Tag: common peace community

Is there a word from the Lord? No, seriously, is there?

GettyImages_157334290 (1)Besieged by his enemies, King Zedekiah sent for the imprisoned prophet Jeremiah and, through trembling lips, posed his question: “Is there a word from the Lord?”

Tradition held that after Jeremiah spoke the words from the Lord, a spirit-drought gripped the land and no word from the Lord would be heard until the Anointed One appeared.

Five hundred years later Jesus announced that the spirit-drought was broken.  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” he declared in the ancient words of Isaiah: “because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives.”

As an old year dies and a new year struggles to be born, is there a word from the Lord for us?  Is there good news for the poor?  Is there release for those who are bound?

Your generous tax-deductible gift towards our $25,000 December goal will contribute to good news for the poor and release to captives.

Friends of Justice has been preaching good news to the poor since New Year’s Eve, 1999.  When poor people are oppressed by immoral public policies, we say so, repeatedly and with great effect.

Common Peace Community-001God has called us to build a Common Peace Community where the walls that divide God’s people along lines of race, gender, wealth, social class, denomination and political affiliation crumble. “For Christ is our peace, having broken down the dividing wall, the hostility between us.” (Ephesians 2.14).

Friends of Justice is giving voice to congregations that have heard the good news to the poor, but lack a prophetic public voice. Through our Common Peace Community initiative, we are equipping and supporting existing faith leaders to break the silence. Because good news for the poor and release to the captive is as spiritual as it gets.

We challenge you to invest in the Common Peace Community.  We challenge you to contribute generously toward our December goal of $25,000.

Photo: Lightning and dark storm cloudsIf you wish to bring the Common Peace Community to your community of faith, contact us for more information.

The spirit-drought has broken.  We have a word from the Lord that speaks good news to the poor and release to the captive.  People of faith are finding a prophetic public voice.  Will you join us?

You’re invited!

Nancy and Alan Bean will be hosting the third meeting of the Common Peace Community at our new home, 2706 Meadow Hill Lane, Arlington 76006, this Saturday at 4pm.  (Please RSVP by replying to this email).   If you have any questions or need help with directions, call me at 817-688-6765.

As usual, there will be singing, fascinating speakers, and plenty of time for sharing and plotting.

We will hear from Pierre Berastain, a Harvard Divinity School student and native of Peru who recently announced that he is a “dreamer”, an undocumented resident of the United States brought to this country as a child by his parents.

We will also be hearing from our own Julie Griffin, a member of Broadway Baptist Church who has long been active in ministries of compassion.  Julie worked as an attorney for fourteen years before becoming a school teacher, and both careers inform her passionate commitment to ministry.  (more…)

Join us on Saturday!

By Alan Bean

You are invited to Broadway Baptist Church, 4:00 pm on Saturday, April 20th for the second convening of our Common Peace Community.  There you will catch your first glimpse of JustFaith, a we-ain’t-playin’-games study that will help you look at the world through the eyes of the poor and ask why.  Here’s the way the program is described on the JustFaith website.

JustFaith is a 30-week Scripture-based adult formation program that looks at poverty and compassion for the poor through the lens of the Christian call to compassion and justice. JustFaith empowers participants to develop a passion and thirst for justice, and prepares them for the work of social ministry.  Through prayer, experiences, books and videos, participants encounter the face of poverty in such a way that they experience transformation and are drawn to respond to the needs of our broken world.  The JustFaith program is about opening people to the Spirit of God, who is at work transforming people to transform the world. The intent is to provide a tapestry of learning opportunities that emphasize and enliven the healing work of God’s compassion found in scripture, church history and teaching, and faithful witnesses.

JustFaith is a rigorous program that asks people for their time each week.  It is a deep spiritual journey that offers an opportunity to experience conversion of hearts and minds in the context of a small faith community of 10-15 people.  During the 30 weeks, participants learn the value of dialogue, sacred listening, and one-on-one encounters with those living on the margins of our communities. JustFaith grads emerge from the program with a new level of understanding of the systemic issues of poverty, those families living in poverty, and a discerned compassionate response to the world around them. As a result, these graduates are more engaged in their church and in the communities.

Although JustFaith was originally produced by Roman Catholics for Roman Catholics, they have introduced a Protestant-Ecumenical version as well.  We will be watching a 15-minute introductory video and there will be plenty of time for questions.

We will also be singing, reading Scripture and pondering Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail written exactly fifty years ago in response to concerns raised by moderate white clergymen (don’t worry, we won’t be reading the whole thing).  Since many of us are white folks who identify as “moderate” I thought we should listen to Dr. King with fresh ears.

