Our culture is obsessed with comic book superheroes. Their movies draw millions at the box office and inspire merchandise for everything from socks to cereal. Perhaps we’re obsessed because our hearts yearn for people to look up to, admire and emulate. Perhaps we create fake heroes because we’ve forgotten what REAL heroes look like. Let me remind you.
Congressman John Lewis and The Rev. Cordy Tindell (CT) Vivian are real American heroes, worthy of our admiration, leaders we can follow (even after their deaths). Both men labored tirelessly and prophetically for justice and peace. As leaders in the civil rights movement they were fierce advocates for equality, direct action and nonviolent resistance. And both were deeply motivated by their faith.
Congressman Lewis was arrested more than 40 times and consistently put his life on the line advocating for civil and human rights. As one of the first Freedom Riders, he encouraged others to get into “good trouble” when pursuing all that is fair and just. As recently as 2016, he staged a sit-in on the House floor in an effort to force a vote on gun control.
The Rev. C.T. Vivian gave everything he had to justice, grounded by his faith and a commitment to nonviolence. He became one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s lieutenants and was also one of the first Freedom Riders. Rev. Vivian continued his advocacy work until his death. He set a high standard with his insistence on nonviolent direct action that is still relevant today.
These men consistently sacrificed their own comfort and safety for the sake of others, often putting their bodies on the line. It is reminiscent of the Christ they followed. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)
As our world continues to groan under the weight of oppression and injustice, may we look to those worthy of following. May we be inspired by the legacy of these real heroes. They represented the best of who we are. Lights shining in the darkness. Their lights continue to shine.
Jan Musgrove Elfers
EMO Director of Development & Communications