?  To be the man that I say I am?
Protesting against the stupid, greedy, and ultimately self-destructive business practices of Walmart cost me, personally, very little.  I had the support of my own Bishop, so I wasn’t in trouble with my immediate employer; I lost one day of work; I spent eight hours in jail; my legal representation was pre-arranged through the good offices of CLUE.  Everything in my case, as we used to say, was “jake.”
What was humbling and beautiful about that march was walking with people for whom there was a very definite cost.  There were a bunch of Walmart workers with us–these men and women were paying through the nose trying to improve their own working conditions, and the working conditions of their sister and brother workers.  They were working to improve the lot even of those people who were in disagreement with them.  They were working to save Walmart, itself, from the folly of greed and worker-suppression on which it had embarked.  For me. this is the essence of any living spirituality, no matter what tradition:  A healthy concern for my own rights and well-being; an abiding concern for the rights and well being of others; a living faith that my actions will eventually be of benefit even to  my adversary.  It was beautiful and humbling to be with folks for whom that mode of life is a reality.
I’m really impressed by how well organized our march was.  I felt taken care-of, seen to, and appreciated.   It was hot that day, very hot.  But for us and between us all there was nothing but warmth–that cool, refreshing warmth of heart beating with heart.
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Br. Tom Carey, SSF
Vicar, Church of the Epiphany

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