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.
Someone lied. It’s more acceptable to say, “You’ve been bumped because the flight is overbooked,” than to say, “You’ve been bumped because we want your seat to fly our staff. That lie led to violence. Violence led to trauma for passengers, for millions of viewers, and for United, which sustained a $1.4 billion dive in stock value by Tuesday morning and now seems rested at a $255 million loss.
I first heard about the incident on the United Airlines Flight 3411 from my friend on social media, who was sitting directly behind Dr. David Dao and captured video footage of the encounter as the authorities asked him to get off the plane. Dr. Dao explained that he could not and would not because he had duties as a physician early the next morning and had been traveling for 24 hours. Video footage showing him being forcibly removed from the plane went viral and people are rightly discussing how he was treated and what United Airlines should do in response.
It was this fundamental story of black faith that I wanted to sow deep within my son. I realized that if I was to prevent the denigrating pieces of white inhumanity from being “implanted deep within [him],” then he had to know the story of faith that has helped black people “in the teeth of the most terrifying odds, achieve an unassailable and monumental dignity.”
My primary medium is portrait photography, and during my sessions I draw people out by asking questions about their very literal story. What is delightful for you in this season? What is hard? What I’ve found happen in these conversations is that decades of untended pain or suppressed pleasures begin to break forth, find air, and heal as needed or grow.
Here is the power of story: to make people pay attention and be fully present. The only irony is they are fully present in a story that is not their own. We weep for a Dumbledore who never lived, thrill at a first kiss that wasn't ours, and experience the terror of being chased by a psychotic killer while safely resting a theater seat.
An immigration judge once told me the story about an Albanian family: On their way to their final asylum hearing, they were broadsided by a drunk driver and ended up in the hospital. Because they missed their court date, they automatically received a deportation order. “Almost 10 years and almost a million dollars to remove the order,” said the judge. “It’s like pulling a wisdom tooth continuously for years."
On the Friday morning before Martin Luther King Day this year I met nine twentysomething Sojourners interns at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall. We collected into a circle, and I told them: “This is sacred ground.” I explained that we would enter the grounds in silence. I instructed the mostly white group to spend 15 minutes examining the memorial — observe — see what they see. Then we would come back together and share what we saw.
We resisted — and we still face the possibility of jail time, fines, and community service. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned planning events like this one over the years. I hope you can use them as you continue to resist unjust policies.
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.”