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A Baptism of Humility

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. – Ephesians 4:2-6

Last Friday, I had the privilege to speak on a panel at Virginia Theological Seminary – the largest Episcopal seminary in North America. The panel discussion was entitled, “Occupy Faith: Leadership for the 100%,” and included three other panelists – all distinguished members of the Episcopal Church: George Packard, a retired bishop and Occupy activist; Jim Cooper, the rector of Trinity Wall Street; and Barney Hawkins, the Vice President for Institutional Advancement of VTS. It was humbling to be invited to speak with these respected leaders within the Episcopal Church, and I was grateful for the opportunity to observe another Christian community wrestle with the challenge and opportunity that the Occupy movement represents for us as followers of Jesus.

Occupy provides an opening to reexamine the basic teachings of Jesus, rediscovering the radical call to economic justice and self-sacrificial love that is at the heart of the gospel. Too often, we ignore the radical implications of Jesus’ message, preferring to focus on esoteric theology or narratives of personal fulfillment. Whether consciously or not, we distract ourselves. We would prefer almost anything to a Savior who calls us to abandon all worldly security, following him with single-minded passion and reckless abandon.

So often, we Christians flee from who Jesus really is. He loves us deeply, and he walks alongside us in the way; all of this is true. But his is no cheap grace. Following Jesus does not mean security in any normal sense. Rather, being a disciple of Jesus Christ is an invitation into a world turned upside down – a world in which our old ideas of security and success no longer apply. As we discover who Jesus is, and begin to grow more like him, we discover that our wealth, status and privilege are all stumbling blocks that get in the way of real love. We begin to see that, if we want to be like Jesus, we must imitate his humility.

I saw a glimpse of this kind of humility on Friday afternoon. I watched two men who have been on opposite sides of an ideological battle stand together and celebrate the Eucharist – the Episcopalian rite of reconciliation and communion in Christ. Despite their serious public disagreements – even legal disputes – these two Church leaders were able to re-affirm their bonded relationship as followers of Jesus. I pray that these two leaders might receive the full spiritual meaning of this ritual, and that God will strengthen them to serve together as examples of humility and mutual submission to Jesus Christ.

As Christians, we can never allow our own ideas to be at the center. When we open ourselves to the living work of the Holy Spirit in our midst, we find that all of our competing agendas are relativized. We have ceased to insist on getting our own way, instead praying as one Body, “not our will, Lord, but thy will.” When we are baptized into this kind of corporate humility, Christ leads us into the radical, surprising life of service that has been waiting for us all along.

None of this is simple. It often seems impossible for us to drop our baggage and simply wait together on the Spirit to guide us. And yet, what is impossible for men and women is possible for God. Can we bring ourselves to pray for this baptism of humility? Will we ask God to humble us and bring us into unity, transforming us into the people that we were created to be? Are we ready for real change – not just for others, but for ourselves as well?

The Spirit of the One Percent

For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12

Who is the One Percent, anyway? A recent article in the Washington Post sought to answer that question – not merely with statistics, but through interviews with DC-area folks who fall within the top 1% of the income range. In Washington, DC it takes an annual household income of $617,000 to qualify. With the charged debate taking place about income inequality and corporate power, the Post reports that, “Some local millionaires… feel unfairly targeted.” One wealthy individual characterized the Occupy movement as being, “one class of people driving another class of people against them… That’s the most anti-American thing you can do.”

I do not really know what qualifies as “American” or “anti-American,” nor am I sure that it matters. However, I do think it is worth asking another question: How does the langauge of 99% and 1% relate to our faith as followers of Jesus?

Does the language of 99% and 1% dehumanize the super-wealthy? It certainly seems to have that potential. During my involvement in the Occupy movement, I have heard people say hateful things about other groups of people – whether it be police, politicians or the One Percent. These expressions of hate and dismissal – treating others as irredeemable objects of frustration – are clearly out of line with my Christian faith. Jesus laid down his own life for those who hated and oppressed him, and as a disciple of Jesus Christ, I am called to pray for those who persecute me.

At the same time, Jesus stood up against the predatory lenders of his day. He called out the abusive religious elites who lorded their status over others and took advantage of the poor. Jesus loved everyone he met – and he forgave those who were ready to receive forgiveness – but he did not give a free pass to those who neglected their responsibility to care for the needs of the poor. The truth is, those who had the most consistently rejected Jesus.

