“when our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”
“i refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… i believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
– martin luther king, jr.
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one of my all-time favorite refuge blog posts was from over 2 years ago called “dreams.” in re-reading them (it’s good to do that now and then) i have to say they all still really resonate. we leave today for africa–back on january 30th–and i am so excited for this family adventure. tomorrow, january 18th, is martin luther king day. he is one of my all time favorite quotable quoters, in line with rumi, mother teresa, anne lamott, and gandhi–what an interesting combination, it could definitely get me in trouble in some circles (way back when i had a critic about refresh who wrote to ask why we quoted oprah and gandhi since they were definitely not christians and unworthy of passing on wisdom. yeah, sometimes christians are so nutty).
one of my favorite parts of the civil rights movement is that it originated in the church. they knew that was a powerful place to start (if you haven’t watched a time for burning yet, it’s so worth it). as christ-followers we are called to something more. we are called to be powerful catalysts for social change and action on behalf of anyone without a voice, discriminated against, poor, oppressed, or marginalized. it should be our clarion call.
unfortunately, we are known for just the opposite, and the recent robertson response-that-gets-the-most-press to the tragedy in haiti is a glaring example of a seriously messed-up interpretation of christianity.
i am a dreamer. every time i hear martin luther king, jrs’s powerful speech i get chills (2 of my kids won speech meets with it years ago in elementary school & i will never forget the power of the words as they practiced over and over again. i could never tire of hearing them). when we celebrate his birthday, his legacy, the part we are celebrating goes far behind him. we are celebrating change, healing, reconciliation, hope. and although we have come along way on black and white relations, we all know we have an awful long way to go to really live out this dream for the full equality and transforming community that martin luther king calls us to.
we have a tradition in our family that we started a few years ago where on MLK day we write our dreams down–each one of us. they are so fun & beautiful to read and tomorrow when we are traveling we’re going to work on our 2010 ones.
on a much bigger scale, i am also reminded that just saying these things out loud as opposed to actually doing them and living them out are two different things. for example, most people would say that they believe in equality for women, yet they continue to give their money and resources to systems that will continue to hold back their voices and leadership. most people would say that they love people of all colors, shapes, and sizes, but in reality their lives never intersect with others who don’t think and act and live like them. most would say that they believe strongly in “helping” the poor, but don’t realize that part of helping to create shifts on behalf of the poor requires some heavy-hitting justice-in-action-on-their-behalf to change the systems and get to the root of the problem. i could go on and on, but i think you get the point. i am reminded of it more and more as i continue to gain passion to “be the change i want to see” (gandhi) and how systemic and deeply rooted so many of these tightly held prejudices and oppressive systems really are.
as i re-visit reverend king’s words and consider this new year, i’d say that those dreams i wrote a few years ago are still in place. and because i shift and change and re-work words here and there, i wanted to share some of my new-and-not-so-new dreams for “the church”:
i have a dream that we will learn what it means to eliminate the “us” and “them” mentality that keeps those in power safe and protected and those without power oppressed and marginalized. it’s stronger than anyone wants to think and is perpetuated in churches everywhere–the missional movement is wonderful but my hope is that more and more people talk not about “helping those poor people” but becoming radically in touch with the powerful reality that “we are those poor people.”
i have a dream that men and women & white and brown & rich and poor will work equally and fully alongside together as brothers and sisters and leaders and friends. when we do, i believe that so many other shifts will follow. we are currently seeing church after church getting involved in the “social justice” movement now that it’s kind of cool and exciting in the church, talking about oppression of women in other countries when right in their own pews they are oppressing their sisters, applying a few verses to serve themselves. when it comes to those of color, the way we segregate and have a few token hispanics or african americans or asians here and there in predominantly white systems is appalling and so not a reflection of the kingdom of God. and almost never do we see folks without resources or education or margin as part of church leadership.
i have a dream that each of us would dedicate ourselves to at least one other person-who-needs-someone-to-believe-in-them on the journey. we can never underestimate what it means to those crippled with self-contempt and a lack of margin, support and encouragement to have someone who says “i am with you, not just for a while but for the long freaking haul.” to call out goodness, God’s image in another human being, is one of the most powerfully transforming things we can offer each other; we must stop leaving it to the professionals and enter into deep, transforming, pain-in-the-ass-a-lot-of-the-time-but-oh-so-worth-it relationship with the lonely, the forgotten, the ignored, the unloved and unvalued.
i have a dream that we would powerfully and intentionally call out people’s creativity and gifts. everyone’s an artist, but most people don’t know it; that got quenched a long time ago by people, systems, and often “the church”. it’s time to set people free to live out their passions–in small ways and big ways–and quit editing people out or using people for what we want instead of finding out what they are meant to do. my hope is that we will be bold catalysts, to call out what is within people and help them find their voice & heart.
i have a dream that we would be known by the world as “those crazy people who never give up on the hurting, the lost, the oppressed, the outcast.” oh, this is going to take a lot of work! this will mean that we will have to get out of our seats, get sober from our self-serving inspiration addiction, put down our bible-verse-applying-to-keep-us-safe and enter into wild and unpredictable relationships with people not like us. we need to quit spending our time and energy feeding the 99 because it feeds our ego and leave them to go find and feed the 1.
oh i could go on and on. i’ll stop here because i need to finish packing for our trip, ha! i think these dreams are possible. i think they are happening in small pockets here and there, but we are a long way from changing laws and changing perspectives and changing the-course-of-history-forever. that’s what i hope happens in the years to come. some days i’m optimistic and other days i think it’s utterly impossible because mainstream christianity has forgotten the beatitudes and subtly–and unknowingly–glommed on to a joel-osteen-alligator-shoe-like theology instead. but i am sure of one thing–you, my dear friends who read the carnival, give me faith for what could be. you bring me hope. you help me keep dreaming.
thanks for your prayers & support for our africa adventure ahead; i’ll have some fun stories to share when i get back. i won’t be able to respond to any comments until i get back from africa, but my friend will moderate any new commenters while i am gone, but i’d love to hear from you. what are some of your dreams?