2019-02-07

Justice on Earth: Chapter 6

This week I'm reflecting on Peggy Clarke and Matthew McHale’s essay, "Becoming Resilient: Community Life for a New Age” – Chapter 6 of the 2018-19 UUA Common Read, Justice on Earth: People of Faith Working at the Intersections of Race, Class and the Environment.

The prophetic task, the authors note, is not merely to decry injustice. It’s more broadly about nurturing, nourishing, and evoking, an alternative community. The essay then develops in two parts:

1. Resilience-based organizing. Here we learn about Movement Generation, which offers trainings, resources, and support to social movements led by communities of color or low income. Movement Generation’s organizing approach is rooted in community “in a way that reorients power to be more local and democratic.”

The approach is inspired by such examples as the Black Panthers and MST (Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement -- Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra). The Black Panthers’ less famous programs provided services such as free breakfast for school children, free medical clinics and drug rehab, clothing distribution, and classes on politics and economics. In Brazil, MST peacefully occupies unused land, securing it for the dispossessed. MST sets up cooperative farms, constructs houses, schools, and clinics while working for environmental sustainability and promoting Indigenous culture and gender equality.

2. Congregations as centers for community resilience. “Houses of worship will need to become centers of hope and resilience.” Doing this will entail congregational engagement with the communities around us -- offering meeting places and shelter, learning centers for reskilling, among other things. “We can start by identifying local ‘front-line communities’ – low-income communities and communities of color who bear the brunt of the devastation of the modern industrial system and who are leaders in the struggle to shift toward a more just and sustainable future.” Once such a prospective community is identified, the congregation’s task is solidarity, listening, relationship-building, humility, and a willingness to take on a support role when asked – NOT to expect to swoop in as the savior or the experts.

The authors conclude: “Without authentic partnership and without clearly understanding the systemic transformation required, our response to the current climate crisis will be insufficient. . . . Building resilient communities is the transformative response these times demand.”

Questions
What communities around CUUC are most directly affected by issues in which environment and race come together? How might CUUC develop a relationship of solidarity with those communities?

One response to the essay might be: “I’m convinced that we need to commit ourselves to supporting and nurturing communities of resilience. But I don’t see any need for congregations. Congregations should simply fold – transferring their land, buildings, and members’ energy to organizations like Movement Generation.” How would you respond to this suggestion? The members of a support network for resilient community would share a kind of “secular faith” – is that faith enough?

Yours in faith,
Meredith

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