Jim Wallis, the founder and editor of Sojourners magazine, once wrote: “Social movements that can change history must eventually affect our leading institutions. But new visions cannot arise from those old structures, new values will not be created from old assumptions, new leadership does not often emerge from the rank of old elites, who are the most imprisoned by the old systems and options. A new vision must come from new places-new places in all of us.”
We find ourselves at one of the most significant historical moments in decades, and our current cultural predicament is not unfamiliar. The significance of this moment is not based on the emergence of new problems or challenges, but the question is whether or not we have a determination and commitment to the development of new strategies to confront familiar challenges.
Issues revolving around poverty, education, housing and employment are not new, but have we become so immune to social pain and deaf to communal moans that we have abandoned belief in transformation? Wallis went on to write: “Underneath failed social values, corrupted institutions and destructive personal behavior is a reservoir of moral conscience.” Something within my soul resonates with Wallis’ belief.
I too believe that lurking beneath all that seems grim and distressing is a new ethos of communal engagement that can give birth to new social visions. If we are going to be committed to new, prophetic visions for social transformation, we must embrace a passion for the possible, a commitment to creativity and a hunger for healing.
Pessimism abounds in our current culture. People have become so accustomed to disappointment that they seem to constantly be in the company of “let down.” There are those who have allowed discouragement to find a resting place in their psyche and they look at life through the skewed lense of disillusionment. Many of us have visited the valley of humiliation, but that place of sorrow cannot become our permanent residence.
Something within us must rebel against hopelessness and not allow our internal disposition to be shaped by frustration. We must have a passion for the possible-the belief that nothing is impossible. We must be convinced that every obstacle on our path to greatness can be overcome. This historical moment is crying out for a generation of mountain movers who refuse to drown in a sea of mediocrity or die in the desert of doubt. All things are possible!
We have witnessed more than a few programs that have failed-programs that were designed to alleviate the plight of those battered by poverty, unemployment or poor educational opportunities. To be sure, the problem has not always been because of a lack of effort, but I am convinced that there has been a lack of imagination. There must be a commitment to creativity, to thinking outside of the box. I know this can be dangerous business, especially when being creative means confronting the status quo, but sometimes we must dare to be different and let success meet us when we come through the struggle.
Our cultural appetite for materialism and individualism has reached epic proportions. There exists a tragic shallowness marked by superficial pursuits and image fixations that have diminished the strength of the communal ties that bind us together. As a result, individual advancement has trumped communal healing.
If we are going to rise above these signs of decline, we must develop an insatiable hunger for healing and restoration. Envisioning healing and wholeness in our communities is not only necessary, it must become the norm.
Our personal brokenness can no longer justify our lack of participation in communal healing. We must become wounded healers-persons who believe that their personal wounds qualify them to bring about healing for others. The work of transformation is not easy, but, in times like these, we cannot shun the struggle, nor allow weariness to have the last word.