Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr 50 Years Later

martin-luther-king-jr-quotesFifty years ago this week, the greatest American prophetic voice of the twentieth century was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the preeminent prognosticator of justice produced by the democratic experiment known as the United States of America.  The prophet is a person who threatens culture’s power structure by holding up a mirror to its folly and showing where such folly leads. History reveals that culture kills such prophets, and having killed the prophet to be rid of their threat, that culture then builds a mythology through which that prophet can be reformed from cultural critic into a cultural supporter (Pearce 2002). In fact, nearly all great movements are founded by prophetic genius, however the pioneering work of a prophetic genius establishing a mode of thought is often co-opted by lesser intellectuals. The army of lessor intellects scatter the thought broadcast and it becomes a permanent, yet distorted, factor in the broader culture (Dresser 1895). Such is the tragic case of Dr. King. While we celebrate him as a hero, the man we celebrate is monstrously abbreviated by our need to ignore the radicalism of his message and assuage the guilt we have for not embodying the fullness of his challenge to our culture.

While it would be easy to reduce King’s message to a dream about racial equality, in reality this academic rhetorician had a very nuanced and sophisticated Theo-political message that cannot be truncated to the issue of race. Just as we are together with our Jewish siblings celebrating Passover this week, which also cannot be truncated to an issue of racial inequality, both are direct responses to the evils of empire. It is obvious that the narrative of Passover moves ultimately to it’s own ratification of empire, but at its origin  it is a resistance moment.  As much as we are tempted to limit these historical movements to the triumph of race, both stories are born in the economic injustice of a wicked empire. mlk-1965-selma-montgomery-march-PProphetic religious tradition is always centered in resistance. Resistance is the physical, overt expression of an inner attitude, so in the tradition of Moses, Martin Luther King Jr. taught a generation of Americans how to engage a public theology of resistance (Thurman 1976).  King’s great contribution to the whole of Christianity is to remind The Church that we must insist upon both this-worldly liberation and otherworldly salvation as the proper loci of the message of Jesus (West 2002).

Volumes have been written on the task of The Church. Many argue that sole purpose of The Church is salvation of the soul for eternal security, while others believe the primary task of The Church is to transform the society. True religion understands existential freedom and social freedom are inseparable. In fact, social freedom is a natural outgrowth of existential freedom, for existential freedom is the fount of all social liberation. As Dr. King led the charge against imperialism, materialism, militarism, and racism he did so because He understand that salvation of the soul is incomplete without deliverance from oppression. Taking seriously the person and work of Jesus meant for Dr. King to preach the gospel to the poor.  It was while working The Poor People’s Campaign he was assassinated, not for fighting on behalf of Black people, but because any prophet who speaks back to the empire will always find themselves an enemy of the state.

mlk_16thstchurchFifty years after his murder many find ourselves wondering if The Church has really embraced the legacy of Dr. King or have we allowed his legacy to be hijacked and sanitized to the point that we have lost the prophetic critique that was true of his words and work? For King, the Kingdom [sic] of God is neither the thesis of individual enterprise nor the antithesis of collective enterprise, but a synthesis which reconciles the truths of both (Jr. 2015). How will your commemoration of Dr. King this week live into the theological depth and significance of this prophetic genius? It would be a grave error for us in our local congregations to stop at anti-racism work and fail to engage the critical work of dismantling all the ways in which our local congregations and communities are complicit in structures which are contrary to redemptive message of Jesus the Divine Liberator. The essential challenge of this season of commemoration is to ignite the hearts of each parishioner with the fire of the prophetic in new and living ways.

 

Please feel free to post your thoughts below!

 

Peace Is Possible,

+Donalson

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor 

SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

 

Works Cited

Dresser, Annetta Gertrude. 1895. The Philosophy of P.P. Quimby. Boston: The Builders Press.

Jr., Martin Luther King. 2015. The Radical King. Edited by Cornell West. Boston: Beacon Press.

Pearce, Joseph Chilton. 2002. The Biology of Transcendence: A Blueprint of the Human Spirit. Rochester: Park Street Press.

Thurman, Howard. 1976. Jesus and the Disinherited . Boston: Beacon Press.

West, Cornel. 2002. Prophsey Deliverance: An Afro-American Revolutionary Christianity . Louiseville: John Knox Press.