A Common Peace Community starts when you look at the world through the eyes of the poor and ask why.  If you have any questions please call me at 817-688-6765.

Alan Bean


A Common Peace Community takes root

photo (1)By Alan Bean

The Common Peace Community was inaugurated on Saturday, March 23rd at Broadway Baptist Church with thirty-five wonderful people in attendance.  As participants entered the Good Shepherd Room, Al Travis, Broadway’s gifted organist, played softly in the background.  After we all had our food and were gathered around the tables, we talked about why we had come and what we were hoping to see.  The Rev. Sue Turner gave an eloquent invocation and then it was my turn to explain what a Common Peace Community is all about.  Here’s what I said: (more…)

A changed life gets a second chance

Nazry and Hope Mustakim

By Alan Bean

Hope and Nazry Mustakim will be speaking at the kickoff event for our Common Peace Community on Saturday.  If you live in the DFW area, we invite you to join us at 12 noon in Room 302 at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth.  Hope didn’t have to worry about the Department of Homeland Security until she married a man from Singapore.  That simple decision opened a door to a strange and frightening world.

Armed immigration agents woke Nazry Mustakim and his wife, Hope, as dawn broke on March 30, 2011, banging on the door of their North Waco home. Even as they handcuffed 32-year-old Naz, as friends and family know him, agents promised the arrest was merely administrative. He’d be released within hours, they said. “His case had just been flagged for some reason,” Hope said. “I was told he’d be out in no time.” Naz texted his call-center boss, saying he’d be late for work.

Days later, however, U.S. Immigration and Customs officials told Hope that Naz would be deported to Singapore and he was sent to the ICE detention center in Pearsall, south of San Antonio, to wait. (more…)

They shoot preachers, don’t they?

By Alan Bean

In his book Don’t Shootcriminologist David Kennedy identifies a disconnect between a criminal justice system built on the notion of personal responsibility and the fact that gang bangers think and behave as members of a group.  You can’t reduce gun violence by ratcheting up the penalties for individuals, Kennedy believes, you have to deal with entire neighborhoods at once.

Kennedy’s insight came to mind last week when I read Brent Younger’s post about “Preaching peace in a timid church“.    A few years ago, Younger moved from Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth to teach preaching at the McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta.

At the 2012 William Self Preaching Lectures at the McAfee School of Theology, “Preaching Peace in a Crumbling Empire,” Brian McLaren argued that the Bible is a call to speak God’s word of peace to an empire built on power.

“We preach the peace of one who was crucified, so we cannot preach power that crucifies,” McLaren said. “We preach a way of love and service, so we cannot preach conquest and domination.”

McLaren’s words in the chapel were challenging and inspiring. The words in the hall — not so much. Popular opinion seems to be that peace belongs in lectures, but not in sermons:

“That peace stuff wouldn’t fly at my church.”

“Now we know why McLaren isn’t a pastor anymore.”

“His last church must have been in Switzerland.”

“If I preach on peace, war will break out in the next deacons’ meeting.”

“I’ll preach against the war when McLaren agrees to pay my kid’s college tuition.”

In Jesus’ day prophets were run out of town, thrown off a cliff or stoned in the middle of the village. Now we dismiss prophets in the conversations between lectures.

The fear of social consequences largely determines what is said and remains unsaid in the pulpits of Christendom.  It isn’t just street punks who engage in group-think, it’s everybody.   (more…)

Six assumptions that keep white churches from applying biblical norms to immigration and criminal justice

Steven M. Teles

By Alan Bean

In The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement, Steven Teles describes how the conservative movement was able to undermine and largely replace what he calls the Liberal Legal Network (LLN for short). By the late 1960s, liberal ideas inspired by New Deal politics and the civil rights movement were deeply entrenched within the American legal establishment.  To change this picture, Teles says, conservative counter insurgents had to realize that they were dealing with a hegemonic regime.

A regime is most likely to endure when it can make its ideas seem natural, appropriate, and commonsensical, consigning its opponents to the extremes . . . A regime that has achieved hegemony makes its principles seem like ‘good professional practice,’ ‘standard operating procedure,’ ‘the public interest,’ or ‘conventional wisdom.’  Those who fail to affirm these principles are stigmatized, and their arguments are dismissed.

In order to overcome this kind of hegemonic reality, Teles suggests, “intellectual entrepreneurs” must “‘denaturalize’ the existing regime, by exposing the hidden normative assumptions embedded in seemingly neutral professional, scientific, or procedural standards and practices, forcing those assumptions to be justified and alternatives to them entertained.”

