A Wisdom for Our Time

April 8th, 2021 by Dave No comments »

I believe it is a loss to our Christian heritage that Julian’s mystical teachings have not received more widespread hearing. Matthew Fox points out that she was in many ways ahead of her time. Her voice and writings were sidelined by a patriarchal church and culture unable to hear her nondual message of “oneing” and her celebration of embodiment as an extension of the Incarnation itself. Perhaps we are finally ready to hear Julian’s wisdom today. Matthew Fox writes:

We learn about ourselves, our history and society by asking questions that expose the shadows in which we still live. To me it is obvious why [Julian’s] work was ignored, and in naming the obvious we name the shadows we have inherited from our ancestors.

First, she was ignored because she was a woman. . . . Julian found her voice—and wrote the first book in English by a woman. She speaks out about womanhood and about mothering and about the Divine Mother. She insists on the feminine side of God as imbuing not only God the Creator, but God the Liberator, and God the Spirit. . . .

She bakes into her entire book the constant theme of nondualism and of “oneing.” Sensuality and substance are one thing. . . . She talks of the “glorious mingling” of body and soul, matter and spirit. She insists on the marriage of nature and God, on panentheism [God in all things and all things in God] as the very meaning of faith, and on the marriage of God and the human (for we, too, are part of nature): “between God and the human there is no between.”. . .

We were not ready for her. We were too engrossed with the masculine projects of empire building and “discovery” doctrines of raiding and destroying indigenous cultures of “mother love”; we were too busy chasing knowledge, at the expense of wisdom, for the power it brings to buttress our empires through science and technology, too preoccupied with creating capitalist behemoths that demanded we extract whatever goods we could from Mother Earth without asking any questions about paying Mother Earth—or future generations—back. . . . Julian’s feminism did not fit the patriarchal agenda at hand . . . and she stands up to patriarchy (including the institutional church) in many instances. But subtly so—as a lover, not as a prosecutor.

The second principal reason Julian has been ignored for so many centuries, and why we were not ready for her, is that she is so thoroughly creation-centered in her theology that people did not understand her insistence that “God is in nature,” that nature and grace are one, and that goodness is everywhere but “first of all in nature.” When the agenda is to exploit nature for all the profits it can deliver, who wants to hear about the sacredness of nature?

A Sacred Sweetness

April 7th, 2021 by JDVaughn No comments »
–> Today, treat yourself to reading directly from Julian. I am using Mirabai Starr’s wonderful translation of Julian’s Showings, which is also aptly called Revelations of Divine Love. This is from her Long Text, chapter 52. God rejoices that he is our Father. God rejoices that he is our Mother. God rejoices that he is our Beloved and we are his true lover. Christ rejoices that he is our Brother. Jesus rejoices that he is our Savior. These are five supreme joys and he wants us to rejoice in them, too, and praise him, thanking and loving and endlessly blessing him. During our lives here on earth, we experience a wondrous mixture of well and woe. We hold inside us both the glory of the Risen Christ and the misery of the Fallen Adam. Christ protects us in our dying and, through his gracious touch, uplifts us and reassures us that all will be well. . . . We are so fragmented, afflicted in our feelings in so many ways, that we hardly know where to turn for comfort. The various pains and transgressions of this life fill our hearts with sorrow and cloud the eyes of our souls. But we cultivate our intention and wait for God. We have faith in his mercy and grace, and trust that he is working within us. In his goodness, he opens the eyes of our understanding and gives us insight. Sometimes we glimpse more, sometimes we see less, depending on what God gives us the ability to receive. Now he elevates us; now he allows us to come tumbling down. The mixture of sorrow and joy is so powerful that we cannot figure out how to handle it all, let alone assess how our fellow spiritual seekers are doing. The diversity of feelings can be overwhelming. And yet, in those moments when we sense the presence of God, we surrender to him, truly willing to be with him, with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength. This holy assent is all that matters. It eclipses all the wicked inclinations inside us—physical and spiritual—that might lead us to miss the mark. Sometimes, however, that sacred sweetness lies deeply buried, and we fall again into blindness, which leads to all kinds of sorrow and tribulation. So we must take comfort in the essential article of our faith that teaches us not to give into our negative impulses, but to draw strength from Christ, who is our defender against all harm. We need to stand up against evil, even if to do so causes discomfort—even pain—and pray for the time when God will once again reveal himself and fill our hearts with the sweetness of his presence. And so we remain in this muddle all the days of our lives. But our Beloved wants us to trust that he is always with us. With such deep and tender wisdom, is it any wonder that Julian is one of my favorite mystics—and human beings?

