I have heard people say, “What you resist persists.” While there may be some truth to this saying in certain contexts, it is by no means a universal truth. In many cases, “What you ignore persists.” Ignoring social evils, for instance, means accommodating to them and allowing them to spread. I agree with theologian William Stringfellow, who said, “In resistance persons live most humanly. `No’ to death means ‘yes’ to life.”
For a social movement to flourish, the ‘no’ of resistance cannot simply be reactive, but must be grounded in a ‘yes’ to life. For people of faith, it is essential to recognize the true context and foundation of our lives in the midst of God’s good creation, and to develop an ongoing sense of the sacred in everyday life. The earth is our home and our primary source of revelation. As we join forces with people of every persuasion and practice active democracy that furthers globalization from below, we must not forget who we are: children of Spirit, but also children of the earth, dependent on God for life and breath and all things and interdependent with the whole community of life. Thomas Berry reminds us of the extraordinary gifts offered to us through the creation, and of our responsibility to care for the earth, our home:
“The natural world tells us: I will feed you, I will clothe you, I will shelter you, I will heal you. Only do not so devour me or use me that you destroy my capacity to mediate the divine and the human. For I offer you a communion with the divine. I offer you gifts that you can exchange with each other. I offer you flowers whereby you may express your reverence for the divine and your love for each other. In the vastness of the sea, in the snow-covered mountains, in the rivers flowing through the valleys, in the serenity of the landscape, and in the foreboding of the great storms that sweep over the land, in all these experiences I offer you inspiration for your music, for your art, your dance.”
In addition to being grounded in the earth, we must also become aware of how we relate to the dominant institutions of which we are a part. We see how ruling institutions foster a sense of powerlessness, distort the truth, dampen the Spirit, nullify conscience, and impair moral agency. These inner effects of the Powers prevent people from rising up in clear and concerted resistance to these harmful systems and demanding change.
Recognizing these realities does not excuse us from personal responsibility, but adds another dimension to our understanding of the human condition. Just as we are dependent on God for life and breath and all things and interdependent with the rest of creation, we are also embedded in institutions and systems that affect us and that we affect, through our passive acceptance, active participation, or actions of resistance and transformation. Like Jesus, we must learn to live “in, but not of the world,” that is, the human-created systems of this world. We are called to resist being taken over by the forces of a culture that would have us believe that comfort and pleasure and ease and looking good are the most important things in life. We are called to refuse to worship our culture’s dominant gods of money and worldly power, to resist the lure of materialistic values that keep so many enthralled, and instead to value human life and the natural world. By so doing, we plant seeds of hope and honor the Creator.
This blog posting includes excerpts from Shaking the Gates of Hell: Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization by Sharon Delgado. For another excerpt on a similar topic, see A Sacramental Universe.