The Fierce Urgency of Now: Contemplative Justice


bird soaring-contemplationI came across this article today, and I resonated deeply with it (thanks Dr. Christena Cleveland for passing it on!). In it, Natalie Dunn Magnusson talks about the importance of merging spiritual contemplation with the pursuit of justice, a point that I find to be critically underemphasized.

I often meet people that value contemplation, but don’t carry it out to the pursuit of justice. To that, she makes this simple but important point:

“Social issues are highly spiritual issues, as Walter Wink, William Stringfellow, and others have reminded us. Our love of God is deeply interwoven with our love of people, and so how we engage these social issues reveals much about our lives with God.”

There is another dynamic that is just as problematic. I also meet a lot of people that pursue justice, but don’t root it in deep contemplation. To that she says:

“Our empowerment for justice must be rooted in and flow from lives that are lived with God. We cannot engage these issues on our own. We’re up against deeply rooted structures and systems that have been in effect since long before we ever existed. The labor of justice, the setting of things as they should be, is really God’s work, and we are wise to remember our position in this. I think about how in Acts we see the Holy Spirit so clearly and actively involved in the inclusion of the Gentiles. It was God who initiated that kind of justice and saw it to completion, and thankfully there were some individuals attentive and willing to respond to the movement and nudging of God. In a similar fashion, we need to step back and allow God’s Spirit to have a primary role in this unfolding story of gender inclusion and other social changes that are taking place in our churches. This is not our story. This is God’s story. Our posture has to be, first and foremost, confessional and dependent on the power of God.”

She implores us not to lose one for the sake of the other:

“I’m not implying that we have to sit back and wait for a white sheet to fall from the sky. Rather, I’m advocating for a rhythm of praxis and reflection, or action and contemplation, where we are in the habit of regularly stopping and prayerfully considering what has occurred and how God is calling us to participate next.”

I’m grateful for the eloquent yet simple reminder that this is God’s story, not ours. We must be confessional and dependent on the power of God, which then leads to a lifestyle of contemplation and action.

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