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The Politics of Palm Sunday

IMG_3641This week more than ever, as we head toward the celebration of Palm Sunday, I am excited by the liturgical opportunity offered. As we remember the radicalism of Jesus riding a donkey into the center of town as a form of opposition to the Roman Empire we are encouraged to think about the damaging impact of imperialism in our own time. Taking seriously the satirical nature of a feigned parade, which in reality was a massive protest of people living under occupation, we have the opportunity to discuss the nature of public prophetic witness in fresh and new ways. We can never forget that the triumphant entry was an act of resistance centered in critique of the bourgeoisie. It is that epic moment when the proletariat speaks truth to power and the Gospel takes center stage in the public square. How could any true liturgist not be excited about this Sunday where we can remind the church of the politics of Jesus?

In far too many cases our churches have slipped into a coma brought on by a belief in the false dichotomy of personal piety vs. public prophetic witness. Many have traded the message of Jesus for a personal relationship with Jesus, as though the two could exist separate from one another. Jesus the Savior from sin is in too many cases disinterested in corporate sin and only concerned with individual behavior modification as though systemic sin is nonexistent. It is as though some have completely forgotten the tripartite assignment for the Church: (1) To proclaim the reality of Divine liberation, (2) to actively participate in the struggle for liberation, and (3) to provide a visible manifestation that the Gospel is a reality (Warnock 2014).  It is of utmost importance that in this time where we face the evils of plutocrats and oligarchs at the highest level of government the Church bear witness to the message of Jesus.

At the center of our liturgies we must highlight Jesus the political revolutionary who not only called for change in individual hearts, but also demanded sweeping and comprehensive change in the political, social, and economic structures of his life setting (Hendricks 2006). There is an undeniable justice narrative that runs the entire course of the ministry of Jesus, from the time e reads from Isaiah the prophet, that culminates in the Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem that informs the gravitas of this Sunday’s celebration. Without recognizing that this moment in history speaks to our time and the interlocking systems of imperialist white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy that continue to marginalize the least of these any church has been derelict of its duties to bring the Gospel to gathered congregants.

This Palm Sunday is an opportunity to engage in prophetic critique. Prophetic Critique can be defined as principled public criticism of and opposition to systemic injustice (O. Hendricks 2011). Here is a week in the liturgical calendar where a liturgy of resistance is not optional, it is the work of acknowledgement.  Christian communities must learn how to work vigorously for the change that is possible, to mourn over the persistent and seemingly ineradicable evils, and to celebrate the good where it happens and whoever its agents are (Volf 2011).  My hope is that this Palm Sunday our congregations will come alive with the fire of implacable Justice. That the focus of our experience together will be the message of Jesus who spoke from the margins to the center of power in ways that caused the surrounding community to find the courage to be true to the truth.

I invite you to leave comments below and let’s start a conversation about the power of Palm Sunday!

 

Peace Is Possible,

+Donalson

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor 

SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

Works Cited

Hendricks, Obery. 2011. The Universe Bends Toward Justice . Maryknoll: Orbis Books.

Hendricks, Obrey. 2006. The Politics of jesus. New York: Three Leaves Press.

Volf, Miroslav. 2011. A Public Faith. Grand Rapids: BrazosPress.

Warnock, Raphael G. 2014. The Divided Mind of the Black Church:Theology, Piety, and Public Witness. New York: New York University Press.

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A Critique

bibleIt is said that theology arises from the freedom and responsibility of the Christian community to inquire about its faith in God (Migliore 2014).  This is for me true, and yet I see the responsibility of theology to continually examine the proclamation of the church by continually critiquing and revising the language of the church. (Cone 1997)  This critique is always considering the tradition of the church and the praxis of Jesus. The contemporary church may be missing its opportunity to live into its primary task. We are now faced with national and global evils of epic proportions that call for religious communities to respond  with a clarion call to action. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. warned us of three evils in the twentieth century that only become magnified in our own time. These three evils are materialism, racism, and militarism  (Cornel West 2014).

Materialism is the spiritual catastrophe that underlines the wicked behaviors that fosters empire. Capitalistic greed promoted by a corporate-media complex has so hardened the hearts of the bourgeoisie that poverty and its egregious effects have become acceptable human conditions. This materialism lies is the root of modern racism and militarism and has become so pervasive in the church that it has silenced the prophetic critique that is fundamental to the message of Jesus. The opportunity of the church is to take seriously the lived reality and embodiment of Jesus (Wallace 2002). The poor Jewish Jesus with his non-normative body shows up with an anti-imperialist message over against the religious tradition of his time.  It is Jesus who unhinges the relationship between the underprivileged and the privileged: born in a manger and becoming King of the Jews without amassing either wealth or military might. Centering the lived reality of Jesus in all of our liturgical functions must become a priority of all those who claim the message of Jesus.

