Spirituality and Social Movements
Saturday, December 5, 2020
Summary: Sunday, November 29—Friday, December 4, 2020
Non-imperial movements within Christianity strive not towards protecting their own power and influence, but toward supporting the supreme work of love flowing into the world. (Sunday)
Christianity began as a revolutionary nonviolent movement promoting a new kind of aliveness on the margins of society. It was a peace movement, a love movement, a joy movement, a justice movement, an integrity movement, an aliveness movement. —Brian McLaren (Monday)
Peter Maurin made you feel that you and all people had great and generous hearts with which to love God. If you once recognized this fact in yourself you would expect and find it in others. -Dorothy Day (Tuesday)
One of the most exciting things for me about being in the freedom movement was discovering other people who were compelled by the Spirit at the heart of our organizing work. —Rosemarie Freeney Harding (Wednesday)
Bring forth song and celebration; / So the Spirit will be alive among us. / Let the Spirit flourish and grow; / So that we will never tire of the struggle. —César Chávez (Thursday)
Let’s just use our different gifts to create a unity in the work of service, and back one another up, without criticism or competition. (Friday)
Practice: Contemplating Anger
So many works of social justice have been undone by people who do all the fighting from their angry selves. Today’s practice invites us to deal with our anger contemplatively, not just for ourselves but for those we seek to help and even those with whom we are in conflict. Teacher Dan Edwards writes:
The gift that contemplative practice brings to our emotions is awareness, the mental space to confront our emotional state in a safe way. . . .
Anger is the dominant emotion for many activists. . . . Anger is not a bad or negative thing; it is actually the fuel that feeds our quest for justice. It is when we let anger lead to hateful actions that we lose its beneficial potential. . . . It is imperative that we realize that often the injustice or wrongdoing isn’t personal but rather a societal ill and will always coexist with the peaceful lives we work hard to live.
Practice: Stop, Breathe, Reflect and Respond.
Once I am aware that anger is arising, I stop. I breathe in and out, and I pay attention to my breath, so that I can come back into my body and ground myself. I breathe until the dominate [sic] voices of anger dissipate and my focus rests comfortably on my breath and the current moment. I can now begin to reflect on the situation from a grounded place.
I then reflect on my personal ties to this wrongdoing and examine the reasons why it is affecting me so. . . . Most of the real work is done here, and this is where contemplative practice will become an invaluable tool. It is your contemplative mind that puts up signs like highway markers that point right back to you and encourage you to heal yourself from anger before healing others.
Take as much time as you need to reflect. In the end, I respond after I have reflected for some time on the act or situation. If the situation requires an immediate response, I may not respond at all—not because I am being passive or ignorant but because I am aware of how connected I am to the situation and how deeply personal my response may be. If I feel that I am not able to react from a grounded place, then I won’t. This method has helped keep me out of heated debates and actions that I would later feel the need to apologize for. So if your reactions are heated, give this method a shot. It may work for you.
Dan Edwards, “Dealing with Anger,” The Activist’s Ally: Contemplative Tools for Social Change (The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society: 2007, 2017), 46, 47. http://www.contemplativemind.org/
For Further Study:
Diana Butler Bass, A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story (HarperOne: 2009).
Can I Get a Witness? Thirteen Peacemakers, Community Builders, and Agitators for Faith and Justice, ed. Charles Marsh, Shea Tuttle, Daniel P. Rhodes (William B. Eerdmans: 2019). This collection includes profiles of César Chávez, Dorothy Day, Howard Thurman, Ella Baker, and Richard Twiss, plus others.
Frederick John Dalton, The Moral Vision of César Chávez (Orbis Books: 2003).
Robert Ellsberg, Dorothy Day: Selected Writings: By Little and by Little (Orbis Books: 2005).
Rosemarie Freeney Harding with Rachel Elizabeth Harding, Remnants: A Memoir of Spirit, Activism, and Mothering (Duke University Press Books: 2015).
Martin Luther King, Jr., “Thou, Dear God”: Prayers that Open Hearts and Spirits, ed. Lewis V. Baldwin (Beacon Press: 2012).
Brian D. McLaren, We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation (Jericho Books: 2015).
Richard Rohr, Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer (Paulist Press: 2014).
Mark and Louise Zwick, The Catholic Worker Movement: Intellectual and Spiritual Origins (Paulist Press: 2005).