Faith & Feet Reflections

After participating in a 12-hour training with Rev. Alexia Salvatierra, a nationally-known trainer, organizer, and author of a new book titled Faith-rooted Organizing, I sent the following email to Rev. Deborah Lee, who works with Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, a co-sponsor of the training.

“Faith-rooted” activists are out front about their faith, whereas “faith-based” organizing merely uses traditional secular methods to organize members of spiritual communities.

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Dear Deborah,

Thanks again for a wonderful training in faith-rooted organizing. I found the twelve hours to be very beneficial. Because I deeply appreciate the direction you, Alexia, and the others are taking, I asked Alexia to inform me about how I can keep in touch with future developments concerning with her “un-network network.”

One important dimension seemed to be missing, however. In the Sunday night report back, Vanessa Riles commented on the urgent need to address “internalized oppression.” The written report from that group articulated this question, “How do we support each other in having deeper faith?” I don’t believe the training responded to those urgent matters.

As I see it, we need to deal with those issues not merely with “leadership development” (as the CLUE approach does). We also need to openly encourage all of our members to address those issues and offer them user-friendly tools that can help in that regard – tools that can be easily replicated by others elsewhere. We need to address spiritual needs as well as economic needs.

My interpretation of original sin, crucifixion, and resurrection is that human beings are essentially flawed, limited, and afflicted with contradictions. We inevitably “trespass” against others. To minimize those transgressions, we need to acknowledge our mistakes, at times face-to-face. If we do, we can grow spiritually and in certain ways become like new, or reborn. She not busy being born is busy dying. Crucifixion and resurrection are two sides of the same coin.

Activists are guilty of many sins in terms of how they treat one another, the general public, and themselves. We need to do more than learn how to communicate more effectively. We also need to learn how to actualize ourselves more fully and minimize those mistakes. As Van Jones once said, “We need to be more confessional and less pro-fessional.”

This commitment to self-examination and self-criticism is key to my spiritual faith. I believe spiritual activists need to be out-front and up-front about a commitment to fostering spiritual growth with one another.

On my way home, I read the last chapter of Alexia’s book. It talks about providing spiritual sustenance to the staff. And I see that faith-rooted organizing uses spiritual rituals in its public events. That’s all well and good. Those activities are designed to help with burnout and discouragement. They provide spiritual comfort.

But spiritual growth is not always so easy. It often requires painful introspection. I heard nothing about that during our twelve hours and I saw nothing about it in the last chapter of that book, where it would have fit. I find this lack a serious deficit in your approach.

If I am wrong about my impressions, please correct my misunderstanding. Otherwise, I urge you to consider deepening your approach.

I attach the Meditation that I presented at the Church for the Fellowship of all Peoples Sunday. It touches on some of those issues.

Feel free to share this with Alexia.

Keeping faith,
Wade

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