And yet, our struggle is not against the particular individuals that make up the wealthiest 1% of the United States. Demonizing other human beings and directing our anger at them does not address the underlying issues at work. Our fight is not with human beings, but with the dark forces that keep us all enmeshed in a system that develops our most twisted and selfish inclinations. Rather than choosing to hate the “one-percenters,” we must recognize that the spirit of the One Percent is alive within all of us.

Much of the economic elite does not believe that they are that well-off.  Many interviewed by the Post, “were quick to point out that, in an area with the country’s eighth-highest cost of living, they didn’t have as much left over for luxuries as those in the 99 percent might imagine.” One family described their lives as “typical, stereotypical… very normal, upper-middle-class…” Another interviewee said, “Once you pay for a house, a car and child care, it’s not that much money. … [We] feel like regular middle class people.” There are many, it seems, who are leading “very normal” lives in their “very normal” million-dollar homes.

When I read these interviews, I can barely contain my anger. How can they not see their own privilege? Do they not realize that most people in DC live on a tiny fraction of what they do? If their salaries feel like “not that much,” imagine what the rest of us feel like in this economy! It is easy for me to feel infuriated at these clueless rich folks. Until I realize: I am just like them.

My wife and I share a personal automobile. We own a house with running water, electricity, heating and air. We have internet access in our home, and we never go hungry. We have both been nurtured by relatively stable families, and we have never experienced the threat of war. Still, with our combined income, we often feel like we are just barely scraping by. DC is indeed a very expensive place to live. And yet, especially by national standards, we are in a better financial situation than many.

And then I think of my trip to East Africa last summer. I think of the material deprivation of rural Kenya. I remember the dirt floors. I recall that most meals there are simply ugali (sort of like grits) and greens – you are lucky to get protein once a day. I think about how between the members of my nuclear family we probably own more books than the library of Friends Theological College, the premier Quaker seminary in East Africa.

One of those interviewed by the Washington Post said that he already drives a Jaguar, but he does not consider that a sign of true wealth. His dream is to be able to, “drive by the Ferrari store and say, ‘I want that red one,’ and just buy it.” When I first read this, the man’s lack of perspective simply blew me away. How could he not see the obscenity of his greed?

But then, he became a mirror. How many times have I said to myself, “I wish I did not have to worry about money.” Me, with my house and a personal automobile. Me, with clean water to drink and a refrigerator full of food. Me, with access to good hospitals and skilled surgeons. Me, a citizen of the wealthiest empire the world has ever known. How silly is that? I worry about money.

I believe in the struggle for economic justice and grassroots democracy represented by the Occupy movement. I believe that the corruption of the wealthiest elites must be exposed and challenged. I believe that the poor and middle classes  – the 99% – must join together to push for a moral economy. Yet, I also recognize that our problems run far deeper than the personal failings of the economic elite. We are all caught up together in this culture of self-centered greed.

How can we take responsibility for our own participation in a culture that worships money and cultivates fear of deprivation? How can we root ourselves in the Spirit that frees us from greed and pride, hunger and fear? As we work together to forge a moral economy rooted in our faith as friends of Jesus, can we confess our own need for changed hearts and lives?

The Occupy Zombie

I recently came across a blog post entitled, “Why I’m Not on the Occupy Band Wagon.” The writer – who appears to be a Boomer – has a very unfavorable impression of the Occupy movement. Basically, that occupiers are young folks who have “gambled” on education and now, having lost the bet, want somebody else to foot the bill for their wreckless accumulation of debt. This is familiar. Since the beginning of the Occupy movement, we have been smeared as spoiled, entitled young people who are protesting because they want a free lunch. “Why don’t these kids get jobs and stop complaining so much?”

I have no patience for this. The idea that the Occupy movement is fueled primarily by adolescent angst and middle-class entitlement is unfair, even if there is some hint of truth in the charge. The assertion that occupiers should “just get a job” and “take responsibility” is absurd. Most of the original occupiers (myself included) have jobs. The Occupy movement was launched by many of the best and brightest of our generation – erudite and highly motivated individuals who under normal circumstances would be leaders in both for-profit and non-profit sectors.