Racism is the moral catastrophe born of materialism in the context of the United States. From the beginning of its insidious functions on the shores of North America, religion has been used to justify the inhumane treatment of multiple people groups based on the social construct known as race. If culture comprises a people’s total social heritage, including language, ideas, habits, beliefs, customs, social organizations, and traditions etc., then white culture built on white religion and theology certainly exists in the United States (Douglas 1999). White-supremacist thinking, rooted in metaphysical dualism, socialized citizens of this nation to think in binaries such as good/bad and black/white. This has been the ideological rationale for the domination permeating our nation’s religious thought and shaping its most powerful institutions (hooks 2003). The Church is invited in this moment when racism is espoused so openly at the highest level of government to call for a moral revolution that centers the idea of imago dei.  For the Christian, it is immutable that all souls are of sacred value and made equally in the image of God. This must be of utmost importance in the constructs and substance of our liturgies and community outreach.

Militarism is an imperial catastrophe produced by a military-industrial complex that was nurtured in the womb of materialism. It was fed on the milk of racism and once again religion has been its teacher.  The particular genius of imperialism is found in its capacity to delude so much of the world into the belief that it is caviling primitive cultures when in fact it is grossly exploiting them (Cornel West 2014). For those who claim the Christian faith, our human interactions rest on the ethic of neighbor love; this is true of all great religions.  The aftermath of violence is bitterness and often tragic rage.  Our nation has become so immune to the ravages of war we no longer bother to declare or end wars. We are in constant violation of the ethic of neighbor love.  The church must fulfill the prophetic call to speak truth to power and seek peace and that must be woven into the fabric of every liturgical moment.

There is much for us to do to call our nation and our world to live into the highest of human potential, and the Church has the means and systems to do it. Will we rise to the occasion or become tragic victims of the culture?

 

Peace Is Possible,

 +Donalson

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin. | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor
SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

 

Works Cited

Cone, James H. 1997. Black Theology and Black Power. Maryknoll: Orbis Books.

Cornel West, Christa Buschendorf. 2014. Black Prophetic Fire. Boston : Beacon Press.

Douglas, Kelly Brown. 1999. Sexuality and the Black Church. Maryknoll: Orbis Books.

hooks, bell. 2003. Rock My Soul. New York: Atria Books.

Migliore, Daniel L. 2014. Faith Seeking Understanding: AnIntroduction to Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Wallace, Maurice O. 2002. Constructing the Black Masculine: Identity and Ideality in Afircan American Men’s Liturature and Culture 117-1995. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

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She Matters

chapel6 copyThe work and wisdom of women has been the backbone of our Christian churches, and the same can be said of most of the world’s religious communities. It is interesting in light of this reality that most of our God-talk has been gendered masculine. This is probably because while the work and wisdom of women has been the sustaining and advancing of our Christian communities, all too often the great majority of leadership in those same communities has been vested in the hands of men. And I know my Biblical literalist siblings will attribute this to God’s mandated male leadership, but that is a conversation that overlooks some real Biblical truths in favor of one Biblical interpretation. The literalist assertion of univocity between human language about God and God fails to appreciate and see the nuance of the most basic characteristic of religious and theological language: It’s iconoclastic character. All language about God is a human construction and therefore misses the mark of all that God is. I would like to lift some truths and raise some questions because as the father of an amazing and gifted daughter, I am acutely aware that she matters.

