The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us.
Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination (1978)
Radical discipleship in North America entails much. A life devoted to spirituality, social analysis, simple living & suffering service can overwhelm us, leaving us with the same symptoms of the systems we are struggling against: addiction, alienation and anxiety. This final week of Advent season creates intentional space & time for us to reconsider and repent, alerting us to times we find ourselves sleepwalking an imperial trance. Here are 9 commitments that we can hold up to the light through Epiphany.
1. I will meditate. As John Kabat-Zinn exhorts, “Don’t just do something, sit there.” Finding solitude alone wards off loneliness in the crowd.
2. I will take rigorous personal inventory, writing in “my feelings journal” about times where I am held captive to powerful vested interests, deep fears, deep unresolved hurts, family expectations, peer pressure, economic opportunity and social ideology. These forces have powerfully shaped me and can tend to control me, enslave me and possess me. I will name them and continue the process of exorcising them from my life.
3. I will feed my prophetic imagination. I will find time to creatively & constructively examine: What am I saying “yes” to? A new world will be envisioned & built by those who nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the dominant culture all around us.
4. I will organize my prayer around Praise, Pain & Protest. Communicating with The Crucified God entails specifically naming what we are grateful for, what wounds are festering in us & around us and the injustices and violence that continue to be embedded in the institutions that organize and dehumanize our world. And then let faith, hope and love come together: the Force of unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in Reality.
5. I will go public with my pledge of solidarity to poor, suffering & marginalized people. I will strategically-yet-uncompromisingly channel my grief and anger into marching, rallying, protesting and posting to social media—always remembering that justice requires that we take sides, and to be silent on issues that matter most is
to be neutral & objective to side with the unjust status quo.
6. I will disobey, boycott & divest from policies, rules, companies, traditions and eating-&-drinking habits that lead to dehumanization and destruction. Here’s the basic litmus test: I am against anything that kills people or destroys the planet we live on! As nature writer and philosophy professor Kathleen Dean Moore prodded in an interview two years ago:
The reason nonviolent methods haven’t worked is because we haven’t really tried them yet. We haven’t tried massive protests and civil disobedience. We haven’t tried boycotts. We haven’t harnessed the power of the global religions. Somewhere near half of us don’t even vote. Here and there, sure, we’ve tried nonviolence, but not on the scale we need. Let’s give it a go.
7. I will carefully monitor my media, taking note of corporate sponsorship in all its deceitful forms: advertising, mainstream newspapers, posted & tweeted sound-bites from political leaders & sports figures, etc. There is plenty of social analysis from sources that can be trusted for their vigilance in confronting power (like this, this, this, this, this & this).
8. I will re-place my theology & politics into my home bioregion, governed by nature, not legislature. In this watershed moment of super-capitalist climate catastrophe, racist militarism (foreign & domestic), income inequality and broken-down-on-the-side-of-the-road-democracy, we can build a watershed movement. It all starts at home, as Howard Zinn envisioned:
Decisions would be made by small groups of people in their workplaces, their neighborhoods-a network of cooperatives, in communication with one another, a neighborly socialism avoiding the class hierarchies of capitalism and the harsh dictatorships that have taken the name “socialist.”
9. I will actively seek rest, nurture & grace. Long distance runners for justice need laughter, sleep and a diet high on leafy greens, legumes, nuts and whole grains and low on processed and/or fried foods, caffeine and alcohol. Everyone is needed in this struggle. Let’s cultivate a lifestyle that will sustain us for decades.
One of my mentors recently told me, quoting a pastor, that it is far more difficult to “re-construct our lives” (what we eat, how we commute, etc) than to do one act of “political spectacle.” Making our resistance work more holistic is a vital challenge today. Surely, this doesn’t mean that we stop planning & participating in protests & rallies. It does mean, however, that we commit ourselves to the long term, one-day-at-a-time journey of inner work and radically practical household discipleship habits.