The Common Good
March-April 1996

A Conversation With My Daughter

by Killian Noe | March-April 1996

Perhaps I can best explain why I knowingly chose to break the law by recalling a conversation I had with my 7-year-old daughter before she left for school on the morning of December 7.

Perhaps I can best explain why I knowingly chose to break the law by recalling a conversation I had with my 7-year-old daughter before she left for school on the morning of December 7.

Me: Kietrie, there is a chance I will not be able to pick you and your sister up from school this afternoon, and there is a chance I will have to spend the night at the D.C. jail tonight.

Kietrie: Why, mommy, what did you do wrong?

Me: Well, Kietrie, as you know, most laws are made to help people and to protect people. Can you think of such a law?

Kietrie: Yes, like wearing seat belts or like not killing anyone.

Me: Good thinking. Can you think of a law that hurt people?

Kietrie: Yes, like the laws that kept black people from eating in any restaurant they wanted to or the laws that hurt Jewish people in Germany.

Me: Those are good examples. Well, our country is in the process of making a budget, which is like a law in that it will affect many people's lives. I feel very deeply that this budget will hurt poor people. So today I am going to go with some friends to the place where they make the laws in this country. We are going to gather and pray in a place where we are not supposed to gather and pray.

Kietrie: Why, mommy?

Me: We hope to get the attention of the people who make the laws. We feel it is important that we get their attention, because if they do not hear this message, more and more people who are vulnerable will suffer in the years to come.

Kietrie: But mommy, why would the people who make the laws even think of making laws that could hurt poor people?

Me: Some of the people who make the laws may not really understand what it is like to be poor. And some of them probably genuinely believe that the cuts will help people who are poor make healthier choices for their lives. Others who make the laws represent a hardening of hearts in our country toward those Jesus called the least of these.

Kietrie: Mommy, will they kill you for breaking the law?

Me: Are you worried that I might not come home?

Kietrie: Why wouldn't they kill you? Martin Luther King broke laws that hurt people and he got killed.

Me: Kietrie, we live in a country where there is some freedom to speak out against our government. We are very blessed in that way. And sometimes it is necessary to speak out against laws that hurt people by breaking the law. But we must never, ever, ever hurt anyone while we are speaking out for what we believe.

Killian Noe is program director at Samaritan Inns and co-pastor of Lazarus House Church in Washington, D.C.


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