What’s Faith Got to Do with It?

By the time you are reading this, things in the U.S. political world will be different than it is today, October 23.

  1. Donald Trump won the election, or
  2. Biden won, or
  3. votes are still being counted, and/or
  4. Democrats won the Senate, or
  5. they didn’t, and probably
  6. lawsuits concerning vote counts are flying across the nation.

And whichever combinations of the 6 possibilities is true in November, we are probably thinking: What now?

When churches ask ourselves how to engage in the coming political century, I hope we can be the source of the energy of Ahimsa: Nonviolent Witness.

Whatever the outcomes were this November, there is work to be done. I hope we can commit again to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Six Principles of Nonviolence. 

The crisis that we are enmeshed in now, no matter what happens in November, is the crisis that Jesus faced: justice vs the establishment. Defeating one emperor was not the point, then, during the Civil Rights Movement, or now.

“Indeed, the more we study the Civil Rights Movement, the more the Gospels come alive.” *

  King and Mairead Maguire and John Lewis and probably a few of your neighbors have decided that Gandhi was right, nonviolence (ahimsa) is the way to go.

In The Beloved Community,** Charles Marsh traces the place of faith in the struggle for social justice, and what can happen when nonviolent witness loses its grounding in faith. King learned from Gandhi, who also based this strategy on faith. King’s leadership was based on churches. Marsh believes that when this foundation was lost, the movement moved away from the creation of a “Beloved Community”. How are faith and social justice intertwined?

What exactly is “faith”? Our church has such a wide variety of outlooks, it may seem chaotic. It is not (except sometimes). We read, sing, listen, pray, look for the Sacred Center from which justice and love spring.

I want to write about faith,

faith that I find my way home

as reliably as the way the moon rises

each month,

season after season, without help.

I want to say that I am not lost,

my mind sometimes is lost for a moment,

but I am not, just as the moon rises

each month, season after season.

Curious how the moon, full, new, or sliver,

never hesitates or stops to consider options.

And it is curious how, at times, my mind hesitates,

stops to consider options,

as if there is more than one way home.

Gravity is a faith the moon rides upon,

held close to her home by a steady grip

that guides her through all her phases,

as a mother holds her daughter through

wakefulness and sleep.

Faith is a gravity my body rests upon.

While my mind considers options,

My body stops, waits for that steady grip

to guide me home, where ever that may be.

Alice Barrett, with thanks to David Whyte.

*”The Radical Nonviolent Witness of Jesus”, Ched Myers, friendsjournal.org (2009)

 **The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice, from the Civil Rights Movement to Today,