Archived Sections, Commentary

Moving from spectators to co-creators

Editor’s note: Throughout the month of October, member congregations of the ecumenical ISAIAH organization are hosting six regional public gatherings, with the goal of turning out a total of over 4,000 participants. At these events, called “Faith in Democracy: Renewing the Promise,” ISAIAH leaders will highlight local as well as statewide issues that will be the focus of their work in the coming year. ISAIAH leaders have developed a narrative framework which forms the foundation of their work on these issues. Last month Metro Lutheran published a schedule of area meetings planned by ISAIAH during October. A revised listing of that calendar appears this month on page 13.
The editor invited advocates for ISAIAH to prepare the following commentary piece.
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As people of faith, we understand that God creates us to live in community. The community in which God calls us to participate includes all of God’s children. But there are forces that drive us away from this vision of community. Fear, isolation and a sense of scarcity create deep divisions by race, class and place. This separation from one another has a profound cost to each of us and corrupts the center of who we are meant to be as a society. However, our faith tells us that there is abundance in community and that faithful commitment to a hopeful future will lead us down the right path.
We are created in the image of God. We ourselves are not God. However, God has endowed us with the capacity to create. We hold some responsibility for fostering community, distributing abundance and nurturing hope. We must work, with God and with one another, to make this vision a reality. We must conceive of ourselves as co-creators of our common future together. We understand that our destinies are intertwined and that any vision for our future must include and embrace all of us.
As participants and stake-holders in our North American democracy, we also believe we have inherited a vision of a great promise. The promise of our democracy is that of the full participation by each individual in the collective creation of our common economic, social and political life. We affirm that this is still the promise that beckons all who live in these United States. But this promise is, as yet, unfulfilled.
Our current experience of our public and political life is that we are cynical, alienated and despairing about the process, the possibility of change, and our own role in truly owning our democracy. We have become spectators and bystanders. Complicating the situation, the current public debate is divisive, toxic, corrosive and plays to our worst instincts of fear and scarcity.
There is always a tension in who we mean when we say “We, the people …” The Promise of Democracy is always bigger than our current understanding and practice of it. Often people of faith have been at the center of naming the bigness of that promise. As members of this democracy and as people of faith, we are troubled by what still gets in the way of each of us acting powerfully in community and living fully into this promise.
Whether the issue is adequate transportation, education, immigration, health care or the safety of our own homes and streets, each barrier to persons living full and meaningful lives in this democratic society is a barrier to the promise of this land and to the convictions of our faith. It is time for us to re-claim this promise and make it the compass for how we shape our political life together.
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Becker is pastor of Peace Lutheran Church, Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota. He is chair of the ISAIAH Clergy and Religious Leaders Caucus.