Somebody You Should Know: Christopher Sofolo

By Cathleen Falsani 9-23-2011

deeper photo collage

That the email ever made its way to me is something of a miracle.

And brother, am I glad it did.

Last week, Christopher Sofolo sent a note to the general email account at Sojourners offering something he'd written as a potential post for God's Politics. The note got scrambled and forwarded and somehow, after a trip down the rabbit hole, made it to me.

Christopher is neither a professional writer nor professional photographer, but he is terribly gifted at both. He is not a theologian nor is he an activist, academic, expert or author. But his voice and vision are as vivid, articulate and eloquent as any I've seen, read or heard lately.

I hope to share more of Christopher's vision -- written and in pictures -- in the coming weeks and months, but as this week draws to a close, thought I'd give you a small taste of what you can expect. At the right you'll see a collage of some of his photographs from a recent family trip to Milwaukee. They are, I suppose, family snapshots but, as you'll see, they are so much more than that. They tell a story that transcends a particular time and space, a narrative that is somehow universal and beautifully sacred.

You can see Christopher's photographs from this series, titled "All in Two Days {deepen}" by CLICKING HERE.

As you head into the weekend, I bid you peace, grace and traveling mercies, and leave you with a passage from Christopher's essay, "Inclusive Spiritual Community and Exclusive Religious Institution," which you can read in its entirety HERE.


"Jesus' spirituality was magnetic. Wherever he went, people gathered. His love, understanding and compassion toward humanity was overflowing and people traveled from afar to find solace in his teachings and to breathe life into their spiritual lives. His message of inclusiveness was seen as a threat by the religious leaders of his time -- whose very existence relied on a system of exclusivity. The Sadducees and Pharisees doctrine was built upon this in/out, us/them duality that Christ was determined to break through. He was a street preacher, connecting with people from all walks of life. When he did teach in the temple he was either accusingly questioned by leaders or had stones hurled at him (John 8). This isn't because Jesus was a radical Christian (Christianity didn't exist yet, obviously) or a radical Jew . . . he was universally radical and so was his good news. ...

"Humanity has a primal desire to be part of a group, a club, a clique, etc., these desires are expressions of a deeper longing for community. Once a membership has been established with a religious institution this becomes your new identity. If you ever question its exclusivity, if you ever associate yourself too deeply with outsiders (nonbelievers) you run the risk of being cast out. Many live a life of fear inside this "community" that has become their prison. They must stay in line or be humiliated and alone. They must accept the arrogant claims of a monopoly on truth or be thrown to the wolves like the heretic that they obviously are.

"When we become practitioners of the "Way" of Jesus--the life of Jesus--we will find ourselves free from these boundaries. We are free to love and be loved. We are able to see that the "Way" of Jesus is also reflected in the life of other traditions. Exclusive religious institution is like a square room with two doors, an "in" door and an "out" door. One for converts, one for heretics. This box is only an illusion of community. As a shape, true spirituality is without concrete boundaries and is more representative of an amoeba. Asymmetrical in nature and stretching itself out into unexpected places. Where true spirituality is practiced you will find true, inclusive community.

"So, have you ever wanted to ask questions that call into question the doctrine of your institution? Have you already asked those questions and are now feeling the weight of rejection? Rest assured, the worst that can happen is that you will be thrown to the wolves. And those wolves are just the rest of us out here . . . fumbling through life trying to search for something more. We welcome you into this journey. Loving community is inevitable . . ."


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