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Politics: Old and New: Weekly Summary

Politics: Old and New

Summary: Sunday, November 17—November 22, 2019

There is no such thing as being non-political. (Sunday)

We are called to be “in Christ,” which means we share—always imperfectly, and always in community with others—the call to be the embodiment of God’s love in the world. —Wes Granberg-Michaelson (Monday)

Twice a year we pause the Daily Meditations to ask for your support to continue this work. If you’ve been impacted by the Daily Meditations, please consider donating. A contribution of any amount is appreciated, as we are committed to keeping these messages free and accessible to all. (Tuesday)

In the end, politics is nothing more than an instrument of social good and human development. It is meant to be the right arm of those whose souls have melted into God. —Joan Chittister (Wednesday)

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. —Simone Campbell (Thursday)

The work of getting to know others different than ourselves, made so difficult by our society’s divisions, is nevertheless the work of following Jesus. —Peter Armstrong (Friday)

 

Practice: I Will Trust in the Lord

The form of Christianity that has grown in the United States and spread worldwide is what we have to fairly call “slaveholder Christianity.” It is far, far removed from the Gospel as it has failed to respect the divine image in all beings. This kind of Christianity is good news only for white slaveholders—the (primarily) white men with religious and political power and those who support systems of inequity through their participation and silence. That most white Christians in our country can’t see this shows how much we live in homogeneous communities, with folks who are like us. We must publicly acknowledge and repent the harm that Christianity in this country has caused. And we must take steps—both political and spiritual—to bring healing.

I borrow the term slaveholder Christianity from Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, a Christian activist in North Carolina working with youth, prisoners, and The Poor People’s Campaign. He’s the author of Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion. Jonathan offers the following singing practice to help us move forward together. [1]

While sound teaching can enlighten the mind and powerful preaching can move the heart, song has a unique power to move our bodies, pulling us into the river that flowed before us and will continue long after we are gone. The gospel practices that free us from our racial habits are not a set of exercises that will transform in thirty minutes. They are, rather, a way of life wrapped up in song. The central creed of this tradition that keeps me singing as I go is called “I Will Trust in the Lord.”

I will trust in the Lord,
I will trust in the Lord,
I will trust in the Lord till I die.

I’m gonna stay on the battlefield,
I’m gonna stay on the battlefield,
I’m gonna stay on the battlefield till I die.

I’m gonna treat everybody right,
I’m gonna treat everybody right,
I’m gonna treat everybody right till I die. [2]

Passed down through an oral tradition [by people kept in slavery], it is easy to memorize. . . . Like all the spirituals, [it] is both a melody you can hum while you walk alone and a song that leads us to harmonize when we are together. . . . This is a song to guide people who want to walk by the power of the Spirit in an unpredictable world.

Every verse we sing ends with “till I die.” We trust in the Lord, stay on the battlefield, and treat everybody right until we die because, frankly, nonviolent love can get you killed. We know the stories of martyrs like Dr. King. God only knows the stories of the millions buried in the woods and at the bottom of the sea. This is not a song to make you famous, but a faith to sustain you when you go to jail, when the money runs out, when you are powerless and cold and alone. You sing this song, and you know you’re not alone. You’ve been invited into something big enough to hold all your sorrows. You’ve become a living member of the body of Christ. [3]

References:
[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, interview with Jen Hatmaker, For the Love of Faith Groundbreakers: Episode 5, “Live Yourself into a New Way of Thinking: Richard Rohr,” http://jenhatmaker.com/faith-groundbreakers-episode-05-richard-rohr.htm.

[2] Listen to a recording of this song, “Stay on the Battlefield,” sung by Sweet Honey in the Rock and woven with a poem by Sonia Sanchez at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRe5aACNx50.

[3] Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion (IVP Books: 2018), 145-146.

For Further Study:
Simone Campbell, A Nun on the Bus: How All of Us Can Create Hope, Change, and Community (HarperOne: 2015)

Joan Chittister, The Time Is Now: A Call to Uncommon Courage (Convergent Books: 2019)

Parker Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit (Jossey-Bass: 2011)

“Politics and Religion,” Oneing, vol. 5, no. 2 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2017)

Image credit: The Good Samaritan (detail), Théodule-Augustin Ribot, before 1870, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Pau, France.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: 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. —Sister Simone Campbell, SSS

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