But there is not room for us. Because the economy is severely constricted and the Boomers have made poor choices and are now unable to retire, we Millenials face a job market that presents many of us with only three options: Working jobs that we are over-qualified for and which do not pay a living wage; going back to school, accumlating more debt while we ride out the recession; or living with our parents and working unpaid internships, in the hope that this might lead to something better. The very idea of Boomers scolding us on our entitlement, on our bad choices, when they are the ones who have tanked our economy and mortgaged our future for their short-sighted addiction to luxury, is sickening. After decades of frivilous materialism comes the final insult: many Boomers are projecting their own sins onto their children.

The idea that the Occupy movement represents adolescent posturing and entitlement is ludicrous. Though there is plenty of adolescence and posturing on display in this, as in any grassroots movement, the foundation of Occupy is our heartfelt desire to see the restoration of American democracy. Rather than hand over all our power to multinational corporations and the wealthiest .01%, we long to see ordinary people empowered to make decisions for our local communities, cities and regions. Rather than see our political system reflect a cynical “Pepsi versus Coke” fundraising campaign, we desire a renewed political landscape where the common good trumps the perogative of the super-rich, where ordinary people have as much say as Rupert Murdoch, Warren Buffett or the Koch brothers.

Which brings me to the matter that really concerns me. Rather than buying into the hedonism and selfishness of which we are commonly accused, I fear that we are being seduced in the opposite direction. In our desire to make a positive impact in the national discourse, I percieve that Occupy is being absorbed into a partisan agenda that is more concerned about Democrat Party victory in the Red vs. Blue culture wars than it is about challenging corporate power and the politics of raw greed.

In the early days of the Occupy movement, we clearly rejected the unholy matrimony of state and corporate power. We called out both Democrats and Republicans, exposing the ways in which both parties were corrupted by the unbridled influence of the big banks, big oil, multinationals and a small elite of super-rich individuals. The Occupy movement was fiercely non-partisan. Sure, we were against the Republican Party – but we had no love for Obama or the Democrats. We wanted fundamental change – truly grassroots democracy – not to be ruled by a slightly more benevolent wing of the wealthy elite.

Yet, today I perceive that we are at risk of losing the guileless integrity and fierce independence that made us such a terror to the status quo. With every day that passes, Occupy becomes ever more wedded to the institutional Left – the Democrat Party and their “progressive” allies. With organizations like MoveOnsponsoring the 99% Spring, the Occupy movement is poised to become a tool for Obama’s reelection campaign. Six months ago, there was real hope that occupiers might find common cause with the grassroots, human base of the Tea Party (as opposed to the corporate-funded front organizations that now pass themselves off as a grassroots movement). Today, that seems unlikely, as Occupy becomes increasingly wedded to the failed dogma of the institutional Left, complete with uncritical support for the Democrat Party and its electoral aims.

All this leaves me wondering: Is it too late for Occupy? Is the movement, in fact, dead? Just as the Tea Party has long been a coopted pawn of the anarcho-capitalist Koch brothers, is the Occupy movement inevitably falling into the orbit of the corporate paternalism of the Democrat Party? Worse than simply being dead, is Occupy becoming a zombie, play-acting at life, but in reality only serving as a puppet for another set of elite interests?

