I am convinced that the universe is under the control of a loving purpose, and that in the struggle for righteousness man has cosmic companionship.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Back in the 50s and 60s, when Martin Luther King was marching and preaching, he used to reassure congregations and movement participants that they had on their side a "cosmic companionship," a divine Force of love and justice that beckoned and challenged and encouraged the whole world towards healing and redemption. This is a crucial faith move, especially when the chips are down and evil has the upper hand. Pain, abuse, oppression and insanity seem to reign. But in the end, slowly but surely, after tireless commitment, love wins. Justice wins.
Rebecca Solnit reminded us of this in her beautiful piece this week:
If you take the long view, you’ll see how startlingly, how unexpectedly but regularly things change. Not by magic, but by the incremental effect of countless acts of courage, love, and commitment, the small drops that wear away stones and carve new landscapes, and sometimes by torrents of popular will that change the world suddenly. To say that is not to say that it will all come out fine in the end regardless. I’m just telling you that everything is in motion, and sometimes we are ourselves that movement.
In the Christian tradition, the Script echoes that God is there
Yet, so many of my non-religious brothers and sisters are participating in a Narrative that values justice before order and compassion instead of indifference. As King boldly proclaimed, "I would rather a man be a committed humanist than an uncommitted Christian." These blessed folks know intuitively (this Spirit blows wherever she pleases!) that all people should be given dignity and respect. There, indeed, is a Force or Power that is far greater than our own individual and family dramas, pulling and prodding us all towards Reality.
For all people of faith and conscience--movement people--this is The Primary Conviction: that there is something Divine saturating the world that conspires (from the Latin for "breathes") for us and that this gentle, compassionate, dignified, generous and humble divine Way will win. And that we desperately want to be on this winning side right now, going with the flow, the Breath of God...even if it feels like we are losing. The Truth is that we are not alone in our quest for redemption, but the time table goes far beyond watches and calendars. But it doesn't just happen. It's not inevitable. This Game's for real. And we must participate with the Source of ultimate Love: working, training, praying, fasting, joining up and sitting in.
Truly, this Conviction leads us to embrace all sorts of peculiar practices. Turning off our devices so that we can train our eyes to see the Divine everywhere. Eating foods that are grown locally without pesticides harvested by laborers who are paid a decent wage. Gathering with inspiring and nurturing People who are also compelled by the Conviction. Walking alongside (in a myriad of diverse ways) all our neighbors whom society deems "second-class" (our single-moms, our gay brothers and lesbian sisters, our undocumented, our jobless and homeless, our mentally ill and handicapped). Discerning when and where forces of power and privilege are exploiting vulnerable people and the Earth...and then doing something tangible to stop it.
Yet, today, as in each of the 100 generations since Christ, there are far too many so-called followers of Jesus who are far too comfortable with "the way things are." They will do whatever it takes to fight for the status quo. Take GOP congressman Stephen Fincher from Tennessee who quotes 2 Thessalonians 3:10 to defend his desire to cut billions from the federal food stamps program: For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. Seriously? Are the jobless really "unwilling?" A couple of years ago McDonalds reported that one million people applied for jobs at their restaurants in the US. They hired 62,000. Were the other 938,000 simply unwilling to work?
Fincher's bull$#*t interpretation is the tip of the ice berg. Using the sacred Script to turn Jesus into free-market fundamentalist Reaganite is pretty low, but it is just one example of ways that privileged people use God to both strategize and rationalize their advantage in society. This is absolutely insane. As Wendell Berry wryly quipped,
No wonder so many sermons are devoted exclusively to “spiritual” subjects. If one is living by the tithes of history’s most destructive economy, then the disembodiment of the soul becomes the chief of worldly conveniences.
God desperately wants us to join in on the Adventure of world-wide redemption. Yes, it's a conspiracy. And this means that those in privileged positions who use the name of the Divine while embracing a lifestyle--in both word and deed--that serves as an obstacle to the Flow of justice ought to be called out and nonviolently confronted by all people of faith and conscience who center their lives on the Primary Conviction that Life is all about consistently and creatively bringing the heavenly Way to this world.