In the margin on one of the pages I wrote the words “convicting and encouraging”. I could have written that on many pages!
This book is a necessary read for all leaders of faith communities; not only for pastors but anyone who knows the importance of having a grace-filled voice in the politics and policy of our communities.
Walter Brueggemann wrote this 3 years ago. I wonder what he would make of today and the never ending line of misuse of power in the White House and beyond.
That misuse is causing deep division in the country. There are those that know it is happening and do not care. There are those that know it is happening and feel paralyzed with lack of power.
Brueggemann would say we need to take the third option: engage deeply in reality, grief and hope. He does not have a one-size-fits-all solution because there isn't one. He does encourage us to embrace relationships in our communities to claim our power thought the arts and practices of community organizing and in the sacramental work of hospitality. It is through relationship we replace the cycle of ideology-denial-despair of the world with the new way of reality-grief-hope which brings restoration. This is relational work.
Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill once said, “All politics is local.” Speaker O’Neill understood the vital role of relationships in politics and power. Many faith leaders shy away from the ideas of having power or speaking out on politics because they think it is not Christian or not “their place”. Walter Brueggemann would argue that it is essential for leaders of faith communities to be political citizens. They need to be aware of what is happening both nationally and in their local community so they know when to come forward as a leader to speak out and work against injustice that is contrary to the Gospel.
The Gospel is ALWAYS “we”.
It is always about relationship; healing, serving, forgiving, challenging, and loving each other for the sake of the common good.
In the chapter Hope amid Despair Brueggemann writes,
"A vigorous individualism has trivialized the common good, has reduced major societal needs to technical problems, and has neglected the infrastructure that is indispensable for a viable common good."
Being a public leader can happen in as many ways as there are people. It is important for each one to know themselves and know their community so they can find their voice.
This is why I also think Reality Grief Hope would speak to our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters. Brueggemann is an Old Testament theologian. The story of Moses and the lament and grief found in Lamentations, Jeremiah and Isaiah are central as well as the life and teachings of Jesus. It is crucial for people of all faiths to stand together for the common good.
Even if you have read Walter Brueggemann books before, this is a must.
Then....talk about it!