Sunday, March 25, 2012

the spirituality of justice: Loyal to the Sky

One of the great things about Kindle is the chance to read in new areas. This has emerged for me primarily because of the resourcing this website, which lists free and vastly reduced books. I’ve found myself looking books on trends in beer, production of comics and the history of salt. If they were paperback, I probably wouldn’t touch them, but being electronic, they seem worth a browse. And some of them get read and as a result, my world becomes larger.

One I’ve just finished is Loyal to the Sky: Notes from an Activist. (Sorry, the free deal on Amazon is long gone). Marisa Handler, born in South Africa, has a passion for justice, which has become her life’s work. From protesting against the war in Iraq, to free lance journalism that exposes multi-national companies in South America, to street theatre against covert US military involvement in Central America, this is a fascinating insight into a person and a spirituality (sadly) rarely seen in church.

What makes it appealing is the autiobiographical window into the growth of a protestor. This is not a book filled with anger, but a search for a better world, through the evolution of a passionate, caring person.

Here are some of the quotes that struck me:

The impact of protest

For a single day, our action carved out a space for justice—a space to remind people, in the midst of their busy lives, that there is a larger canvas. That the Palestinians are suffering. That our tax dollars are fueling an occupation. And people on the streets listen. Bystanders take our flyers. Supporters honk their horns as they pass. Journalists record our words. Priests and officials come to speak. The police try to negotiate. We make the evening news. I spend the day high on adrenaline

About a new way of leading

For larger actions, affinity groups gather in clusters. Decisions regarding specific actions or campaigns are made via consensus process at spokescouncil meetings, which are attended by representatives from affinity groups. While consensus process can be thorny and at times protracted, what consistently amazes me is how well it works. A proposal is offered, clarifying questions are asked, discussion is held, concerns are raised, amendments are made, concerns are resolved. Each person’s needs and qualms are heard and incorporated into a process that arrives at decisions and moves forward.

About a new type of leader

Soft-spoken and temperate, David exercises the sort of understated leadership that consistently provides wise guidance and strategic acuity to a movement that is relentlessly nonhierarchical and anti-authoritarian.

About the fact that new forms of church need not be large

In the global justice movement, the affinity group is the basic unit of direct-action organizing. Groups are composed of five to twenty members; the prevailing idea is smallness and, by extension, trust

About the busyness of life in Western culture

I think of my life back home: constantly rushing to meetings and appointments, constantly feeling pulled between activism and music and social obligations and every other essential thing on my endless list. I have to pencil in “nothing” when I want an evening off. Every activist I know is similarly overburdened and stressed, staggering around like Atlas beneath a world only we can save. It can’t be helping our work.

About the ethics of change

Is it possible to effect change without dehumanizing others? Without someone to hate? Can we connect with each other as we have this week—can we build a movement—without a common enemy?

How much of my activism has simply been a vehicle to justify my own anger and hatred?

The mission framework I make is this: that often new forms of church emerge around gathering and worship. But these are not the only forms of spirituality. There is also an activist spirituality and one of the fertile areas for fresh expressions to explore is new forms of church that cohere around mission, around combined Kingdom projects.

Posted by steve at 09:10 PM

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