The Christian Bible teaches that God is spirit. Spirit is a disembodied reality; therefore God is neither male nor female.  The Bible also teaches that we are all made in the image of God, therefore both men and women are equally created in God’s image. If these things be true then God is neither male nor female. This spirit, which is beyond gender binaries, is the creative source of all and is diminished in our mind by ouIMG_4874r propensity to gender our references to God.  God is neither male nor female; rather God is both male and female and beyond. If we use pronouns which are exclusively male or female we fall into idolatry forgetting that God is beyond either (McFague 1987). Since God has no biological realities, when we speak of God as beyond male and female, we are really speaking specifically about the characteristics associated with masculinity and femininity. Since God has no material embodiment it becomes important to say that God is spirit. Spirit is life or intelligence, conceived of entirely apart from physical embodiment. It is vital essence, force, energy, as distinct from matter (Holmes, The Science of Mind 1997). My distinct theology says that God is beyond gender and yet present in every point of the gender continuum. This God force or Allness is manifested in human genders in all the beautiful arrays of gender identities that manifest themselves, in that all are created in the imago dei. Using images of God in our theology and liturgical moments that are rooted in masculine antiquity tends to speak to a cultural understanding that no longer exists (James 1996).

Names matter because how we name something is to a great extent what it is to us.  When we gender God as male, we move in our minds from metaphorical language about God to concretizing God as a man, forgetting that this merely anthropomorphic language.  We are preeminent creatures of language, and though language does not exhaust human reality, it qualifies it in profound ways (McFague 1987).  It follows then that if naming can be hurtful, it can also be helpful. Names mean that we see and are seen. The sin of naming God only in the masculine is we do not see our sisters and we ask them not to see themselves in the Divine. Our God-talk then becomes a subordination and oppression of women and their embodiment and lived realities.

In solidarity with my sisters, I would like to invite the whole church to live into an ethic of liberation which arises out of a new sense of love, for ourselves and for all humanity (Williams 1993). I would like to invite us to image the femininity of the Divine in ways we lift the feminine character of God in all of our liturgical moments. In this we will ensure that everyone has a seat at the table.

 

Works Cited

Holmes, Ernest. 1997. The Science of Mind. New York: G.P. Putnums Sons.

James, David C. 1996. What Are They Saying About Masculine Spirituality. New York: Paulist Press.

McFague, Sallie. 1987. Models of God: Theology for an Ecological, Nuclear Age. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Williams, Delores S. 1993. Sisters in the Wilderness . Maryknoll: Orbis.

 

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Intersectionality and the Church

knotThis week we celebrate the end of Black History Month and the beginning of Woman’s History Month. It is a calendared example of the lived reality of many of the women I know, the reality of intersectionality.  The term intersectional is borrowed from a Black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory, and antiracist politics originally authored by Kimberle Crenshaw (Crenshaw 1989).  Her original work focused on the intersection of race and gender as it pertained legally to the ways in which race and gender cause separate, and yet compound, issues of marginalization. The work also lifts up the extreme and compound marginalization of race, sex, class, sexual orientation, age, and physical ability.  A Black female law professor, Crenshaw points out how the dominant conceptions of discrimination condition us to think about subordination as disadvantage occurring along a single categorical axis.

Intersectionality addresses the combination of individuals’ multiple social groups and the identification, experiences, and worldviews that result from this combination (Yarber 2015). In particular terms, intersectionality defines the ways in which the most disinherited of the marginalized experience their lived reality in the face of imperialist white-supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy. A poor immigrant Black African Lesbian woman experiences the effects of intersectionality in ways that a white heterosexual male member of the wealthy class never will.  The reality—i.e., interlocking political systems that are foundational to our nation’s politics—serves to create an extreme underclass. In the Christian tradition, identity theologies of liberation have heretofore been guilty of the same construct without taking into consideration the ways in which multiply-burdened intersectional realities might impact our words about God and the church.

This week calls us to begin to explore a new intersectional theology. This new stream of theology arises from the lived experiences of the Black bodies in and out of the Black Church. It is honed and fleshed out in conversation with Black, Queer, Other-abled, Anticapitalistic, and Immigrant theologians. It is a queering of Black and Womanist theology. To queer Black theology is to force the radical potentiality of Black Liberation and Womanist theologies in their enactment; a fresh modality and way of living the church (Crawley 2017). This Intersectional theology is a heuristic constructive theology that engages a hermeneutic of hunger that reads the Bible as an answer to what all forms of oppression bring to bear on human dignity.  It has not been suspicion that turns people away from the church; it is hunger that drives them to seek help wherever their rights to have a life are being respected (Soelle 2001). By building an Intersectional theology, the Church responds theologically to the call for respect and human dignity.

