I’ve always wanted the congregations I serve to be seen as moral beacons in their communities. At the same time, the “prophetic voice” is an idea that long left me vaguely uncomfortable and challenges me to this day.
One of my mentors in ministry used to say that, in his experience, we had a cultural or social revolution every other generation. So if it didn’t fall to you to work for change directly, it was your responsibility to prepare the younger generation as best you could.
Looking back at that now, it seems a bit too simplistic. At least in my lifetime, the need to speak “love to power” has been more or less constant.
If we are actually in a state of perpetual war, and it sure seems like we are, then the work of resistance needs to be constant as well. And, of course, I’m not talking just about war in the military sense.
So, on many fronts, it will help us to keep our eyes open for sources of inspiration, and, to use a phrase from Rebecca Parker, “choose our guides”.
My guides include Shirley McDonald, who was my Sunday School teacher when I was in my tweens. In a story I’ve told countless times, she singlehandedly changed my perception of history as something lived by real people rather than a subject for history books when I learned that she had marched in Selma with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I also lift up all the members of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, led by Rev. Desmond Tutu. Each of them paid a price for helping their nation see itself more clearly and imagine a more just future.
When I need recharging, I look to the music of Peter Gabriel (Biko, Shaking the Tree), Holly Near (I Am Willing), Leonard Cohen (Anthem, If it Be Your Will) and Carrie Newcomer (any and everything). And there is also the lasting beauty of Faure’s Requiem.
Who are your guides? Where do you find your inspiration?
When the Ohio River Group, a UU clergy study group of which Rev. Lane and I are members, met last month, our theme was Dystopia, the literary term for societies that are organized so that the many serve the needs of the few. In many ways these are the opposite of utopias. Think of George Orwell’s 1984 or the world of the Capital in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
One of the comments that I found most helpful was, “Things aren’t getting worse. They’re being unveiled.” I find that a very helpful way of framing things.
With that in mind, it is up to us to keep unveiling our own truths. Together, we really do change the world.