Social holiness includes the call to resist injustice, but how we do this makes all the difference. As I have said repeatedly, we must live with the fruit of the Spirit defining our inner life and directing our outward life. Apart from this, we are part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
In my generation, the means for describing the integration of social holiness and the fruit of the Spirit has been the term “Beloved Community.” At the core of such a community is the practice of nonviolence.
For nearly 3,000 years the principle of nonviolence has been an umbrella word for a response to attitudes, arrangements, and actions by which one group degrades and dominates another. In the 20th century, the major movements of nonviolence included Women’s Suffrage, Gandhi’s resistance to British colonialism, and the Civil Rights movement. Prior to that, the system of slavery is arguably the longest and harshest expression of subjugation in world history, continuing today in a variety of forms.
In our day, we see the need for nonviolent resistance in relation to such things as ongoing racism (e.g. the New Jim Crow), discrimination against certain people groups and religions (e.g. LGBTQ persons, Muslims), the enslavement of women (e.g. sex trafficing, wage inequality), the ongoing presence of white privilege and male dominance, political partisanship which preserves systemic greed and wealth for the few while denying comparable goods and services (education, health care) to others–and whatever else does harm to people by degrading their humanity and denying them basic freedoms.
We must become students and practitioners of nonviolence. We must align ourselves with the flow of Reality (e.g. love, dignity, decency, unity) and learn how to advocate for it in the society and the church. To do this, we must become students in two main ways: first, by realizing how those who do harm operate, and then by discovering how to behave in the face of that harm.
In this blog series, I hope to provide a little way forward–a mini-school of nonviolence to keep the fruit of the Spirit alive in challenging times. The journey into the “Beloved Community” begins inwardly, as John Lewis has written in his latest book, ‘Across That Bridge.’ I want to foster that inward experience in myself, and if you would like to do the same, I invite you to use these weekly posts.