Ordinary Faithfulness – Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #41

Dear friends,
With spring in full bloom, this past month has felt alive with possibility – and with work! Exhilaration and exhaustion alternate as I seek to be faithful in my ministry with Capitol Hill Friendsand to get equipped for my work within a grassroots movement for economic justice. While there are many challenges, the overall direction of the last month has been positive. I continue to find way opening for Spirit-led service within the Religious Society of Friends and in the wider community.
These last few months, I have developed many new relationships and have begun work with others to build organization and make practical gains for justice. My most energetic involvement continues to be with Occupy Our Homes DC, as we work to promote a society in which individuals and families are able to secure decent, affordable housing – a society in which the big banks are not permitted to throw honest, hard-working people out of their homes.
We won our first victory in late February, when we worked with Bertina Jones – an accountant and grandmother – to obtain a loan modification, despite the fact that Freddie Mac and Bank of America were dead set on kicking her out of her house. After raising public awareness of the issues – and the fact that Bank of America’s dealings with Bertina were probably illegal – the two giant banks backed down, and the foreclosure on Bertina’s home has been reversed.
Last week, we won another victory when we worked with DC tenant Dawn Butler to help her stay in her home, despite an imminent threat of eviction. Dawn’s landlord had been foreclosed on some time ago, but in DC tenants have the right of first refusal – if they want to buy the house they live in, they are first in line. Unfortunately, JP Morgan Chase calculated that they could make more money by throwing Dawn out on the street. Apparently breaking the law and manipulating the courts, JP Morgan Chase had successfully obtained an eviction order. The US Marshalls were on their way, literally to throw Dawn’s belongings out on the street.
Fortunately, we at Occupy Our Homes were able to mobilize very quickly, blockading Dawn’s house while she went down to the courthouse to seek a stay of eviction. The courts had ignored her request before, but now they knew that the community was ready to stand in the way of eviction. We would not go quietly. With the pressure on, the judge granted Dawn a stay of eviction until her next court date, later this month. We feel confident that Dawn has a strong legal case, and will eventually be able to purchase her home. But we intend to keep the spotlight on until we know for sure.
Behind these exciting actions lies an increasing depth of organization. Much of my time has been taken up this past month with committee meetings, telephone calls, and outreach to the wider community. One of the most exciting ways that I have been able to reach out more broadly has been to get involved in a weekly pastors’ breakfast, attended mostly (though not exclusively) by African-American ministers. It is a time for these pastors to come together, support one another in prayer, sermon and song, and to share their thoughts with one another about the latest happenings in the city. It is a real blessing for me to be able to take part in this gathering, and I am grateful for the opportunity to connect with so many seasoned leaders from the African-American Church here in DC.
My work in the wider community is complimented by an ever-deepening involvement in the ministry of Capitol Hill Friends. I have felt blessed this past month by regular mid-week meetings of the members. We gather to check in, do business, and support one another spiritually. It is a vital time for me to touch base and hear how the Lord is speaking to us in our individual lives, as well as in our shared ministry.
This past weekend, we held our Spring Retreat in Barnesville, Ohio, together with Friends from Detroit and Philadelphia. This is our third retreat since Capitol Hill Friends and New City Friends formed a network of mutual care and accountability. The gathering included not only members of our two groups, but also a like-minded friend from Philadelphia. We hope that as this network continues to evolve it will be a source of strength and encouragement for many local Meetings, as well as individuals who would benefit from the support and care that our network can provide.
It felt good to have our retreat in Barnesville. Roughly equidistant from DC and Detroit, Barnesville is also the hometown of Ohio Yearly Meeting, and functions as a sort of “Mecca” for Christ-centered, unprogrammed Quakers. Both New City Friends and Capitol Hill Friends have had significant involvement with Ohio Yearly Meeting, and our faith and practice is deeply influenced by their witness. It felt somehow right to me that we root our new Christian community in the same physical space as the ancient Ohio Yearly Meeting. It is my prayer that our emerging network will absorb many of the valuable traits of our Conservative kin, even as we seek to be faithful to the distinct call that God has for us as fellowship.
Life is vibrant for me right now, alive with an immediacy and urgency that feels both pregnant with possibility and grounded in responsibility. I find myself being called into new, risky action – both within the Quaker community, and in my work for economic justice. At the same time, I am pulled into a deep grounding in place and community. I feel increasingly accountable to Capitol Hill Friends, and to our wider network, and I am settling into a long-term commitment to a new neighborhood and community here in DC.
I never expected radical faithfulness to look so… Ordinary. I used to think that “freedom” meant not being constrained by anything but immediate, fiery revelation from God. I am beginning to see that what faithfulness looks like in my life right now is quite different from that romantic vision. Rather than becoming less entangled in the world, God is calling me to engage deeply in this human existence. I am to build a house and dwell in it; to plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
God calls me to show my commitment not by freeing myself from the conditions of everyday life, but instead by entering more deeply into them. Rather than taking me out of the world, Christ is guiding me into a life of deeper, inextricable involvement. Jesus challenges me to be part of not only a city on a hill, but also a city in the trenches. I feel God calling me to a witness that is anything but aloof – one that is revealed in its profound identification with the daily struggles of the human community.
The daily grind of ordinary faithfulness is harder to talk about than the exhilaration of big actions or gatherings. It is easy for me envision the Kingdom of God as existing in a daring, decisive moment – heroic, charged, picturesque bursts of clarity, beauty and power. Such moments do exist, and it is a blessing when they occur. Nevertheless, the foundation of all God’s work is steady, hidden faithfulness in ordinary time. I pray for the Holy Spirit to teach me humility and singleness of vision to dwell in the divine ordinary, to embrace the simple pains, pleasures, duties and delights of life – all to the glory of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
May his life and presence be with each of you, today and always.
Micah Bales

