Politics: Old and New
Faith, Practice, Prayer
Thursday, November 21, 2019
Sister of Social Service Simone Campbell is an author, lawyer, poet, and Executive Director of NETWORK, an organization that lobbies on issues of economic justice, immigration reform, and healthcare. Sister Simone spoke at our CONSPIRE 2015 conference on the theme “For those who see deeply there is only One Reality,” which is reflected in her words below:
My faith impels me into the public square. It is abundantly clear that Pope Francis is correct when he says that faith has real consequences in the world . . . and these consequences involve politics. . . . Religion/politics is at the heart of my contemplative practice. I am nourished daily by the people I meet and whose stories I hear. My heart is broken open by the truth of their hunger and hope. It is not a theoretical reality for me. Rather it is the proclamation of the Gospel: Go and preach the good news! . . . So my meditation has become breath, that we might see, that we might walk, and, in the process, heal our society that is famished for community and knowing that we belong to each other. . . .
My meditation practice has led me to see that God is alive in all. No one can be left out of my care. Therefore [our] political work is anchored in caring for those whom we lobby as well as those whose cause we champion. This was illustrated for me recently when I was . . . lobbying a . . . Senator. . . . I commented on the story of a constituent and asked her how her colleagues could turn their eyes away from the suffering and fear of their people. The conversation went on a bit, and then the senator came back to my question. She said that . . . they did not get close to the candid stories of their people. In fact, some did not see these constituents as “their people.” Tears sprang to my eyes at her candor and the pain that keeps us sealed off from each other because of political partisanship. . . .
In many ways, we are a bit like the senators who close themselves off from the needs of their constituents. We could get caught in the pain of rejection and blame, fighting against an unjust judgment. But for me, the contemplative perspective leads to letting go of my desires and control while opening to the gift of the moment. My consistent learning is that behind the loss is always a surprise, opening into something new. There are prices to be paid, but they are small when compared to the hunger of our people. . . .
My prayer has led me . . . to know that reflection on the Gospel leads to compassion. Compassion often leads to much more nuanced analysis. . . . This more nuanced approach comes out of my prayer and call to care for the 100%, but it does come at a price. . . . The Spirit has pushed us out of our comfort zone of acceptability in order to meet the needs of people we had not known were ours. . . .
Let us pray together: Come, Holy Spirit. Fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in us the fire of your love!
In the Apostle Paul’s brilliant metaphor of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-31), each one of us is given some specific role to make the body whole. While I have often claimed that God appears to have made me a mouth (with my too many words), Sister Simone jokes that she is the stomach acid, breaking large things down into their useful pieces with her heat and energy. When evil hides itself within institutions that are “too big to fail,” Simone’s insights and energy are a gift to us all.
Adapted from Simone Campbell, “Religion and Politics,” “Politics and Religion,” Oneing, vol. 5, no. 2 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2017), 58, 59, 61, 62.