Recent social action reveals traces of God’s kingdom
By Curtis Ramsey-Lucas
Although I was only briefly his student at Andover Newton Theological School, Newton Centre, Mass., I am indebted to Max L. Stackhouse (1935–2016) for how he shaped my approach to Christian social ethics. When I learned of his death last year, I returned to several of his books, including “Globalization and Grace,” in which he wrote:
“However bleak the social situation looks at any given point in history, God saves through Christ fragile reeds of social and personal potentiality to bear the weight of promising possibilities in the midst of disconfirming evidence… . And insofar as a constant reconstructive dynamic is directed toward the discovery or recovery of a God-oriented sense of principle and purpose, traces of the Kingdom of God can be, more or less, discerned in the midst of the actual, fragile structure of being and in the sinful, distorted events of history. Those able to discern them are called to be its agents in this life, in every sphere” (Bloomsbury, 2007, pp. 221–222).
These words came back to me one week into the Trump presidency — a week that began with a dark and divisive inaugural address and ended with a travel ban on immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority nations. In between were attacks on our free press, aides spinning notions of alternative facts, and a visit to the CIA that dishonored the sacrifice of those who had given their lives in service to our country.
Week One also witnessed significant opposition to Trump’s policies and pronouncements, including the Women’s March on Washington — the largest single-day protest gathering in our nation’s history, as millions marched in cities across the United States and around the world. Opposition also featured rapid responses to specific actions, including thousands demonstrating at airports to protest the travel ban.
“However bleak the social situation looks…God saves through Christ fragile reeds of social and personal potentiality.”
“However bleak the social situation looks…God saves through Christ fragile reeds of social and personal potentiality.” Fragile reeds: you and I. Fragile reeds: congregations, groups of concerned citizens, organizations and associations mobilized for social action. Yet each one of these fragile reeds holds the potential to “bear the weight of promising possibilities” in the midst of evidence to the contrary. That is who we are individually and collectively.
Millions gathered for various reasons to share a variety of concerns and did so peacefully, without violence or even incident. Remarkable and hopeful.
Millions gathered for various reasons to share a variety of concerns and did so peacefully, without violence or even incident. Remarkable and hopeful. Still others mobilized quickly and effectively to oppose the travel ban and stand in solidarity with immigrants and refugees while religious leaders, among others, voiced their opposition. In doing so, they kept faith with the best of our nation’s history in welcoming those fleeing war and persecution in their homelands.
In these efforts, I see promising possibilities and traces of the kingdom of God. People coming together, standing shoulder to shoulder to share their concerns and voice their opposition to that which they regard as misguided, unconscionable, unjust. Interfaith leaders speaking and mobilizing others to oppose restrictions on travel from Muslim-majority nations.
God moves amidst the sinful, distorted events of history. In every sphere of life, not merely the church, God seeks agents of the kingdom. In families, businesses, schools, arts and culture, and more. Connect with others within and beyond your sphere. Share your concerns. Find others with whom you disagree, and work across old lines of division toward mutual understanding and solidarity. God is calling each of us and preparing us accordingly to be agents of God’s kingdom of love, justice and mercy.
Curtis Ramsey-Lucas is editor of The Christian Citizen, a publication of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.
The views expressed are those of the author or authors alone, and not those of the American Baptist Home Mission Societies.