Faith communities across the country are drawing from deep wells of legacy to organize and advocate for a more just world. People of faith are returning to their spiritual roots for guidance on how to engage the world’s struggles for justice in ways that honor our faith. To equip faith communities to boldly do the work of justice in their own areas, Sojourners offers the Faith in Action series. Learn more about how to put your faith into action here.
I had a dream last night that I was reunited with estranged family. Watching them live their lives and being separated from them became unbearable. I sat in my family member’s living room weeping, saying: “I can’t do this anymore.” My not-so-little-anymore niece took me by the hand, in my dream. She walked me to a corner in her room where she laid a prayer cloth on the ground, knelt on her knees facing east, and asked me to offer prayers of forgiveness with her. It stunned me. I woke up.
The assumed exceptionalism and excessive triumphalism of the American church conflicts with the biblical call for humility as evidenced by lament. The practice of lament in the Bible confronts our American Christian assumptions. Biblical lament calls for honesty and truth-telling about the broken state of society and the individual. As such, the excessive triumphalism of American society has nearly quashed a necessary countercultural practice.
The core of the contemplative path is not just an individualistic process; it is about being a deeper part of the communal human family through the action of how we live out a just and radical spiritual truth, as Christianity was founded in the radical and revolutionary path of Jesus. The root of the Jesus story, of "becoming" his calling and path, is inherently about the integration of contemplation, action, and healing.
Focus on healing in movement spaces is often reserved for times of crisis — or is reduced to individual consumerist self-care like a glass of wine and a pedicure. In our leadership development, community cultivation, and organizing models, focusing on resilient, integrated, whole selves is considered extra — a fun and indulgent add-on to the “real work of organizing.”
Resistance is holy work. It is an act of healing. But many clergy and faith leaders (myself included) are either traumatized themselves or so justice-fatigued that it becomes too difficult to sustain resistance.
Repairing isn’t as easy as it sounds. It’s rarely as straightforward as we hope for. And sometimes it’s downright costly, or worse, impossible. If the church wants to be a part of repairing entire communities, we need to be willing to do at least three things: Gather the experts, put in the time, and give and live sacrificially.
In an age when both explicit and implicit biases are becoming legitimate justifications to curse the image of God, it is time for the church in the U.S. to face itself. It is time to repair the broken fabric of our nation. It is time to interrogate the stories we tell our selves about ourselves by immersing ourselves in the stories of the other.
I have been writing, speaking, and teaching about the manifestations and impact of white privilege since I finished my doctoral work on the subject in 2004, and one of the more difficult subjects to address with white audiences is the question of reparations. While white people tend to frame the subject as a discussion about how much money is going to be taken away from them, there is another way to think about it. Getting white people to give up wealth is a bit of a non-starter, no matter how persuasive the argument might be for its justification.
Restoration and reconciliation with God is the ultimate goal. It is the incarnate Jesus who provides the way back for humanity to be restored and reconciled to God. This is the essence of the Christian faith.
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