When we met to do some theology at the end of last month, The U.S. Social Forum was still winding down. It calls itself a “convergence driven by the understanding that people’s movements are what create social change….The goal is to map out action plans for a cohesive movement and organize to be on the offense against all forms of oppression.” We felt some solidarity, since our “doing theology” time had the feeling of convergence, too; and being on the offense against oppression sounds like Jesus.
What’s more, we have been reignited, since last August, about the racism in the country and the ongoing injustice it causes. The Black Lives Matter movement has energized a lot of us. Several of us have been involved with the Philly Coalition for REAL Justice (racial, economic and legal) who demand justice through “policy work, direct action and community education.” It feels like a new environment these days and we want to think about it with Jesus. What about justice? What does God think about it and are we practically following the Lord’s lead?
So we did some theology about it. You can see some of our study on the previous blog post. When we say we “do theology” we mean we are mentalizing with God and his people. It is all about listening, but it is not social construction of reality; it is listening for the reality behind what we think we know, hearing the voice of God. In that we honor the Bible as the trusted basis for hearing God’s voice and we respect people who have done the work to understand the Bible. But we are not just parsing words, making laws, or arguing over theories. We are trying to figure out what to do and who to be. Doing theology is thinking and feeling along with God and letting my thinking and feeling conform to my truest, God-given self.
Knowing what to do often feels like an emergency. Right when we were advertising our meeting, the aftermath of a divorce caused some deep feelings of injustice among us! How should Circle of Hope respond to injustice? That is, how should we apply scripture and corporate wisdom, not just cobble together stray political philosophies? We had a few answers to that question:
- We need to make reconciliation happen. We can start by laying down any sense of moral superiority when we begin.
- We want to keep in mind that Jesus faced and faces the ultimate injustice. People laced with empire thinking and demands might find the Lord hard to identify with, but they need to do it.
- Worship is a tangible way to make justice. As different movements have shown, the songs of justice give a place for the Spirit of God to move. So worship while making justice.
- We need to remember who is the author of justice. The government, or whoever seizes the reins of power, will try to be god giving us justice. But Jesus is author. He is executed again in the body of Christ and creating what is right with us.
- We need to stay inclusive and insert ourselves even where were are not normally welcome. Bring people in to the presence of God and prophecy and take the presence with us when we prophesy. Jesus will rise after wrestling with the root of injustice. We reflect that miracle.
- It would be great to get everyone together to do something so notable that it was a sign of resurrection to the powers that deal death. We’ll keep trying and not be fatalistic. At the same time, a lot of little stuff, like we normally do, is also effective. When we need to all show up we do. But incrementally is also a way to work justice.
- [Check out “generating justice…” in our proverbs]
We sometimes try to come up with one-liners to help us remember what we discovered. Here are a few that arose during our time together:
- We need the Holy Spirit to act justly.
- Cling to what is good as your center, your anchor.
- When we create space for healing we loosen the oppressor’s grip.
- Use power to lift others up.
- The way we do justice might be more effective than accomplishing a goal.
- There are levels of justice, but restorative justice is the goal. We’ll need empathy to go there.
- Justice and mercy kiss. Love and compassion are bedrock for justice.
- Develop empathy, not aggression.
Our times together are not meant to come up with the last word. But no doubt there are some first and last words in what we hear. How about adding some discernment of your own?