By Ken Sehested
Kindred, the news is bleak. For we live in the valley of the shadow, when:
- the stock market reaches record-breaking levels in the midst of near-record-breaking rates of unemployment;
- when 1% of US citizens control $30 trillion of assets while the bottom half is saddled with more debts than assets;
- when the median wealth of Black households is a tenth of that of whites;
- when yet another unarmed Black man is shot—in the back, seven times, while getting in his car where his children are sitting—by police;
- when polls show 57% of Republicans (along with 33% of Independents and 10% of Democrats) believe our nation’s COVID-19 death toll (many times greater than any other nation) is “acceptable”—despite ours being the wealthiest nation in recorded history, purportedly with the world’s most advanced health care system;
- when wildfires in California set yet another record in size and destructive infernos, and similar flames in the Amazon are on track to eclipse 2019’s record;
- when 30 million families lacked sufficient nutrition last week, yet the suicide rate among farmers—who provide our food—is five times greater than the national average;
- when the federal hourly minimum wage is $7.25 (lowest it’s been since the 1960s when adjusted for inflation), yet Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos earns approximately $8,961,187 per hour;
- not to mention a monarch aspirant in high office; and our oldest living president, Jimmy Carter, having
described our political economy as “moving toward an oligarchy.”
And yet, and nevertheless.
“Though the fig tree does not blossom, / and no fruit is on the vines; / thought the produce of the olive fails / and the fields yield no food; / though the flock is cut off from the fold / and there is no herd in the stalls, / yet I will rejoice in the Sovereign / I will exult in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).
Which is to say, rouse yourselves to maintain custody of your heart and shield it from the bootleggers of despair.
Let the baptism of firmeza permanente*, relentless persistence, soak you to the bone, so that you may stand ready to confess: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing” (Arundhati Roy).
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*A theological movement within the Brazilian church in the 1970s, born of the same impulse as the active nonviolence campaigns of the 1930s-1940s in India and US civil rights movement in the 1950-1960s.
Ken Sehested is curator of prayerandpolitiks.org, an online journal at the intersection of spiritual formation and prophetic action.