Kindred, the news is bleak. For we live in the valley of the shadow, when:
- The stock market reaches record-breaking levels amid near record-breaking rates of unemployment
- 1% of U.S. citizens control $30 trillion of assets, while the bottom half is saddled with more debts than assets
- The median wealth of Black households is a tenth of that of whites
- Yet another unarmed Black man is shot – in the back, seven times, while getting in his car where his children are sitting – by police
- Polls show 57% of registered Republicans (along with 33% of independents and 10% of Democrats) believe our nation’s COVID-19 death toll (many times greater than any other nation) is “acceptable” – despite ours being the wealthiest nation in recorded history, purportedly with the world’s most advanced health care system
- Wildfires in California set yet another record in size and destructive infernos, and similar flames in the Amazon are on track to eclipse 2019’s record
- 30 million families lacked sufficient nutrition last week, and lines at food banks stretch blocks – even miles – long; yet the suicide rate among farmers, who provide our food, is five times greater than the national average
- The federal hourly minimum wage is $7.25 (the lowest it’s been since the 1960s when adjusted for inflation), yet Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos earns approximately $8,961,187 per hour
- Not to mention a president claiming his “authority is total,” and our oldest living president, Jimmy Carter, having described our political economy as “moving toward an oligarchy.”
And yet, and nevertheless.
“Though the fig tree does not blossom, / and no fruit is on the vines; / though the produce of the olive fails / and the fields yield no food; / though the flock is cut off from the fold / and there is no herd in the stalls, / yet I will rejoice in the Sovereign / I will exult in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).
Which is to say, rouse yourselves to maintain custody of your heart and shield it from the bootleggers of despair.
Let the baptism like that of firmeza permanente, a theological movement within the Brazilian church in the 1970s, born of the same impulse as the active nonviolence campaigns of the 1930s-1940s in India and U.S. civil rights movement in the 1950-1960s.
In other words, allow relentless persistence to soak you to the bone, so that you may stand ready to confess: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing” (Arundhati Roy).
Curator of prayerandpolitiks.org, an online journal at the intersection of spiritual formation and prophetic action. He was the founding co-pastor of Circle of Mercy Congregation in Asheville, North Carolina.