Another Victory for Occupy Our Homes DC

On Sunday night, I got a call from one of my fellow organizers at Occupy Our Homes DC, who had just gotten out of a meeting with Dawn Butler, a local DC resident. US Marshalls would be showing up at her house early the next morning, and they planned to evict her. Some of our organizers had gathered information on the case, consulted legal counsel and met with the tenant in person. We made the determination that Occupy Our Homes DC should act immediately to prevent the eviction.
If carried out, this eviction would not simply be unfair – it would be illegal. In the District of Columbia, tenants have the right of first refusal when their landlords are foreclosed upon. That is to say, tenants have the legal right to buy the foreclosed property if they so desire. Yet, despite the fact that the law makes provision for Dawn to buy the home that she had lived in for years, JP Morgan Chase determined that it would be be more profitable to evict her and sell her residence to someone else. As so often seems to be the case in these situations, the pursuit of maximal profit trumped everything – even the rule of law.
Though we had less than twenty four hours’ notice, we decided that Occupy Our Homes DC could play an important role in helping to turn the tide in this case. We sent out the word: If you can make it, be at Dawn Butler’s house at 9:00 on Monday morning. It could make the difference between her being able to stay in her home, or being thrown out on the street.
I knew I had to be present for the eviction defense, regardless of the day or the hour – but I was skeptical that we would be able to turn out enough people on twelve hours’ notice to effectively make a stand when the US Marshalls arrived. I was astonished the when I showed up the next morning to find a dozen folks already assembled. By nine ‘o clock, there were perhaps thirty or forty of us present, with huge signs, two sound systems, and a readiness to stand in the way if the Marshalls insisted on throwing Dawn out of her house.
A little before nine, the movers showed up. It was a vanload of mostly African American men, whose job it was to haul out the belongings of those who were being evicted. I talked with some of these guys, and they told me that they often evict multiple houses a day. Some of them seemed sympathetic to Dawn and the unfair treatment she was receiving, though others avoided eye contact. What a lousy job, I thought. It must be terribly demoralizing to spend your days throwing people out of their homes! Many of them probably had few options and were doing what they felt they had to do to get by. At the same time, I wondered where personal responsibility came in. As a result of this experience, would any of them conclude that they could not longer participate in these evictions?
Fortunately, we were not forced to directly challenge either the US Marshalls or the movers. At around ten ‘o clock, we got word that Dawn had secured a stay of eviction from the judge, allowing her to remain in her home until the next court hearing, later this month. This was a huge victory, allowing her to mount her legal case – which is a strong one – and hopefully be able to purchase her home.
Dawn told us later that the people at court knew that Occupy Our Homes DC was mounting resistance to the eviction, and that she got much better treatment by the court than she ever had before. Before, the court treated her as just another number; but now the courts and JP Morgan Chase know that Dawn has growing community support behind her. If they want to kick Dawn out of her house, they will face a serious public relations battle – one that will expose their immoral and illegal actions.
This rampant illegality is what really astonishes me. For better or worse, I expected big banks to be involved in unethical business practices. That seems par for the course in our economic system, which values maximum profit over all other considerations. But I never imagined how brazenly the biggest banks are engaging in outright illegal activity, nor how the court system goes right along with it! Occupy Our Homes DC will continue to work with residents of the DC metro area to expose these systematic unjust and illegal practices.
There are thousands of families being left destitute by predatory lenders, and we know that we can only help a few. Yet, we hope that those we are able to partner with will be transformed by the experience. Our goal is to empower grassroots leadership to arise in the community and challenge the grip of the big banks. We are learning that we do not have to accept the unjust status quo. We are discovering that we have the power to resist the abuses of the big banks and the corrupt court system. We are beginning to empower our local communities and economies, putting our money where our hearts are.
The work of Occupy Our Homes DC is important, but it is nothing compared to the power that will be unleashed if we unlock the leadership potential of ordinary Americans. We are looking for ways to empower our local communities, working to find shared solutions to the challenges we face. One thing is clear: We can no longer rely on big banks, big business or big government to solve our dilemmas.
Does this resonate with you? Are you involved in similar efforts in another city? What are other ways that you think we can be involved in empowering ordinary folks to do extraordinary things, living into the dream of participatory, grassroots democracy?

