Hope, Community, Action! - Therese Miller, October 17, 2010

Downloadable file - "Hope, Community, Action!"

I don’t know about you, but I was captivated and compelled by the unfolding story of the 33 miners trapped underground in Chile. The amassing of resources to save these 33 men was truly awesome. The dedication, the creativity, the love, the sacrifice. To save 33 human lives. There was no question - nothing else mattered. Friends, this many lives are lost to gun homicide in this country every day.

None of us one is immune from the affects of this violence. No community - affluent or poor - urban, suburban or rural - black, white, immigrant, native - No community is saved from the wounding, the heart-numbing trauma, the hopelessness. Gun violence may be concentrated in certain cities and neighborhoods, but it is everyone’s problem. It is a threat to the entire nation. It is a threat to our souls. It compromises our society’s ability to reproduce itself. It removes Life from our present that could enrich our Future.

In Chile, one of those 33 trapped underground was a child – 19 years old. And he is the one suffering the most emotional wounding from the experience. His tender years had not yet prepared him to face such prolonged trauma and nearness of death. Nearly 1/3 of victims of GV in this country are children. Nine children, under the age of 20, die every day.

So many of our children are trapped in this reality – not just for 3 months, but for years, lifetimes - facing prolonged and repeated trauma, nearness of death, and the relentless reality of loss in their young lives. If a child is living in fear, it affects her ability to learn, to grow, to dream. If an adult is living in fear, it affects his ability to learn, to grow, to dream – to serve, to love.

We can stop this, we must stop this. Hope is a thing with feathers, the poet Emily Dickinson said. I say it is a thing with arms, legs, sweat and tears. It is us. There is no one but us.

So, where do we find the courage, the stamina, the inspiration to keep drilling through those layers and layers and layers of granite/culture/fear that separate us, our children from fresh air, light and new life? How do we move from feeling overwhelmed and helpless to inspiring hope, raising voices, taking action?

[The] forces that threaten to negate life must be challenged by courage, which is the power of life to affirm itself in spite of life’s ambiguities. This requires the exercise of a creative will that enables us to hew out a stone of hope from a mountain of despair. ~ Strength to Love, 1963, “Antidotes for Fear”

I believe that the Pentecost story points us in this direction. It is, in my mind, the Birth narrative of the Christian religion. I hope it is instructive no matter your experience, your understanding of God, your religion. At risk of oversimplification, the story of Pentecost goes something like this.

The believers are together in community, praying in private behind closed doors, a congregation of about 120 people more than a little afraid of the public sentiment and political forces against them. Then the Spirit comes like a wind filling the house, like a flame filling each person. And immediately they are propelled into the public square, speaking a prophetic message, speaking in ways that they can be heard and understood by everyone who hears them.

Pentecost is about freedom – freedom from fear, freedom from the status quo, from human limits. Bold imagination, bold speaking, and bold action are all fruits of the Spirit. And where do we find this boldness? How do we overcome our fear and discomfort with speaking in ways that seem countercultural? Where do we find the words to speak, the courage to act?

We cannot live into this freedom alone – we need God, we need each other. Community is necessary to find the courage - the creative will to find and share that stone of hope. We need each others’ arms to lift us when we fall, to encircle us when we are afraid, to applaud us when we are wonderful. And we need each other’s feet on the path, together creating the path, as we stumble together toward Beloved Community.

And so, Heeding God’s Call is organizing at the faith community level, engaging and organizing ever-increasing numbers of faith communities on both/all sides of the political spectrum to raise voices and take action. Our strategy is to engage multiple hubs of inspiration and action. We are encouraging faith communities to come together in Action Partnerships – connecting and engaging with one another, as much as possible across lines of difference – race, class, and religion.

We are providing support and resources for faith communities to form multi-racial, ecumenical and multi-faith partnerships.

• Congregational Covenant

• Workshops, facilitators and materials for building relationships and planning action

• Tool kits for developing and implementing local direct action

We need each other! In all our glorious and challenging difference, to sustain and grow the kind of political change we are after. Political advocacy is not enough to end gun violence in this country. We simply cannot achieve our goal of saving lives w/out a sea change in cultural values. Our fundamental objective is to energize a wave of moral and spiritual power that transforms the way America thinks, feels, and responds to gun violence at the community level. We believe that legislative and policy change will follow this wave, rather than lead it.

Friends, we have a long walk ahead of us. The gun lobby is a mighty adversary. Fear is a powerful weapon. But faith is a force more powerful. Hope makes all things possible. Networks of diverse relationships increase our collective intelligence, creativity and moral strength. If you want to walk fast, walk alone.

If you want to walk far, walk together. ~ African Proverb

As we bring together different perspectives, different experience, different needs and competencies, we increase the effectiveness, power and impact of our actions.