Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A meditation on change

by Ed Rodman

As a member of Change Team II I am offering this meditation.  As we begin the spring semester in the wake of the Martin Luther King Holiday, it might be helpful to explore the fundamental elements of King’s call to strive for the  “Beloved Community."

The four pillars of the beloved community are history, compassion, vision and sacrifice. They are held together by a basic commitment to the non-violent resolution of conflict and given energy and direction by a group-centered style of leadership. 

It was Malcolm X who noted that “history is the only subject that rewards all research.”  In that vein I invite the community to engage in a simple exercise that I challenged last semester’s Foundation to “try on;” to wit, Google the Know Nothing Party. 

You will find some very interesting parallels to many dynamics that are playing out in our culture today vis a vis the Tea Party and calls for more civil discourse. 

If we are to learn from history with the idea of not repeating our mistakes, it is critical that we have a sound theologically based social analysis that can understand, and not succumb to the passing passions and fads of the day. 

Maya Angelou noted, “history with all of its wrenching pain cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage need not be lived again.”  It is the “face it with courage” part that our society has great difficulty with, and therefore is continually replaying the various loops of nativism, mccarthyism, religious bigotry, etc. 

The Know Nothing Party had the best name for it and I am sure that if they had lasted long enough to have a symbol it would have been the ostrich.  As you read up on this period of uncivil discourse and harmful demonizing and polarization, you may have a greater feel for the passions that fanned the flames of the Civil War and many subsequent conflicts, both foreign and domestic.  

As Christians, I believe we are called "conservatives who status quo has yet to be achieved."  Jesus said it better “we are called to be in the world and not of the world.”

* Rev. Canon Edward W. Rodman is the John Seely Stone Professor of Pastoral Theology and Urban Ministry at Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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