This analysis got me thinking.  Friends of Justice is encouraging American churches to embrace a biblical “common peace” perspective on immigration and criminal justice issues.  This agenda makes perfect sense to most Latino and African American Christians, but is greeted with a mixture of bewilderment, suspicion and hostility in Anglo religious circles.  I’m not talking about conservative evangelical congregations or the religious right; the churches I’m describing are a mix of standard issue evangelicalism and big steeple Protestantism.  People in these churches value niceness above all other virtues, but they have a hard time wrapping themselves around the concept of a Common Peace Community.

We are dealing with a hegemonic regime rooted in deeply embedded assumptions that, in Anglo churches at least, have attained the status of the ‘good professional practice,’ ‘standard operating procedure,’ ‘community interest,’ or ‘conventional wisdom’ Steve Teles talks about.  Why does a politically irrelevant religion seem natural, appropriate, and commonsensical to so many white Christians, and why do I so often feel stigmatized and dismissed when I do my thing?

If Friends of Justice is serious about exposing the conventional wisdom at work in white churches these assumptions must be identified.  Here is my first stab at culling out the assumptions that make it hard for people like me to apply biblical norms to immigration and criminal justice.  If you think I’m being unfair, please tell me why in the comment section below.

Six assumptions that keep white churches from applying biblical norms to immigration and criminal justice

  1. The immigration and criminal justice systems should be left to lawyers and politicians. It doesn’t really matter what Christians think about these issues because we lack the expertise and standing to form a credible opinions or impact public policy decisions.
  2. Churches should avoid partisan politics.  Institutional tranquility demands that the political implications of our religion must never be discussed in religious settings.
  3. Crime and illegal immigration threaten my personal security, so I am reassured by political tough talk.
  4. Religion is about saving souls, promoting a sense of personal well-being,  nurturing personal relationships, and sustaining a spiritual family.  Public policy issues conflict with these priorities.
  5. It’s great that racial minorities attend churches and have religious ideas.  But American Christianity has always been a white person’s religion and should be restricted to issues directly affecting white people.
  6. It’s great that racial minorities are taking an interest in politics.  But American politics is designed to maximize the prosperity and personal happiness of white people.

“The Abolitionists” and the awkward dance between movements and institutions

The AbolitionistsBy Alan Bean

Two facts struck me last night as I watched The Abolitionists on PBS.  First, the amazing characters who shaped the movement were all people of faith.  Second, the abolitionists were not warmly received by the institutional churches of their day.

Thus has it always been.  Movements and institutions have a troubled relationships.  It’s the way of the world.

In early December I listened to Brian McLaren describe the awkward but potentially fruitful relationship between institutions and movements.  Institutions, in Brian’s understanding, conserve the gains made by past social movements.  Movements make proposals or demands to current institutions to make progress toward new gains.  Organizations and movements need one another but inevitably frustrate and anger each other.

Movements harden into institutions so they can survive.  New movements are created when institutions become too inflexible to respond to present challenges.

Without movements, institutions stagnate.  Without institutions, movements evaporate.

McLaren notes that some movements successfully inject their values into the institutions they challenge.  Other movements create their own institutions or pass away–it must be one or the other. (more…)

Imprisoned by the walls that divide us

By Alan Bean

The United States of America is an uncommonly religious nation.  More to the point, we are an uncommonly Christian nation, at least insofar as stated religious affiliation is concerned (whether we actually reflect the soul of Jesus Christ is another matter altogether).  In the midst of startling ethnic diversity, three great cultures dominate: Latino, African American and Anglo.  Many things divide these three segments of the human family, but religion is not one of them.  Brown, Black and White, we are all overwhelmingly Christian.  In theory, we should all moralize and vote in a distinctly Christian fashion.  We should share a common moral discourse.

But we don’t.

Latinos, Blacks and Whites are all divided by internal political and ideological disputes, of course, but valid generalizations are possible.

For instance, Latinos, as a group, are deeply concerned about mass deportation, Blacks agonize over mass incarceration, and Whites, for the most part, give little thought to either issue.

Stout walls have gone up between us. These fortifications simplify our moral worlds by ensuring that we don’t have too much worry on our plates. But the walls lock us into tiny, constricted worlds.  We are deep in denial, imprisoned by fear and self-imposed ignorance.

There is nothing surprising in this.  Humans have a limited capacity for pain and complexity.  We worry more about our dogs and cats than the plight of the poor and the prisoner because puppies and kittens rub against our legs and demand our attention.  We love our immediate families with a singular intensity because we share a common history and anticipate a shared destiny.  We don’t care so much about other people’s kids because we don’t know them and most likely will never know them. (more…)