Love Revealed

April 6th, 2021 by Dave No comments »
My dear friend Mirabai Starr, herself a mystic and author, has translated Julian’s Long Text (her second exploration of her visions) in a way that is both faithful to the original and understandable to today’s spiritual seekers. She introduces Julian’s work in this way: What does Julian of Norwich, a fourteenth-century Catholic anchoress, who spent the majority of her adult life cloistered in a small stone cell attached to a church, have to teach us here and now? She reveals the feminine face of the Divine in all its radiance and reminds us to seek God there. She teaches us that God’s love has nothing to do with rules and retribution and everything to do with mercy and compassion. She shows us that our failings and transgressions are simply an opportunity to learn and grow, and should be honored as such, but not dwelled upon. She translates the sorrows of this life as tastes of Christ’s passion and assures us that all passing pain will be transmuted into endless joy. Most of all, Julian of Norwich promises that, in spite of appearances to the contrary, all is well. Not just that creation was beautifully made to begin with, and that it will all work out in the end, but that everything is all right at every moment, if we could only look through the eyes of love. Such a perspective is difficult to sustain, Julian would be the first to admit. In rare moments of unitive consciousness—watching the sun rise, maybe, or giving birth, or singing to God in community—we may have fleeting glimpses of the cosmic design and see that it is good. But then the veil drops again and we forget. [1] Because of our continual forgetfulness, Julian ends her Long Text with an emphasis on divine love. Note that while Julian here uses male pronouns for God, throughout her work she also shows that God is beyond gender by consistently calling God both Father and Mother. Throughout the time of my showings, I wished to know what our Beloved meant. More than fifteen years later, the answer came in a spiritual vision. This is what I heard. “Would you like to know our Lord’s meaning in all this? Know it well: love was his meaning. Who revealed this to you? Love. What did he reveal to you? Love. Why did he reveal it to you? For love. Stay with this and you will know more of the same. You will never know anything but love, without end.” And so what I saw most clearly was that love is his meaning. God wants us to know that he loved us before he even made us, and this love has never diminished and never will. All his actions unfold from this love, and through this love he makes everything that happens of value to us, and in this love we find everlasting life. Our creation has a starting point, but the love in which he made us has no beginning, and this love is our true source. [2]

A Mystic for Our Times

April 5th, 2021 by JDVaughn No comments »

My friend Matthew Fox published a book during the COVID-19 pandemic about Julian of Norwich. I love Julian’s teachings because she focuses on God’s infinite love, goodness, and mercy. Even during the Black Death (bubonic plague) in which perhaps a third of the world’s population died, even during her own near-death experience when she received visions of Jesus’ brutal crucifixion, Julian trusts that “all will be well.” Matthew Fox shows how Julian is a mystic for our own time. He writes:

A time of crisis and chaos, the kind that a pandemic brings, is, among other things, a time to call on our ancestors for their deep wisdom. Not just knowledge but true wisdom is needed in a time of death and profound change, for at such times we are beckoned not simply to return to the immediate past, that which we remember fondly as “the normal,” but to reimagine a new future, a renewed humanity, a more just and therefore sustainable culture, and one even filled with joy.

Julian of Norwich [1343–c. 1416] is one of those ancestors calling to us today. After all, she lived her entire life during a raging pandemic. Julian is a stunning thinker, a profound theologian and mystic, a fully awake woman, and a remarkable guide with a mighty vision to share for twenty-first-century seekers. She is a special chaperone for those navigating a time of pandemic. Julian knew a thing or two about “sheltering in place,” because she was an anchoress—that is, someone who, by definition, is literally walled up inside a small space for life. Julian also knew something about fostering a spirituality that can survive the trauma of a pandemic. While others all about her were freaking out about nature gone awry, Julian kept her spiritual and intellectual composure, staying grounded and true to her belief in the goodness of life, creation, and humanity and, in no uncertain terms, inviting others to do the same. . . .

Julian’s response to the pandemic, as we know it from her two books, [is] amazingly grounded in a love of life and gratitude. Instead of running from death, she actually prayed to enter into it and it is from that experience of death all around her and meditating on the cruel crucifixion of Christ that she interpreted as a communal, not just a personal event, that her visions arrived. . . .