British Quakers Support Occupy – Can We Go Further?

I learned recently that Quakers in Great Britain issued a statement expressing their support for the ideals of the Occupy movement. My first reaction was, “well, it’s about time!” On further investigation, however, I realized that Britain Yearly Meeting issued their statement back in November. A pretty rapid response from a national religious denomination!
I am grateful for the willingness of Friends in Britain to embrace the message of economic justice that has been trumpeted by occupiers across the globe. This should be a no-brainer for us as Friends. Quakers have a long track record of at least paying lip service to the need for a more equitable economic system, and making a statement of support for the ideals of Occupy is a fairly small ideological leap.
The greater challenge is actually doing something about it. We Quakers talk a good game about peace, equality and economic justice, but we often lead lives that are fairly typical of the middle class of our respective nations. Many of us are well-informed, responsible citizens within the safe confines of bourgeois respectability; fewer of us have found ways to live into the more radical modes of engagement that our spiritual forebears have modeled for us.
I applaud Friends in Britian for publically minuting their support for the ideals of the Occupy movement. That is more than most Friends bodies have done. Yet, it is easy to write minutes and issue statements. Words come easily, but concrete commitments are more challenging.
What are ways that we as the Religious Society of Friends can move beyond words, committing ourselves to the radical social justice message of Jesus? How can we move beyond the mere affirmation of ideals and get our hands dirty in the messy business of the gospel? Expressing our ideals is important, but putting our faith into action requires much greater bravery. As we open ourselves to the Spirit that inspires all courage, we will receive strength to change our lives, putting flesh and bone on this vision of justice that we have talked about for so long.

Diversity in the Body

Now… if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. – 1 Corinthians 12:15-20

As a grassroots organizer within the Occupy movement, it is easy for me to get carried away. There is an intensity in my sense of calling to this work, and a part of me insists that everyone should be involved. And there is some truth in this. I do believe that we are all called to the struggle for greater love, truth and justice in our society. We all have a responsibility to hear and respond to the Spirit’s movement in our hearts, however we are directed. But responding faithfully looks different for some than for others.

For my part, I have felt drawn into the kind of grassroots organizing that we do in Occupy Churchand Occupy Our Homes DC. Rather than primarily seeking policy changes, or reform within the financial sector, I feel called to pursue direct engagement with families and communities. I feel that I can be most faithful by helping to develop grassroots networks that empower ordinary people to have a voice in the way local communities are impacted by the big banks, big government, and the interests of the wealthiest 1%.

But there is more than one way to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. This grassroots action that I have been called to is important, but there are other, complimentary ways that we are engaging simultaneously. We need the folks who are laboring tireless for policy reforms to curb the abuses of the financial sector. We need the courage of those who are working within multi-national corporations and big banks, to take the risk of advocating for more just and sustainable policies within their organizations. We need lawmakers who are responsive to the needs of their human constituents – not only the demands of their corporate creditors. There are many ways that we are working for justice, and each of us is called to be faithful in our particular role.

The work that I and other grassroots organizers are doing fit into a larger picture. Our efforts are crucial, but we cannot succeed alone. Rather than insisting that everyone engage in the same way as me, I must learn to cooperate with those who are seeking to be faithful in a variety of different contexts and callings. If we hope to see real change in our society, we will need the cooperation from all our parts. We cannot heal the body by hacking off limbs. We need restoration, not amputation.

I seek to stay open to all those who are working for a more loving and just society, even when their forms of engagement look very different from my own. Rather than demanding that others engage in the same way that I am called to, I will honor the varied roles and responsibilities that have been given to different individuals and communities. I will be the feet. Will you be the eyes? The ears? The mouth? The hands?