Can we channel our outrage into building the alternative?

It’s been a tough week in the news, again. Four people were shot in my neighborhood within 20 minutes. So-called religious leaders are saying murderous things against same-sex attracted people. We are between a rock and hard place in this national election.

In this reality, it makes sense to cry out against injustice and demand legislation that might save lives. But I must admit that I am shocked by the shock of so many people at the world being such a difficult and unsafe place. Maybe it is because I have been taking Jesus seriously when he says things like:

Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing…

The world will hate you because you do not belong to the world…

The time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God…

You will weep and mourn while the world rejoices; now is your time of grief…

In this world you will have trouble…

There are various ways to interpret Jesus’s words, but it seems clear to me that my hope is misplaced if I place it in the fairness and safety of the empire. Yes, it would be logical if the government did not judge people by the color of their skin or their sexual desires. It would be reasonable if it wasn’t so easy to own a semi-automatic weapon. It would be decent if people in power did not do morally corrupt things in the name of God. I’ll keep fighting and praying for these realities to change, but it would be near-sighted to surrender my hope and power to the government’s (in)capacity.

food, baked ziti, shared by a neighbor
My friend Julie’s version of “Let me bring over some baked ziti” when my family needed help recently.

If I learned anything from feminist theory, it’s that the personal is political and vice versa. To me that means that it’s an act of revolution to start a cell group in my neighborhood where people can get into relationships of love with one another and with God. It’s an act of resistance and restoration to take a meal to a struggling neighbor I hardly know yet. It’s an act of defiance to call up a friend and ask them to exercise their faith with me in a way that could include others. What I am resisting is the trend I see most tempting even in the church: to have private lives and private struggles, while virtually raging against the machine and demanding that the government give us all our rights, as if that will make us happy.

The people I see who are making a difference are staying personal with God for their own transformation and are willing to share it—person to person, often one person at a time. It’s slow-going and they might not even see their own bright light, because on any given day we all feel like a sad, vulnerable mess. But Jesus came so that in him we may have peace. When we share that Peace with one another in tangible ways, we are creating the alternative to the world’s system of idealism, individualism, moralism, and legalism that never quite delivers.

So can we channel our outrage into building this alternative economy? We’re already doing it as a Circle of Hope…not just in being a people where love and trust is shared but in the personal and practical application of that love through our common fund and good business ideas that generate jobs and income for more compassionate work.

Jesus’s big command was simply to love one another. It’s easy to dismiss this as weak or ineffective because it calls us to rely on a higher power and share what we’ve got…even if we think we don’t have much. It’s probably harder to ask about your roommates’ life and encourage them in faith than it is to post some outrage on Facebook or hit some favorite escape. It’s harder to love your family or include your neighbor in your life than it is to ignore them. But any time we can resist that impulse to be impersonal we invite the Prince of Peace to do something new and restorative and very powerful in the world.

I hope we can keep funneling our righteous desire for justice into action. We’re not giving up on our country, but we’re not expecting it to deliver our life to us, either. We’re receiving our life from God and living it! That’s how Circle of Hope got started 20 years ago and why we keep forming. Let’s not lose heart, because I see Jesus’s prayer/promise being fulfilled in us: “I will continue to make You known in order that the love You have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” We are actually filled and empowered with this love that makes a difference. The more we can personally apply our love, the more difference we will make.

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