Our sister and ancestor Julian is eager not only to speak to us today but to shout at us—albeit in a gentle way—to wake up and to go deep, to face the darkness and to dig down and find goodness, joy and awe. And to go to work to defend Mother Earth and all her creatures, stripping ourselves of racism, sexism, nationalisms, anthropocentrism, sectarianism—anything that interferes with our greatness as human beings. And to connect anew to the sacredness of life.

A Pattern We Can Trust

All will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well.
Julian of Norwich, Showings, chapter 27

Today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which allows faithful Christians to trust that, indeed, all will be well. I like to think of the resurrection as God’s way of telling us that God can take the worst thing in the world—the killing of the God-Human Jesus—and change it into the best thing: the redemption of the world.

To believe that Jesus was raised from the dead is actually not a leap of faith. Resurrection and renewal are, in fact, the universal and observable pattern of everything. We might just as well use non-religious terms like “springtime,” “regeneration,” “healing,” “forgiveness,” “life cycles,” “darkness,” and “light.” If incarnation is real, if material creation is inspirited, then resurrection in multitudinous forms is to be fully expected. Or to paraphrase a statement attributed to Albert Einstein, it is not that one thing is a miracle, but that the whole thing is a miracle!

If divine incarnation has any truth to it, then resurrection is a foregone conclusion, not a one-time anomaly in the body of Jesus, as our Western understanding of the resurrection felt it needed to prove—and then it couldn’t. The Risen Christ is not a one-time miracle but the revelation of a universal pattern that is hard to see in the short run.

Simply put, if death is not possible for the Christ, then it is not possible for anything that “shares in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). God is by definition eternal, and God is Love (1 John 4:16), which is also eternal (1 Corinthians 13:8), and this same Love has been planted in our hearts (Romans 5:5; 8:9) by the Spirit dwelling within us. Such fully Implanted Love cannot help but evolve and prove victorious, and our word for that final victory is “resurrection.” Peter states this rather directly: “By raising Jesus Christ from the dead, we have a sure hope and the promise of an inheritance that can never be spoiled or soiled or fade away. It is being kept for you in the heavens . . . and will be fully revealed at the end of time” (1 Peter 1:3–5).

My book The Universal Christ is about the Eternal Christ, who never dies—and who never dies in you! Resurrection is about the whole of creation, it is about history, it is about every human who has ever been conceived, sinned, suffered, and died, every animal that has lived and died a tortured death, every element that has changed from solid, to liquid, to ether, over great expanses of time. It is about you and it is about me. It is about everything. The “Christ journey” is indeed another name for every thing.

The Wisdom of the Passion

April 1st, 2021 by Dave No comments »

CAC teacher Cynthia Bourgeault invites us to consider the meaning of the passion from a wisdom perspective, not as a spectator watching what Jesus did, but understanding what each of us is called to do: 

The passion is really the mystery of all mysteries, the heart of the Christian faith experience. By the word “passion” here we mean the events which end Jesus’s earthly life: his betrayal, trial, execution on a cross, and death. . . .

The spectacle of an innocent and good man destroyed by the powers of this world is an archetypal human experience. It elicits our deepest feelings of remorse and empathy (and if we’re honest, our own deepest shadows as well). . . . It’s been used to stir anger and scapegoating. It’s been used to fuel anti-Semitism, to induce personal guilt—“Christ died for your sins”—and to arouse devotion in a sentimental and even fanatical way.

From a wisdom point of view, what can we say about the passion? . . .  The key lies in . . .  reading Jesus’s life as a sacrament: a sacred mystery whose real purpose is not to arouse empathy but to create empowerment. In other words, Jesus is not particularly interested in increasing either your guilt or your devotion, but rather, in deepening your personal capacity to make the passage into unitive life. If you’re willing to work with that wager, the passion begins to make sense in a whole new way. . . .

The path [Jesus] did walk is precisely the one that would most fully unleash the transformative power of his teaching. It both modeled and consecrated the eye of the needle that each one of us must personally pass through in order to accomplish the “one thing necessary” here, according to his teaching: to die to self. I am not talking about literal crucifixion, of course, but I am talking about the literal laying down of our “life,” at least as we usually recognize it. Our only truly essential human task here, Jesus teaches, is to grow beyond the survival instincts of the animal brain and egoic operating system into the kenotic joy and generosity of full human personhood. . . .

