Monday 31 March 2014

"Just Spirituality: How Faith Practices Fuel Social Action"

"The Hebrew word shalom not only means "peace"
but refers to a complete reconciliation of all things to God."
- Mae Elise Cannon

This concept of shalmon meaning something beyond peace is new to me, and it has buried itself deep into my heart and remained there these past few weeks. The writer goes on to describe the idea of shalom further: wholeness, completeness, harmony, the total sense of well-being that God initially intended for both individuals and community.

Yes. That. That strikes a chord within, a distant echo of something that once was and that will be again. It speaks to my dearest longing, my most desperate hope. Shalom.

I think about shalom and I think about all that is broken in this world, all that needs to be reconciled, restored, made complete again, and I feel hope, yes. But I also feel anger. I have witnessed evil. I have heard stories of darkness day after day. I have seen the crippling pain that it causes. I have felt disgust with all those that prey on the weak. I know that the world is not as it should be.

I read further, and more words prick my soul with their truth:

"Sanctification requires acknowledging our brokenness and that of humanity and discovering that we are still loved. As one becomes increasingly aware that she is shattered, broken and disconnected, she must pursue justice differently. One can't stay angry all of the time when one encounters injustice, because there is a greater understanding of one's own human frailty and sin. All of us, in some way, shape or form, contribute to injustice at different points in our lives. Regardless of our frailty, justice is pursued by turning everything over to Jesus in a spirit of submission and constant prayer."


The world is in need of shalom, and I am part of that need. Anger arises from my pride when I fail to recognize that need within myself, as though all the injustice is "out there" and not also right here in my own heart and thoughts and actions. I need to be made whole again. I need to be reconciled and restored. All of the injustice and brokenness in the world are a reflection of my own brokenness, a part of myself; I cannot separate myself from it.

The world is in need of shalom, and I am part of that need.

Mae Elise Cannon writes about this shalom in her book Just Spirituality: How Faith Practices Fuel Social Action. In this book, Cannon outlines seven faith practices which she views as being central to one's personal relationship with God:

* Silence
* Prayer
* Study
* Community
* Worship
* Sabbath
* Submission

For each spiritual practice, Cannon offers a biography of notable Christian leaders, both historic and modern-day, whose practice of that particular practice enabled them to engage in social justice endeavors to the glory of God and the benefit of mankind. Also included in each chapter are practical suggestions for carrying out these faith practices ourselves.

Nicely organized and filled with compelling examples, this book reminds the reader that our social justice efforts cannot be carried out on our own power, but must rather arise from and be fueled by our connection with the Creator. Spiritual connection is important, Cannon writes, in order for justice activists to remain connected with the work that God is already doing in the world.

An inspiring read this Lenten season.


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