Intersectional theology is not the work of liberal erasure; it is the intentional honoring of the ways in which social systems collude to marginalize, disenfranchise, and disinherit people considered non-normative by the oppressive social systems of those in power. Racial erasure is the sentimental idea that racism would cease to exist if everyone would just forget about race and see each other as human beings who are the same (hooks 1992). This concept of erasure is not limited to race, it has become a sentimentality that moves to make all “otherness” invisible, without considering the systems that problematize difference.

Intersectional theology is talk about God that doesn’t privilege the authoritative universal voice found in eurocentric theological musing. This theology does not abide an undifferentiated whole that obliterates individuality.  The authoritative universal voice usually indicates white male subjectivity masquerading as nonracial, non-gendered, objectivity (Crenshaw 1989).

In other writings, I put the meat on the bones of intersectional theology. My goal here is to call us to fall in love with the idea of new talk about God. To be brave enough to consider our God-talk from the voices of Black women, Other-abled siblings, and the Immigrant voices among us. How would the reading of the text differ if we took seriously the non-normative body of Jesus as we proclaim to the world Immanuel, God is with US!

 

Peace Is Possible,

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor 

SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

 

Works Cited

Crawley, Ashton T. 2017. BlackPentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility. New York: Fordham Press.

Crenshaw, Keberele. 1989. “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.” University of Chicago Legal Forum 1989 (1): 139-168.

hooks, bell. 1992. Black Looks: race and representation. Boston: South End Press.

Soelle, Dorothee. 2001. The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Yarber, Cody J. Sanders & Angela. 2015. Microaggressions in Ministry: Confronting the Hidden Violence of Everyday Church. Louisville : Westminister John Knox Press.

 

 

 

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In Response to Violence

2015-04-27 08.19.29The American experiment has, from its inception, been an exercise in violence. Between waging war against the British Empire and decimating First Nations people, violence is so woven in the fabric of national identity that it is impossible to separate America from our violence. The Boston Tea Party, so celebrated in our pursuit of liberty, was itself violent. Without violence, the whole economy of our early nation would not exist.

The Maafa, Slavery, American Apartheid (Jim and Jane Crow): these are the violent pillars of the American economy.  Our wrestling with gun violence is as old as our presence on the continent. The trajectory of our violence is now at a point it must be confronted.

The recent tragedy in Florida, where seventeen people were murdered by assault rifle in a public high school, should serve as a wakeup call to the all those who love justice and particularly those of us in the religious sector who are tasked with increasing the moral understanding and capacity of the nation. Laws are designed partly to protect the public from unscrupulous individuals and institutions. Yet as important as legal constraints are, they are not sufficient on their own. The fact that something is legal doesn’t mean that it’s moral (Volf 2011). The task of the spiritual community is to call society not to what is legal alone, but what is right.

Our responsibility as a community of faith is less that of indoctrinating or relating people to an external power and more of that of providing opportunities for people to touch the infinite center of all things and to grow into all that they are destined to be (Spong 1998). This call invites us to take a firm stand against violence. There has been a conflating of nationalism and religion that has silenced the prophetic voice of religious witness to the point that we memorialize children murdered in schools the same way we memorialize soldiers fallen on the battlefield. Militarism is a spiritual catastrophe, promoted by a corporate –media multiplex and a culture industry that has hard-core consumers and coarsened the consciences of citizens (Jr. 2015).  These mind-numbing tributes flashed on our television screen at the close of news broadcasts place the death of our children and those who die in combat proximate in ways that are unsettling to say the least. It is national corporate sin.

swirlSin, in my theological lexicon, is an inappropriate response to a legitimate need. We legitimately need to mourn the murder of children and the fallen soldier; however, it is inappropriate to mourn them the same way. Sin is a form of brokenness, an assault on and corruption of the spirit. It is a complex phenomenon: it is communal as well as individual (Farley 1990) . What would happen if the Church and other religious institutions were so stirred by the violence in our brokenness that we sought to create new rituals of memorial for those sacrificed to gun violence?  What if our need to be safe and bear arms was called into question by our liturgies and our worship moments? How would the ethos of violence in our nation shift if those who claim to be people of spirit would question the role of violence by the ways we sing, preach, and pray?

Liturgy is the ritualizing of deep mythology on many levels. It makes concrete our theological hopes and a large part of what we are concretizing is our eschatological hope. Without denying the legitimacy of eschatological hopes, theology must seek a historical response to evil.  Otherwise consolation and hope may denigrate into excuses for remaining passive or indifferent in the face of radical suffering and injustice (Farley 1990). Let us consider the ways which our liturgies speak truth to power as a prophetic critique of the culture of violence we now find ourselves in.

