A Spiritual Discipline
It takes a herculean effort to really know history because our culture deliberately obscures it. The purveyors of history have primarily been those in power, and they have written and recorded a triumphalist narrative about who we are. What if we were to look beyond the fragmented history we were taught in school? If we dig a little deeper to find the volumes of truth that have been intentionally left out of our nation's story, we can find enlightenment and knowledge that liberates our communities instead of holding us back.
The protesters in the streets calling for justice are the voices challenging the status quo that dominates and subjugates poor and marginalized people. The prophets in scripture repeatedly call out those who prey on and cheat the poor, and they reveal a God who rejects the worship of those who exploit others and instead demands justice. Who are the prophets of our day? What is holding us back from stepping into the prophetic witness and vision happening today?
How do we embrace abundance in our spiritual and activist life? I’m learning for starters to listen to my body. We are trained not to listen to our pain therefore we cannot see or address the pain of others.
As I watch Derek Cauvin’s trial, I see George Floyd on the cross. I can’t help but think about how the same people Jesus Christ cared for are still being criminalized and are at the mercy of the Pilates of today. What would it look like to walk alongside them, build bridges, and be good neighbors with them? To be the healing hands and feet of Jesus? I am still learning. Part of my learning is doing some intense unlearning. Ibram Kendi, the author of ‘How to be An Anti-Racist’, says, “It’s very difficult to grow up in a country, or even a world, that’s constantly raining racist ideas on your head and to never get wet.” I can see the ways I too am blinded in the surrounding downpour, but I know Jesus can be our umbrella of truth.
In Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina, Faith in Public Life has seen first hand how cynical and bigoted politicians argue that the Equality Act violates their religious beliefs; They claim their Christian faith teaches them not to honor the full dignity of LGBTQ people, and that laws calling on them to do so are unconstitutional, all the while consistently try to pass legislation that would harm our LGBTQ neighbors.
We are also on the heels of some tragic anniversaries, like the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, committed not by individuals but by the police who are agents of the state. Just last year faith and civil rights groups finally managed to pass hate crimes legislation in the wake of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. Even as the murder of six women of Asian descent was done by a single individual, we need to be clear that this was made possible by state policies.
The Covid Relief bill delivers rescue checks and resources to address the devastation of the pandemic, by investing in human flourishing--putting the vulnerable ahead of the uber-wealthy and corporations, but it also fundamentally reshapes our economy in a way that has more potential to work for everyone and help address the needs of those usually left behind in our greed-based economic policies: people of color, women, children and the disabled.
Getting through the Slog
The Bible speaks of heroes like Shiphrah, Puah, Miriam, Moses, Vashti, Esther, the apostle Paul, John of Patmos, and more who challenged the tyrants of their day, risking their lives and freedom. If we take a page from Revelation, the call to hope takes on the spirit of resistance. The book of Revelation, written by the prophet John, is about the violence of Rome’s rule. The passages about pain and evil as well as the passages about hope are aimed at his readers, in his current context, not some distant future. These stories were passed on to us to give us stamina and determination.
Revelation and the right to vote
Worldly tyranny conquers and rules not by constant use of overwhelming force, but by convincing us that hope and resistance are futile, and that truth itself is unknowable. The oppressor seeks not only to break our bodies, but to break our faith. We see this throughout history, right up to attacks on democracy and equal rights today. Choosing to persist in our efforts to establish justice -- whether through protest or voting or petitioning our elected officials -- is therefore an act of faith that asserts our belief that a new world can come.