By Kristen Krueger, PhD – LEAD Consultant 

Our kids are crying and we need to listen. 

We must listen to the words of Cameron Kasky, a leader of the #NeverAgain movement and a survivor of the Parkland school shooting when he says:

“Look, this isn’t about red and blue…this is about people who are for making a difference to save us.” (View full transcript.)

Listen as Stoneman Douglas freshmen Michelle Lapido cries:

“I’m going to have to go back to school. On to the same campus, the same building to pick up my stuff, to resume my classes, to keep studying and I’m never going to feel safe on another public school campus ever again.” (View full transcript.)

We must listen to Janaya Khan, a leader in the Black Lives Matter movement when he asks:

“Why was it so easy to support the Parkland youths while the youths in the Movement for Black Lives were repudiated and disregarded?” (Read full article.)

It is imperative that we do not ignore these voices. The students of Parkland, Florida are asking questions that we must hear. In between attending funerals for their friends and teachers, these remarkable young people have become a force of change. We must listen. Listen with open hearts and then move with purpose into supporting these young people. 

It has been more than 50 years since the Freedom Riders made sure their voices were heard as they boarded buses to force desegregation. It is easy to forget how radical these young leaders were in their time. Journalists, politicians, and parents all stood up to shout that these radical kids needed to be put back in their place. Today we celebrate their fight, knowing without a doubt that they were on the right side of history. What will historians of the future say about Cameron, Michelle, and Janaya? 

Historically the church has responded to social movements in two distinct ways. During the Civil Rights movement, some congregations chose to keep politics outside the church walls arguing that politics must be kept out of the pulpit. Others opened their doors to host meetings, create space for dialogue, welcome speakers, and train leaders to engage in civil disobedience alongside the leaders of social change. 

Our church has a choice to make. Will we stand with the young people or will we keep politics outside our walls?

Will we put our own needs aside and listen, really listen, to the cries of the young leaders who demand a safer, more equal world?

I pray that our answer will be yes.