What is the meaning of the passion? First of all, God wasn’t angry. Again: God wasn’t angry! Particularly in fundamentalist theology, you’ll often hear it said that God got so fed up with the sins and transgressions of Israel that he demanded a human sacrifice in atonement. But of course, this interpretation would turn God into a monster. How can Jesus, who is love, radiate and reflect a God who is primarily a monster? And how can Christians theoretically progressing on a path of love consent to live under such a reign of terror? No, we need to bury once and for all those fear-and-punishment scenarios that got programmed into so many of us during our childhood. There is no monster out there; only love waiting to set us free.

Breaking the Cycle of Violence

March 31st, 2021 by JDVaughn No comments »
<!– wp:paragraph –> I doubt very much that I need to point out the many ways we practice scapegoating in our society today. We do it on both the political left and right, in our churches and community groups, by finger-pointing and punishing. We are convinced that “they” (whoever “they” are) are the entirety of the problem. It takes great spiritual and psychological maturity to recognize and break the cycle.  Felicia Murrell, a writer, editor, and friend of the CAC, shares her own desire to walk a new and courageous path as an African American woman:  It might feel good, after years of being shackled to scarcity, victimhood, poverty, suspicion, and inferiority, to project onto a scapegoat (holding the system complicit by association) the burden of hundreds of years of pain. We feel righteous. We long for someone else to feel what we feel or, at the very least, to validate that it’s okay for us to feel what we feel. Heavily laden with years and years of collective racial anger, misuse, and abuse, we lumber into liminality with all these feelings, these shackles of oppression. And there, in liminal space—the space of sitting with our truths; the place of mystery, the unknown; the place where we let go of our injured expectations to be seen, to be known, to be welcomed—we offer ourselves what we’ve longed to have given to us. We acknowledge our feelings—the power and depth of each one—giving them space to roll through us, to breathe and take on life. Instead of projecting outward or looking for resolution, we sit with them, breathe through them—allowing them to be as they are within us. We cry the tears our ancestors could not. We feel the fatigue they were not allowed to feel. We give in to the vulnerability that would have cost them their lives—not blaming, not finger-pointing, but honest truth-telling of our dehumanizing, painful history. On the threshold between what was and what will be, we unburden ourselves of our fierce, dogged determination to control the outcome of other people’s opinions of us, and there the alchemy happens. With transformation comes power. . . . What will we do with our power? What will we call forth? There at the threshold, we decide. Do I wield my power to force control, to shape the narrative and determine what will be and how it will be? Do I allow myself to be honest about humanity’s failings and the abuse of power, seeing the ways in which I too could become like that which I oppose? Can I acknowledge the monster side of my humanity: lament it, forgive it, and let it go, realizing that it may cycle around again? . . . In liminal space, I discover a formlessness that blurs the intersection of diversity and unity. The ambitious cry of, “’til all are one!” somehow morphs in liminal space and I realize we all are already one.

Opposing Evil without Becoming It

March 30th, 2021 by Dave No comments »

The mystery of the cross teaches us how to stand against hate without becoming hate, how to oppose evil without becoming evil ourselves. We find ourselves stretching in both directions—toward God’s goodness and also toward recognition of our own complicity in evil. In that moment, we will feel crucified. We hang in between, without resolution, our very life a paradox held in hope by God (see Romans 8:23–25). 

Over the next three days, I share a few examples of women who have understood the mystery of the cross in a personal and embodied way. They have known great suffering; they have been victims of oppression and cruelty and yet they sought to respond consciously, not reactively. Today, I offer a journal entry from Etty Hillesum (1914–1943), a young Jewish woman who was killed at Auschwitz. In her diary, she recreates a conversation with her friend, writer Klaas Smelik, about the hatred and bullying she saw within her own community:

Klaas, all I really wanted to say is this: we have so much work to do on ourselves that we shouldn’t even be thinking of hating our so-called enemies. We are hurtful enough to one another as it is. And I don’t really know what I mean when I say that there are bullies and bad characters among our own people, for no one is really “bad” deep down. I should have liked to reach out to that [bully] with all his fears, I should have liked to trace the source of his panic, to drive him ever deeper into himself, that is the only thing we can do, Klaas, in times like these.

And you, Klaas, give a tired and despondent wave and say, “But what you propose to do takes such a long time, and we don’t really have all that much time, do we?” And I reply, “What you want is something people have been trying to get for the last two thousand years, and for many more thousand years before that, in fact, ever since [humankind] has existed on earth.” “And what do you think the result has been, if I may ask?” you say.

