Society Is Us

Nov 06, 2016

by Mary Mortenson, Director, Prison Congregations of America

This week, it will be over.  The elections will be done and the most angry and cruel campaign season in recent times will be history.  Except, of course, for the fact that it won’t be done.  In one day we will not forget the insults and the lies and the threats.  In one day we will not suddenly start acting like adults instead of petulant children.

Now the work begins, and it is my belief, that now, more than ever, is when the church needs to step up.  I’m not suggesting that the church’s voice has been silent these last grueling months, but I am suggesting that the church’s voice should now be constant, as it seeks to be a healing agent.

In my graduate studies through the University of South Dakota, I had the privilege of studying under Dr. Joan England, who taught us as much from her beautiful spirit as from her amazing intellect.  One of the things I’ve always carried with me is her assertion that we should not merely wring our hands about the state of society for we are society.  I would expand that to say that we are also the church.  Thus, what I choose to say and do, every day, every moment, is defining both society and the church for those around me.

Therefore, it stands to reason that our behaviors, language and attitudes can, indeed, influence and offer healing to society and a church that are suffering.  I know that this can happen, because I have seen it. I see it every time I worship in a prison congregation, where people of diverse backgrounds and belief systems still find common ground in worship and mission.  When I have commented on this phenomenon to prison congregation members the response is always something like, “When you disagree with someone, you can go to your car and go home.  When we disagree with someone, we have to live with him/her.  We have to learn to get along.” I think we, on the outside, need to learn to get along.

The Message paraphrases Romans 12: 17-19 like this: Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath.  Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down.  Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up.  Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.  Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone.  If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.  Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do.  “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.

I think that is pretty good guidance for people who are society and who are the church.

Category: Leadership

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