“It is not enough for us to talk about love. There is another side called justice. And justice is love in calculation…working against anything that stands against love.”
Today the reading was from 1 Corinthians about what love is… Fr. Peter told a couple stories and then emphasized his point: we are listening to the same gospels the saints listened to. The difference between them and us is they lived and are living out the message. It’s the same message; give away what you have. Apply your whole self and your whole wealth to working on behalf of the poor and what is life-giving.
Now that I am home, another reading today, from Michael Edwards (a 4 Jan blogpost) recounts a similar theme. Edwards was listening to a scratchy YouTube clip of a young preacher, Martin Luther King in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama and “the hairs on my neck stand up straight, the crowd of voices rising to a crescendo as King talks about the keys to the struggle for equal rights.” He continues:
“But it is not enough for us to talk about love,” King said, “There is another side called justice. And justice is love in calculation. Justice is love working against anything that stands against love. Standing beside love is always justice.”
Love is the anchor or inward expression of social justice, I think King was saying, and justice is the outward expression of “love in calculation”—a conscious design for remaking the world in a different image of ourselves. Radical transformations are possible if love and justice reinforce each-other to create a permanent shift in direction among human beings and the institutions they create.
“Only new selves could give birth to a new world, but only a new world could sustain the new human beings who constituted it, and who would sustain it in turn,” as Josiah Royce put it in the aftermath of the American Civil War almost one hundred years before.
Then as now, there will be no end to patriarchy without deep-rooted changes in men’s behavior; no solution to climate change unless all of us reduce our consumption and carbon footprint; no decline in inequality unless we learn to share resources with each-other; no meaningful democracy until we work through our differences in a spirit of common purpose; no lasting peace if we continue to project our fears and insecurities onto other people.
But turning these examples around, there must also be real and living forms of politics and activism and economics that grow from and reinforce the qualities we want to encourage. “We must be the change we want to see” is a favorite quotation falsely attributed to Gandhi, but it’s equally true that we must see the change we want to be. And that means showing how real economies can deliver justice and wellbeing, and real politics can bring people together to break the logjam of vested interests.
Unfortunately, such boundary-breaking experiments are in short supply, constantly constrained by the mantra that change is impossible because of (insert your favorite bogeyman): globalization, footloose corporations, human nature, the weakening of governments, corruption in politics, the decline of the public, too much TV and far too much Rupert Murdoch. If we believe that only small changes are possible in our political and economic systems, then small change is all we’re going to see—another turn of the wheel with little or no forward movement.
The challenges of uniting personal and social change were central to the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, expressed through civil rights, gay liberation, the rise of the women’s movement and the first stirrings of environmentalism. In the decades that followed, this spirit was less in evidence in politics and activism, though it remained alive among feminists and other radicals like Audre Lorde, June Jordan, and bell hooks. Elsewhere, the social and spiritual sides of activism began to move apart, perhaps exhausted by earlier efforts or beaten down by the arrival of the neo-liberal revolution and the celebration of self-interest and materialism that followed in its wake.
But today, there’s a resurgence of interest in the possibilities of transformation and an upsurge in attempts to put them into practice, spurred on by the failure of conventional approaches to make much headway against inequality, and the urgency of problems like climate change which demand boundary-breaking solutions.
…innovations are interesting, but often they overlay rather than overturn existing patterns of power and inequality. Institutions that should provide space for genuinely radical ideas and action are also being eroded, neutered, corporatized or co-opted, including NGOs, civil society and philanthropy, the public sphere, universities and even social movements. Against this background it’s important for the section to continue its coverage of potentially-negative trends as well as ‘accentuating the positive’ by publicizing real and workable alternatives.
There’s excitement but not consensus around what sparks and sustains these transformative alternatives. Opinions converge a little more around the value of love, compassion and spirituality in fostering a deep-rooted personal commitment to live life differently…(and) love and compassion flourish more easily when new institutions are built on sharing and solidarity…All great stories are love stories in one form or another, but the story of love and justice has not yet been told (or realized)…Welcome to another year of transformation.