And I repeat with the same old passion, although I am gradually beginning to think that I am being tiresome, “It is the only thing we can do, Klaas, I see no alternative, each of us must turn inward and destroy in himself all that he thinks he ought to destroy in others. And remember that every atom of hate we add to this world makes it still more inhospitable.”

And you, Klaas, dogged old class fighter that you have always been, dismayed and astonished at the same time, say, “But that—that is nothing but Christianity!”

And I, amused by your confusion, retort quite coolly, “Yes, Christianity, and why ever not?” [1]

Richard again: It is a truth of the world’s major religions that the goal of God’s work—God by any name, I might add—is always healing reconciliation and not retributive justice, resurrection and not death.


A Temporary Solution

March 29th, 2021 by JDVaughn No comments »

The word “scapegoating” originated from an ingenious ritual described in Leviticus 16. According to Jewish law, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest laid hands on an “escaping” goat, placing all the sins of the Jewish people from the previous year onto the animal. Then the goat was beaten with reeds and thorns, driven out into the desert, and the people went home rejoicing. Violence towards the innocent victim was apparently quite effective at temporarily relieving the group’s guilt and shame. The same scapegoating dynamic was at play when European Christians burned supposed heretics at the stake, and when white Americans lynched Black Americans. In fact, the pattern is identical and totally non-rational.

Whenever the “sinner” is excluded, our collective ego is delighted and feels relieved and safe. It works, but only for a while, because it is merely an illusion. Repeatedly believing the lie, that this time we have the true culprit, we become more catatonic, habitually ignorant, and culpable—because, of course, scapegoating never really eliminates evil in the first place. As Russian philosopher Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” [1] As long as the evil is “over there,” we can change or expel someone else as the contaminating element. We then feel purified and at peace. But it is not the peace of Christ, which “the world cannot give” (see John 14:27).

Jesus became the scapegoat to reveal the universal lie of scapegoating. He became the sinned-against one to reveal the hidden nature of scapegoating, so that we would see how wrong even educated and well-meaning people can be. This is perfectly represented by Pilate and Caiaphas (state and religion), who both find their artificial reasons to condemn him (see John 16:8–11 and Romans 8:3).

In worshiping Jesus as the scapegoat, Christians should have learned to stop scapegoating, but we didn’t. We are still utterly wrong whenever we create arbitrary victims to avoid our own complicity in evil. It seems it is the most effective diversionary tactic possible. History has shown us that authority itself is not a good guide. Yet for many people, authority soothes their anxiety and relieves their own responsibility to form a mature conscience. We love to follow someone else and let them take the responsibility. It is a universal story line in history and all cultures.

With the mistaken view of God as a Punisher-in-Chief that most Christians seem to hold, we think our own violence is necessary and even good. But there is no such thing as redemptive violence. Violence doesn’t save; it only destroys all parties in both the short and long term. Jesus replaced the myth of redemptive violence with the truth of redemptive suffering. He showed us on the cross how to hold the pain and let it transform us.

The Scapegoat Mechanism

Human nature, when it is seeking power, wants either to play the victim or to create victims of others. In fact, the second follows from the first. Once we start feeling sorry for ourselves, we will soon find someone else to blame, accuse or attack—and with impunity! It settles the dust quickly, and it takes away any immediate shame, guilt, or anxiety. In other words, it works—at least for a while.

When we read today’s news, we realize the pattern has not changed much in all of history. Hating, fearing, or diminishing someone else holds us together for some reason. Scapegoating, or the creating of necessary victims, is in our hard wiring. Philosopher René Girard (1923–2015) calls “the scapegoat mechanism” the central pattern for the creation and maintenance of cultures worldwide since the beginning. [1]

The sequence, without being too clever, goes something like this: we compare, we copy, we compete, we conflict, we conspire, we condemn, and we crucify. If we do not recognize some variation of this pattern within ourselves and put an end to it in the early stages, it is almost inevitable. That is why spiritual teachers of any depth will always teach simplicity of lifestyle and freedom from the competitive power game, which is where it all begins. It is probably the only way out of the cycle of violence.

