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.
On Feb. 11, more than 80,000 people gathered in Raleigh, N.C., for the largest Moral Monday march yet — challenging Trumpism in Washington, D.C., and legislative overreach in our state. More important than the numbers, though, are people’s convictions: Principle, not party, is the reason why we march. We march because our deepest religious traditions have trained our bodies to stand up in the face of injustice.
As a pastor in a historically black church, Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church in Jefferson City, and the Executive Director of Missouri Faith Voices, a PICO federation, I say this attempt to silence and disenfranchise voters is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. When I interpret Matthew 25, it is not merely about providing food, clothes, and hospitality — it is about transforming systems that have caused people to be left out.
So when I returned for my sophomore year, armed with a year of conscious change and — even more important to my 18-year-old mind, a car — it was a no-brainer that in my first opportunity to vote, I would volunteer to drive people to the polls. Assigned to a poor public housing development, I ferried seniors back and forth to their polling places, amazed at the quiet dignity and determination they displayed in pressing their way to the polls. Not too proud to ask for help, they had sought rides to the polls through various community organizations who had said, “If you want to vote, we’ll get you there.”
We must remove the veil that separates the least of these and count it not robbery to give them their legal, spiritual, and constitutional right to move beyond acts of mercy, but to build power for social change. As we begin to build prudent bridges, we break the sacred-secular divide and crippling covenants the silence us. We must renounce the manifesto placed upon our communities, schools, neighborhoods that allows the rich to reap where they have not sown. We must embrace our right to vote not only as a civil right, but a Godly right. We can no longer impose predatory measures upon ourselves; we have to remove the cloak of suppression.
One critical lesson from the environmental justice movement is this: Racial inequity and economic disparities are intertwined fault lines running in different directions, crisscrossing the everyday lives of people of color. History shows by what means the two interact and the consequences. These crisscrossing forces downgrade the quality of life and narrow opportunities for health, housing, and financial stability. Meanwhile whole communities suffer. Remember Flint, Mich. Consider the Sioux Nation’s historic push against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
When we center healing, we remember that our struggles for social justice are not just about opposing things we do not like, but building the world we would actually like to live in. So many people do not join the hard work of organizing because they see only what they might lose and not what they would gain in world without oppression. That’s why the process is as important as our goal of social justice. Instead of waiting for the infinitely deferred “revolution,” we can start living the revolution now so people can have a taste of what a better world can be.
Outside of his role in our family, my grandfather played three roles in life that were dear to him: die-hard Mets fan, deacon in his church, never-miss-an-election voter. He was so unbelievably clear in his intention about voting, and perfectly committed to voting. He made that connection between faith and action.
And in his way, he lived out something I think about all the time: how to make our presence in the world powerful enough to change it.
Four weeks ago many of us celebrated the news that the Department of Justice plans to end its use of for-profit prisons. But we then had to wrestle with the fact that this means nothing for migrant detention, which is the largest supplier of prison contracts for GEO and CCA — the top two corporations behind for-profit detention of immigrants of all ages: from babies to the elderly.
Our nation and the post-colonial world is facing a critical moment. We must face the diagnosis rising from the colonized. We must accept the reality that we are ill. We have been living according to false narratives and led by spiritual lies. And those lies have shaped and ordered life among us since our founding days.
Seven years ago, on a cold day in December 2009, I entered Elizabeth Detention Center in Elizabeth, N.J. — a minimum-security prison on a pilgrimage organized by the Interfaith Center of New York and Human Rights First. This one-day journey ushered me into the story of immigrants in the New York and New Jersey area, and changed my life.