Faith communities across the country are drawing from deep wells of legacy to organize and advocate for a more just world. People of faith are returning to their spiritual roots for guidance on how to engage the world’s struggles for justice in ways that honor our faith. To equip faith communities to boldly do the work of justice in their own areas, Sojourners offers the Faith in Action series. Learn more about how to put your faith into action here.
My primary medium is portrait photography, and during my sessions I draw people out by asking questions about their very literal story. What is delightful for you in this season? What is hard? What I’ve found happen in these conversations is that decades of untended pain or suppressed pleasures begin to break forth, find air, and heal as needed or grow.
Here is the power of story: to make people pay attention and be fully present. The only irony is they are fully present in a story that is not their own. We weep for a Dumbledore who never lived, thrill at a first kiss that wasn't ours, and experience the terror of being chased by a psychotic killer while safely resting a theater seat.
An immigration judge once told me the story about an Albanian family: On their way to their final asylum hearing, they were broadsided by a drunk driver and ended up in the hospital. Because they missed their court date, they automatically received a deportation order. “Almost 10 years and almost a million dollars to remove the order,” said the judge. “It’s like pulling a wisdom tooth continuously for years."
On the Friday morning before Martin Luther King Day this year I met nine twentysomething Sojourners interns at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall. We collected into a circle, and I told them: “This is sacred ground.” I explained that we would enter the grounds in silence. I instructed the mostly white group to spend 15 minutes examining the memorial — observe — see what they see. Then we would come back together and share what we saw.
We resisted — and we still face the possibility of jail time, fines, and community service. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned planning events like this one over the years. I hope you can use them as you continue to resist unjust policies.
In the wake of executive orders from the Trump administration targeting Muslims, leaders of faith and moral courage gathered to cultivate resistance. In this moment, resistance means providing sanctuary for undocumented citizens, rejecting policies that restrict human flourishing, and calling one another to moral citizenship in the face of immoral and unjust policies. Moral citizens, according to ISAIAH executive director Doran Schrantz, fight “for the moral and political truth that the promise of our democracy is imperiled unless all are human, all are citizens, all are free.”
On Feb. 11, more than 80,000 people gathered in Raleigh, N.C., for the largest Moral Monday march yet — challenging Trumpism in Washington, D.C., and legislative overreach in our state. More important than the numbers, though, are people’s convictions: Principle, not party, is the reason why we march. We march because our deepest religious traditions have trained our bodies to stand up in the face of injustice.
As a pastor in a historically black church, Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church in Jefferson City, and the Executive Director of Missouri Faith Voices, a PICO federation, I say this attempt to silence and disenfranchise voters is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. When I interpret Matthew 25, it is not merely about providing food, clothes, and hospitality — it is about transforming systems that have caused people to be left out.
So when I returned for my sophomore year, armed with a year of conscious change and — even more important to my 18-year-old mind, a car — it was a no-brainer that in my first opportunity to vote, I would volunteer to drive people to the polls. Assigned to a poor public housing development, I ferried seniors back and forth to their polling places, amazed at the quiet dignity and determination they displayed in pressing their way to the polls. Not too proud to ask for help, they had sought rides to the polls through various community organizations who had said, “If you want to vote, we’ll get you there.”
We must remove the veil that separates the least of these and count it not robbery to give them their legal, spiritual, and constitutional right to move beyond acts of mercy, but to build power for social change. As we begin to build prudent bridges, we break the sacred-secular divide and crippling covenants the silence us. We must renounce the manifesto placed upon our communities, schools, neighborhoods that allows the rich to reap where they have not sown. We must embrace our right to vote not only as a civil right, but a Godly right. We can no longer impose predatory measures upon ourselves; we have to remove the cloak of suppression.