The Common Good

Faith & Justice Networks: New Wineskins for Justice

Over the past decade, discussions about justice have reached a tipping point in the evangelical world. Everywhere I go, people are talking about justice: from missionary gatherings to church planting conferences, justice is hot.

Of course the prophet Micah, in his verse that gets quoted more than the entire rest of his prophecies put together, said this: "He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"

We prefer to translate Micah's words as "Talk about Justice" or "have a conference about Justice" or "drink a cup of coffee for Justice." But Micah says God requires of us not conversations about Justice, but Doing Justice!

To use a metaphor Jesus employed, the new wine of justice conversations is flowing in the United States. The unanswered question: do we have new wineskins to harness this new move of God, so we can move from conversations to action?

In early June, more than 50 people gathered in Washington D.C. to help craft new wineskins so we can truly DO JUSTICE in communities around the United States. Alexia Salvatierra, the director of CLUE-California, led a three-day training on what she calls "Faith-Rooted Organizing."

The new wineskin of "faith-rooted organizing" is that our engagement with issues of injustice in the public arena begins not from self-interest or anger, but from our deep and abiding faith that God's kingdom will come and God's will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Instead of traditional organizing, which labels people as targets and enemies, faith-rooted organizing calls us to always remember that every person is created in God's image and can be redeemed and converted, even those perpetuating injustice.

Salvatierra challenged us to not shy away from quoting scripture in city counsel meetings, telling mayors and congress people that we are praying for them to do the right thing, and speaking out in the public arena from a place of moral authority rooted in the gospel.

So this week, in Phoenix and New York City and Boston and Minnesota and Oregon and Los Angeles and South Carolina, people are working to do justice in their local communities through Faith and Justice Networks.

Here in Cincinnati, we are working to encourage our city council to adopt a fair hiring process that will allow rehabilitated ex-felons to compete for civil service jobs in our city. To that end, we will be informing every council member and the mayor that we will be praying for them daily over the next week so they will be compelled to pass a fair hiring policy by the end of June. In Cincinnati and around the nation, Faith & Justice Networks are springing up, intent on not just having conversations about Justice, but on Doing Justice.

Troy Jackson is senior pastor of University Christian Church in Cincinnati, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, and earned his Ph.D. in United States history from the University of Kentucky. He is author of Becoming King: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Making of a National Leader (Civil Rights and the Struggle for Black Equality in the Twentieth Century) and a participant in Sojourners' Windchangers grassroots organizing project in Ohio.

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