Monday, May 30, 2011
Arise and Start Dreaming
The basic fact is that Christianity as it was born in the mind of this Jewish teacher and thinker appears as a technique of survival for the oppressed...Wherever his spirit appears, the oppressed gather fresh courage; for he announced the good news that fear, hypocrisy and hatred, the three hounds of hell that track the trail of the disinherited, need have no dominion over them.
Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited (1949)
The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.
Howard Zinn, The Optimism of Uncertainty (2004)
The message of Jesus was that the Dream of God was invading the world. This New Reality triumphed over common sense and conventional wisdom. Jesus was a game changer. He told his followers that if they really wanted to be great, they would serve each other. If they really wanted the Force to be with them, they would give privilege to those with the least status in society: children, women, the diseased, the poor.
The first Dreamers had very tangible practices: love, share, pray, fast, listen, confess, sacrifice, forgive, embrace, confront injustice, spread the word, repeat. It was a message of hope: apathy, cynacism, addiction and self-righteousness were resisted. Those who pledged allegiance to God's Dream got baptized: they stripped down naked and their brothers (or sisters) dunked them and when they came out of the water, they were sparkling clean, brand new citizens of a Way that transcended ethnicity, race, job and gender. They put on robes because they were royalty: princes and princesses of the Kingdom of God. Truly, they conducted their struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.
Today, God's Dream continues to invade the world through small communities who pledge allegiance to these virtues and practices no matter what the cost. These communities are not special because of some divinely-ordained status, but because of the vocation they commit to. They do strange & scandalous things. As they take personal inventory and confess courageously, self-absorption slowly fades and insecurities heal into strengths. Compassion starts to overwhelm them. The plight of the disinherited becomes theirs. And this process takes patience and time because the Dream does not become fulfilled with an explosion. It percolates, ferments & marinates. It is like leaven in bread, slowly rising.
Let's face it: the Dream takes a lot of faith because quite frankly a lot of shit happens...and keeps happening. The rich get richer at the expense of the disinherited of the world. The rapists and sex traffickers and hackers and armies and robbers keep on dehumanizing others...and keep on getting away with it. Those with their backs against the wall rarely experience freedom. And most of us in North American Suburbia most of the time seek comfort and convenience and security, praying all the while that shit doesn't happen to us.
But more and more, we are breaking out of our flat-screened caves and pursuing empathy and dignity and justice. We are rejecting the celebrities and the sexy to pursue and privilege the vulnerable and marginalized and oppressed among us. We are voices crying out in the American wilderness. We are seeing miracles among us, creatively and consistently crafted by those committed to this alternative consciousness. We are waking up from our distractions and diversions so that we can realize the Dream. As the very first Dreamers proclaimed, "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."