John Lewis, Marriage Equality, and the Battle Already Won

A short thought for today:

John Lewis was interviewed by Krista Tippett recently about the use of non-violence during the civil rights era. The whole conversation is transcendent. He talks about being beaten during one of the protests and how he was absolutely certain he was going to die.

This exchange has remained in my mind:

Rep. John Lewis: I wanted to believe, and I did believe, that things would get better. But later I discovered, I guess, that you have to have this sense of faith that what you’re moving toward is already done. It’s already happened.

Ms. Tippett: Say some more about that.

Rep. Lewis: It’s the power to believe that you can see, that you visualize, that sense of community, that sense of family, that sense of one house.

Ms. Tippett: And live as if?

Rep. Lewis: And you live that you’re already there, that you’re already in that community, part of that sense of one family, one house.


We see this idea lurking in many places, some profound, some not.

“Be the change you wish to see.”

“Fake it ’til you make it.”

It’s also basic Christian eschatology. I can’t find the reference now, but Desmond Tutu talks about preaching against apartheid during the height of that evil system. The police rimmed the arena with guns and intimidation as he spoke. At one point he turned his attention to them and invited them to put down their guns.

Come and join us, he said, because you have already lost. We have won.

I sense this dynamic at work in the fight for marriage equality. We have reached a tipping point, and there is something relentlessly inevitable about it now. It is not a question of if, but when. This doesn’t mean that marriage equality supporters are done with their work. On the contrary, “living as if” gives a sense of energy and urgency to the work. Even many people opposed to gay marriage understand that sooner or later, it will be the law of the land.

(Of course, the inevitability of something doesn’t automatically make it right or good. But I believe the ability to marry the person you love regardless of gender is both a right and a good.)

I wonder where you’ve seen this dynamic John Lewis describes. I wonder when and how you live toward this in your own life.

7 thoughts on “John Lewis, Marriage Equality, and the Battle Already Won

  1. Joanna

    I also wonder if this “tipping point” is not also a somewhat dangerous time as those opposed to the change become more desperate and fearful. But I have the same sense and the same hope as you do. My theology profs liked to talk about the “already/not yet” of God’s kingdom. And so we pray, “Thy Kingdom come.” Amen.

  2. Bob Braxton

    What is generally rendered in English as “hope” is exactly this “the victory is already won” and the English word is too weak and off base. We generally use “hope” in a very different sense (of wishful thinking). Instead, this is about “it is already here – do you not perceive it?!”

  3. Marci Glass

    My experience with this was during my unplanned pregnancy in college. Things were definitely not okay in those days, but I had to live as if they were, and it seemed that most everyone else was pulled along into my vision that things were okay.

  4. Pingback: Friday Link Love: Doubt, Virginia Woolf, and a Real-Life Lord of the Flies | MaryAnn McKibben Dana

  5. Pingback: Who Was Jackie Robinson’s Jackie Robinson? | MaryAnn McKibben Dana

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *