Photos & Stories

Civil Disobedience and Our Protest-ant Roots

November 17, 2017
Stand up Charlie Baker climate change
Emma Brewer-Wallin

Old Souther Emma Brewer-Wallin participated in a civil disobedience action to call on Gov. Charlie Baker to take action on climate change. Below Emma explains what motivated her to take part.

To my beloved friends, family, Church:

Yesterday I broke the law: I was charged with trespassing and unlawful assembly.

I and 25 others sat outside Governor Baker’s office, asking him to issue an executive order halting the development of fossil fuel infrastructure in our Commonwealth. We proclaimed to his unhearing office doors the realities of climate change. We called to his attention the power Massachusetts could take on the national and international stage. We urged him to remember the moral mantle of leadership upon his own shoulders. We sang, we read poetry, we sat peacefully.

First and foremost, I did this as an act of faith. I engaged in this action prayerfully, holding in light and love all whom we encountered. I grounded myself in the Christian tradition of loving my enemy and my neighbor. I found courage in the meek strength of Christ himself and the disciples who have followed him for centuries. I reminded myself of our protest-ant tradition that teaches me not to be satisfied with the powers that be. I have taken to heart the testimony that money shall not be the determinant of eternal life: this is just as true if we are speaking of indulgences granting entry to Heaven as when we are speaking of policies of extraction that are profitable for the few and ensure that all that is life-giving will cease for the many. I climbed up the hill on which this city stands in order to shed light on the fact that we claim to be a beacon, yet we live in the darkness of destruction, consumption, and exploitation. The God that I know – and the faith communities that I am a part of – call me to resist oppression and evil.

Secondly, I did this as a person of extraordinary privilege. That I am a U.S. citizen granted me protections that non-citizens do not have. That I am white gave police permission to not treat me with unearned suspicion and violence. My current employers supported me in my actions, and I am pursuing a profession that tends to look favorably upon civil disobedience. I had the opportunity for careful discernment beforehand, and I did so with the support of wise and loving friends, family, and mentors.

I am privileged, lucky, and grateful to have two homes, one on each coast, neither of which has been ravaged by fire or flood, tempest or drought. It is for this reason that I escalated my response to the horrors of climate change – because it is by privilege alone that I have this choice. Therefore, it is my own heart that is the target of this action just as much as it is Governor Baker’s. 

It is not lost on me that I did this one week before Thanksgiving. Just as I claim my Puritan roots, I must also acknowledge the violence done by my forebears’ hands and by the words of our scripture. I have kept in my mind the ways of extraction and consumption, and the destruction of life, land, and ways of being, perpetrated by my people. I have held in my heart the strength of Indigenous resistance. I have carried with me the native community, and their land, that I have been honored to serve, both of which have left a profound mark on me. 

I did this as a person of faith – not only in prayer and grounded in the Christian tradition – but as a person whose faith leads her to hope. I did this believing in a God of mercy who brings comfort and healing to the poor, wounded, and afflicted. I did this believing in a God of justice who cannot bear to see the powerful trample on those who appear weak when they think no one is looking. I did this believing in a God of beauty, who created the earth and everything in it and called it good. It is through this God that I can believe that beauty – that wholeness – might one day be restored.

I did this from both a place of conviction and of humility. If you look upon my actions and no longer see the person you thought I was, or if you see someone who does not believe what you thought I believed, write to me. This is a process, and one that you are part of. 

If it is your practice, will you pray with me?

Emma Brewer-Wallin, 
Ministry Intern, Old South Church
Climate Justice Intern, MACUCC