Will You Be Chaplain to the Empire or Prophet of the Resistance? | Sojourners

Will You Be Chaplain to the Empire or Prophet of the Resistance?

“Today we stand together feeling an uneasy sense of urgency in the atmosphere. You can feel it all across this country. And even though the table set before us seems to be on the edge of darkness, we are called to be God’s Lights; and the Light always breaks the darkness. There is an electrifying, energizing need to move, mobilize, and strategize to build up our prophetic resistance for such a time as this.”
- Pastor Brian Herron, at a Minneapolis gathering of more than 2,000 faith leaders organized by ISAIAH Minnesota

In the wake of executive orders from the Trump administration targeting Muslims, leaders of faith and moral courage gathered to cultivate resistance. In this moment, resistance means providing sanctuary for undocumented citizens, rejecting policies that restrict human flourishing, and calling one another to moral citizenship in the face of immoral and unjust policies. Moral citizens, according to ISAIAH executive director Doran Schrantz, fight “for the moral and political truth that the promise of our democracy is imperiled unless all are human, all are citizens, all are free.”

The idea of resistance has been trending on social media since the election, but at PICO, we have been curating an exploration into the idea of resistance since the summer of 2014. At one of our weeklong trainings, clergy engaged in a conversation centered on this question: Are you a chaplain to the Empire or a prophet of the Resistance? This question provoked a lively conversation about the values of the dominant culture (empire) and how they threaten and compromise the wellbeing of our communities. It also created space to examine our complicity with these values and the call of diverse spiritual traditions to resist injustice in all its forms.

A few weeks later, when Michael Brown Jr. was shot and killed in Ferguson, Mo., the provocation that this one question sparked continued in the hearts and minds of many PICO leaders. Throughout the fall, as delegations of PICO clergy and organizers cycled in and out of Ferguson, we learned about the structural racism shaping life for many young people and poor families. We also learned about tensions between young people and church leaders, that were reflective of the generational challenges we were experiencing in many of our own communities across the nation.

So while we were compelled to critique and denounce narratives and structures that oppress, we were also called to confess our own sins, our own tendencies to become chaplains to these narratives and structures. We desired a theological discourse about how we further develop our capacity to be prophetic voices that dismantle the “logic and impulse” of empire in our selves, in our relationships, in the structures that shape our lives, and in the broader cultural milieu.

And so the Prophetic Resistance Project was born. Centered on a Theology of Resistance, the project is facilitating a multi-faith discourse that helps people of faith and moral courage bring life to the stories, values, and teachings that inspire our resistance. Last weekend was the Prophetic Resistance launch for the leaders of ISAIAH. The launch marked the beginning of a campaign they are calling One Hundred Days of Prophetic Action. Every day, leaders are engaging in individual and collective activities that deepen relationships and knowledge, awaken more people to the crisis, and build power to fight for justice and dignity. The leaders of ISAIAH are embarking on a journey to abandon the role of chaplain to the empire, and embrace the call to be prophets of resistance.

In the words of Schrantz, we have “inherited both the great promise and the titanic struggle that is the United States of America.” This national moment is about what we will do with this inheritance. Faithful, moral, spiritual, prophetic resistance is a faith-rooted orientation that equips us for the titanic struggle before us. In the spirit of prophets, both ancient and contemporary, we stand ready to be a light in the darkness, to be water in the parched land, and to be prophets of the resistance.

Faith in Action is a monthly compilation of articles that empower people of faith to draw from a deep well and boldly advocate for a more just world. Subscribers receive monthly resources for prophetic preaching, practical insights for organizing, and reflections on spiritual leadership delivered to their e-mail. Subscribe here.