Peace Is Possible,

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor 

SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

Works Cited

Farley, Wendy. 1990. Tragic Vision and Divine Compassion A Contemporary Theodicy. Louisville : Westminster John Knox Press.

Jr., Matin Luther King. 2015. The Radical King. Edited by Cornel West. Boston: Beacon Press.

Spong, John Shelby. 1998. Why Christianity Must Change or Die. New York: Harper Collins.

Volf, Miroslav. 2011. A Public Faith. Grand Rapids: BrazosPress.

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About Love

Love is one of the most written about topics in human history, yet all the volumes written on it cannot exhaust the hunger to understand it. As we celebratered-heart-tree Valentine’s Day this week I wonder if our religious institutions will be mindful of the opportunity we have to influence the conversation about love. More than just the hyperawareness of romantic love (or the absence of such love), there is a way that Valentine’s Day calls us to consider the full range of interdependent independence that is the material substance of love.  The desire for interpersonal fusion is the most powerful striving in humanity. It is the most fundamental passion, it is the force which keeps the human race together, the clan, the family, the society. The failure to achieve it means insanity or destruction – self-destruction, or the destruction of others. Without love, humanity could not exist for a day (Fromm 1956). In my experience, the brokenness and fractures of human relations and our shared relation with all of creation come as a result of lovelessness. Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion (Brown 2017). Therefore, it is incumbent upon those of us who seek justice and love mercy to remind our siblings of exactly how important and powerful love really is.

The primary task of faith-community is to assist in the creation of wholeness – not goodness, but wholeness. The healthy community’s reason for being is to provide the space where each person is nurtured into full being and this is the function of love (Spong 2002).  It is not enough for our churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and other religious sites to offer intellectual insight to the world of mystery they must also have emotional intelligence and socioeconomic reach in order to fully love the faithful into wholeness. Love, you see, is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s growth. It may well be easier to say love is as love does (hooks 2000). Love is manifested in the human willingness to venture beyond the boundaries of safety, to risk losing ourselves and at the same time calls us into being and expands our lives as it flows through us and to the other.red-love-heart-valentines.jpg

Life giving love can be entered self-consciously, chosen freely, and appropriated fully (Spong 2002). It is precisely this type of love that our faith-communities help us cultivate. In order to be a love filled, love centered, type of community our houses of worship will have to invest in decentering norms of classism, elitism, sexism and all other systems of oppression that dehumanize any of our siblings.  This calls for those at the center of these systems of power and domination to be intentional about divesting ourselves of privilege, in order to redistribute power.  You cannot really have a conversation about love without considering power, because true love is always based on mutuality.

Authentic love is the holiest of relationship. A holy relationship is this: a common state of mind, where all give errors gladly to correction, that all may happily be healed as one. In the holy relationship, we do not seek to change someone, but rather to see how beautiful they already are (Williamson 1992). When our inner peace is shaken by the behavior of the other then we know we have left the state of holy relationship. This is why it is the task of the faith –community to call each member into wholeness for it is only from wholeness we can truly have holy loving relationship.

Ultimately, we each seek love and are healed by Love itself.  A person radically accepted by another naturally wishes to share that acceptance, that gift of love with others. What if this week our faith-communities focus on being the space where love pervades and prevails? Can we be the site where in the breaking of bread, and singing of hymns we share forgiveness and seek justice in the face of shared evil?  Will we make room for the shadow side of the genius we encounter in the people we are connected to? A healing spirituality is not remote from the world, but engaged in it.  It enables people to be aware of their own gifts and become passionately committed to a better society (SJ 1996). We were made to love.

 

 

Peace Is Possible,

Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor 

SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

Works Cited

Brown, Brene. 2017. Braving the Wilderness. New York: Random House.

Fromm, Erich. 1956. The Art of Loving. New York: Continuum.

hooks, bell. 2000. all about love. New York: Harper Perennial.

SJ, Patrick J. Howell. 1996. A Spiritguide Through Times of Darkness. Kansas City: Sheed & Ward.

Spong, John Shelby. 2002. A New Christianity for a New World. New York: Harper SanFransico.

Williamson, Marianne. 1992. A Return to Love: Reflections on Principles of A Course in Miracles. New York: HarperOne.

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