May 5-7, 2017
The Prophetic Resistance Sabbath is an outgrowth of a remarkable conversation that unfolded among 700 grassroots, movement and faith leaders in Modesto, CA in February of this year. Three days of dialogue spent examining the structures that promote racial and economic exclusion to support corporate profit – and their harmful impact on families and communities – resulted in a shared commitment to work together across race and class and issue-campaigns to confront a narrative and a set of policies that seek to demonize and divide us. The document which synthesized our conversations in Modesto about racism, immigration, work, housing and the environment – the Message from Modesto – called for solidarity among grassroots organizers and challenged faith leaders to “show up” in new ways in this moment to publicly challenge the narrative being used to scapegoat and punish excluded groups and to accompany organizing initiatives that are mobilizing for structural changes that recognize and support the dignity of all of God’s children. Those gathered in Modesto called for a Week of Action from May 1-7 to unleash a wave of public witness to promote policies that protect and defend families, to be capped off by a Prophetic Resistance Sabbath from May 5-7.
Thank you for your interest in this project. The materials included in this toolkit are intended to provoke and assist you in preparing your reflections on how you will pray, preach and teach about resistance and disruption. Faith in Action has been working for the past year with faith leaders of various traditions across the country to develop a curriculum for clergy called Theology of Resistance, and these materials draw, in part, on that work. Resources to learn more about various issues and opportunities to take action for justice are also included. Please let us know if you have questions or feedback by emailing Joseph Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have organized the materials below into 3 sections: Pray, Preach/Teach, and Act. But first we include several excerpts from faith leaders reflecting on the imperative to resist a dominant culture that dehumanizes:
The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture.
~ Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination
We must resist the idolatry in our culture. Today among our many idols are power, money, technology, materialism and fame. We live in a culture that narcotizes us into a dream of pursuing illusions of happiness. Everyone is susceptible but keeping people poor and uneducated makes them even more so. It is, also, a culture that instills racism and other oppressions, valorizes violence, champions individualism, promotes fear and constantly tells us that we are not good enough. A Theology of Resistance challenges the prevalent culture by affirming life and the inherent worth of each person.
~ Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, A Theology of Resistance
For some time the crisis of the prevailing paradigm has confronted us. I am speaking of a system that causes enormous suffering to the human family, simultaneously assaulting people’s dignity and our Common Home in order to sustain the invisible tyranny of money that only guarantees the privileges of a few. “In our time humanity is experiencing a turning-point in its history.” (Joy of the Gospel, 52) As Christians and all people of good will, it is for us to live and act in this moment. It is a “grave responsibility, since certain present realities, unless effectively dealt with, are capable of setting off processes of dehumanization which would then be hard to reverse.”(JOG, 51) These are the signs of the times that we need to recognize in order to act. We have lost valuable tie: time when we did not pay enough attention to these processes, time when we did not resolve these destructive realities. Thus the processes of dehumanization accelerate. The direction taken beyond this historic turning-point – the ways in which this worsening crisis gets resolved – will depend on people’s involvement and participation and,largely, on yourselves, the popular movements.
~ Pope Francis, Message to participants in the US World Meeting of Popular Movements
We are co-creators with the Creator. We have agency and vocation – that is power and a mandate – to cooperate with God in tikkun olam – the repair and healing of the world. If that is so, then we are troublemakers with the Holy. We are called not so much to enter troubled waters or to be a bridge over troubled waters, but to actually trouble the waters: to disrupt and confront injustice, to resist and tear down dehumanizing structures so that we can create new systems that honor our God-given dignity. We are called to trouble the waters so that we can heal the world. We are called to resist.
~ Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews, Resistance We Can Imagine
President Trump was the candidate of disruption. He was the disrupter. Well, now we must all become disrupters. We must disrupt those who would seek to send troops into our streets to deport the undocumented, to rip mothers and fathers from their families. We must disrupt those who would portray refugees as enemies, rather than our brothers and sisters in terrible need. We must disrupt those who train us to see Muslim men and women and children as sources of fear rather than as children of God. We must disrupt those who seek to rob our medical care, especially from the poor. We must disrupt those who would take even food stamps and nutrition assistance from the mouths of children.
~ Bishop Robert McElroy, address to the US World Meeting of Popular Movements
The ban on travelers from Muslim-majority and Middle Eastern nations, as well as the construction of a multi-billion-dollar monument to racism on our border with Mexico and the appropriation of sacred Native-American lands, flies in the face of the American values of religious and ethnic inclusion that we all hold dear.
~ Nihad Awad, CAIR statement on Muslim ban Executive Orders
What was most shocking about the slave castles was that one had a church that held worship services right over the slave dungeon. My tour guide told us the church was heaven above and the slave dungeon was hell below, and everybody knows you can never leave hell to come up to heaven. As I stood in the chapel I was reminded of one question Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews asked our clergy during a Theology of Resistance training: Are you Chaplains of the Empire or Prophets of the Resistance?
~ Onleilove Alston, Season of Prayer blog post
Sacred Texts for consideration:
Miriam resists her father Amram – Jewish Midrash (Sotah 12a)
Shifrah and Puah resist Pharaoh – Exodus 1:15-22
Surah 6:54, 6:55, 6:56
Meditation and Prayer by Rev. Neal Anderson
Solidarity Ritual by Rabbi Margie Klein Ronkin
Inauguration by Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews
For those who will have participated in the Week of Prophetic Action via some form of public witness to promote a public narrative and a set of public policies that protect the rights of all families, regardless of faith, country of origin, or race/ethnicity, we encourage you reflect on that experience as part of your preaching/teaching this week.
The following are brief reflections, gathered from faith leaders earlier this year, intended to spark your own prophetic/preaching imagination:
Will you pray for the holy discomfort to not pray over the places of injustice? by Onleilove Alston
Remember that [we] stand in a long line of prophetic resisters who offered sanctuary by Rev. Jane Soyster Gould
When I know my capacity for love, I know how strong my faith is by Rev. Peter Morales
Isaiah tells us that the Church is called to be a house of prayer for all peoples by Rev. Troy Jackson
Rev. Brian Herron recently offered this reflection on Prophetic Resistance, We Are Called, at a public action organized by the ISAIAH federation in Minnesota.
You and your congregation can use the following links to dig deeper into the structures of racial and economic exclusion and opportunities to transform them. Some will help equip your congregation for justice work to understand systems and shape public policies, while others offer community tools for dialogue and personal transformation.
Sanctuary & Protecting Immigrant & Refugee Families
Live Free: A Campaign to Fight Systemic Inequality and Build Community
Stand with BWG Action Guide for Congregations
Protecting Health Care
Who gained coverage under the ACA, by state, education, race, income: http://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/86761/2001041-who-gained-health-insurance-coverage-under-the-aca-and-where-do-they-live.pdf
See the list of mayors who have signed onto the ACA support letter at this link: http://usmayors.org/ProtectHealthCare/