It’s hard for us religious people to hear, but the most persistent violence in human history has been “sacralized violence”—violence that we treated as sacred, but which was, in fact, not. Human beings have found a most effective way to legitimate their instinct toward fear and hatred. They imagine that they are fearing and hating on behalf of something holy and noble: God, religion, truth, morality, their children, or love of country. It takes away all guilt, and one can even think of oneself as representing the moral high ground or being responsible and prudent as a result. It never occurs to most people that they are becoming what they fear and hate.

This week we enter Holy Week, the days leading up to Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection. As long as we deal with the real meaning of evil and sin by some means other than forgiveness and healing, we will keep projecting, fearing, and attacking it over there (“scapegoating’’), instead of “gazing” on it within ourselves and “weeping” over it. The longer we contemplate the cross, the more we recognize our own complicity in and profits made from the sin of others. Forgiveness demands three new simultaneous “seeings”: I must see God in the other; I must access God in myself; and I must experience God in a new way that is larger than an “enforcer.” That is a whole new world seen in three dimensions. The real “3-D”!

Joining the Prophetic Chorus

March 26th, 2021 by JDVaughn No comments »

While the most well-known Hebrew prophets are presumably male, such as Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel, the Bible also contains little-known women prophets such as Deborah (Judges 4:4–5), Huldah (2 Kings 22) and Anna (mentioned in Luke 2:36). Rabbi Tikva Frymer-Kensky shares one example of this historical reality:

Unlike priests, generals, judges, and governors, a prophet does not have to be appointed by superiors, and a prophet’s status does not depend on advancement within a hierarchy or on completion of a course of study. As Amos and again Jeremiah inform us, God tells the prophet to speak. Prophecy is a “gift of the Spirit,” offered to whomever God wills, and societies can accept women as recipients of the gift and value them as prophets even as they deny women roles in the official hierarchies of religion and polity. Toward the end of Israel’s history, King Josiah sent his men to see a female prophet, Huldah, to validate the discovery of a scroll in the Temple that called for Israel to behave in ways it had not been observing . . . (see 2 Kings 22:12–14).

It is not surprising to find . . . Huldah accepted as [a] professional prophet. Unlike priests, kings, judges, or administrators, prophets were not born to their role or appointed by a hierarchy. There were cadres of professional prophets, but there were also lone mavericks, called by the spirit of God. . . . In Israel, where God often works through the marginal and brings the peripheral to the center, women appeared as the harbingers of history. [1]

We might know the names of only a few prophets, memorialized in the scriptures and by history, but by the gift of the Spirit, we can all think and act prophetically. We can pay attention to what isn’t right in the world around us and speak and act out of faith and love to change it.  Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister, a prophetic voice in our day, encourages us to do just that:

These prophetic people, people just like us, simple and sincere, eager and inspired—these sheep herders like Amos and small-business people like Hosea, these simple country farmers or priests like Jeremiah, these thinkers and writers and dreamers like Isaiah and Ezekiel, these struggling lovers and suffering witnesses like Micah, these brave and independent judges and leaders, like Deborah and Miriam, made no small choices. They chose courage. They chose the expansion of the soul. They chose to stake their lives on what must be rather than stake their comfort, their security, the direction of their lives, on what was. It is that steadfast, unyielding, courageous commitment to the eternal Will of God for Creation—whatever the cost to themselves—that is the prophetic tradition. It sustains the eternal Word of God while the world spins around it, making God’s Word—Love—the center, the axle, the standard of everything the faithful do in the midst of the storm of change that engulfs us as we go.

Envisioning a New World

March 25th, 2021 by Dave No comments »

One of the most prominent prophets in recent American history is Martin Luther King Jr. Like the prophets of Israel, he saw not just what was wrong with his nation, but how it might be restored to the promise upon which it was founded. The Reverend Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas writes about King’s prophetic vision for racial justice, suggesting that it was made possible by the “moral imagination” he learned through the Black church and faith. She writes:

A moral imagination is grounded in the absolute belief that the world can be better. A moral imagination envisions Isaiah’s “new heaven and new earth,” where the “wolf and the lamb shall feed together,” and trusts that it will be made real (Isaiah 65). What is certain, a moral imagination disrupts the notion that the world as it is reflects God’s intentions. . . . [It] is nothing other than the hope of black faith. Such hope trusts that the arc of God’s universe does in fact bend toward justice. [1]

In his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, King’s prophetic, moral imagination is on full display:

Even though we must face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed—we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. . . .

I have a dream my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, that one day, right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places shall be made plain, and the crooked places shall be made straight and the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. . . .

With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. [2]