As described on their website, ISAIAH, a coalition of about 100 member congregations, “is a vehicle for congregations, clergy, and people of faith to act collectively and powerfully towards racial and economic equity in the state of Minnesota.”
The other day I attended the launch of ISAIAH’s Prophetic Voices movement, which aims at uniting clergy and their congregations “to create a more just and abundant Minnesota where everyone can thrive.” It is premised on the idea that the religious community has something to say about the economy, equality, racism, politics and power. That the religious community has something to say about suffering, joy, and what human life is meant for.
There were about 250 people, including over 200 clergy of various faiths – rabbis, priests, ministers, as well as lay ministers, in attendance for this day-long program. For me, the diversity of representation was powerful to witness and to be part of. When we look at social justice issues from our own individual standpoint, the problems seem so big that they seem insurmountable. For any one individual or even single parish or congregation, they are. But united, there is much power that can be wielded by people of faith in seeking a more just society. The emphasis was on the invitation into community – a multi-faith, multi-racial community.
It is not possible to give a good summary the day and all it gave me to think about, but one of the points that was made is a reminder of the need to think about the forest and not just the trees. That is, beyond individual issues, we are talking about a way of being in the world. And that requires that we ground our social justice efforts in a narrative – faith communities need to stand up and tell a story about who we are and what we can be.
Our work on behalf of social justice needs to be covey a narrative that explains how the “logic of God’s commonwealth” differs from the “logic of Pharaoh’s empire.” Creation in God’s image vs. the commodification of God’s creation…an ever expanding circle of human concern vs. partisan politics…and church as catalyst for freedom.
We have a story to tell. And we need to tell it – over and over again until it is heard. (As one minister observed, John the Baptist preached the same sermon for 40 years.)