Tag Archives: mentalizing

What about justice? A few answers and one-liners.

When we met to do some theology at the end of last month, The U.S. Social Forum was still winding down. It calls itself a “convergence driven by the understanding that people’s movements are what create social change….The goal is to map out action plans for a cohesive movement and organize to be on the offense against all forms of oppression.” We felt some solidarity, since our “doing theology” time  had the feeling of convergence, too; and being on the offense against oppression sounds like Jesus.


What’s more, we have been reignited, since last August, about the racism in the country and the ongoing injustice it causes. The Black Lives Matter movement has energized a lot of us. Several of us have been involved with the Philly Coalition for REAL Justice (racial, economic and legal) who demand justice through “policy work, direct action and community education.” It feels like a new environment these days and we want to think about it with Jesus. What about justice? What does God think about it and are we practically following the Lord’s lead?


So we did some theology about it. You can see some of our study on the previous blog post. When we say we “do theology” we mean we are mentalizing with God and his people. It is all about listening, but it is not social construction of reality; it is listening for the reality behind what we think we know, hearing the voice of God. In that we honor the Bible as the trusted basis for hearing God’s voice and we respect people who have done the work to understand the Bible. But we are not just parsing words, making laws, or arguing over theories. We are trying to figure out what to do and who to be. Doing theology is thinking and feeling along with God and letting my thinking and feeling conform to my truest, God-given self.

Knowing what to do often feels like an emergency. Right when we were advertising our meeting, the aftermath of a divorce caused some deep feelings of injustice among us! How should Circle of Hope respond to injustice? That is, how should we apply scripture and corporate wisdom, not just cobble together stray political philosophies? We had a few answers to that question:

  • We need to make reconciliation happen. We can start by laying down any sense of moral superiority when we begin.
  • We want to keep in mind that Jesus faced and faces the ultimate injustice. People laced with empire thinking and demands might find the Lord hard to identify with, but they need to do it.
  • Worship is a tangible way to make justice. As different movements have shown, the songs of justice give a place for the Spirit of God to move. So worship while making justice.
  • We need to remember who is the author of justice. The government, or whoever seizes the reins of power, will try to be god giving us justice. But Jesus is author. He is executed again in the body of Christ and creating what is right with us.
  • We need to stay inclusive and insert ourselves even where were are not normally welcome. Bring people in to the presence of God and prophecy and take the presence with us when we prophesy. Jesus will rise after wrestling with the root of injustice. We reflect that miracle.
  • It would be great to get everyone together to do something so notable that it was a sign of resurrection to the powers that deal death. We’ll keep trying and not be fatalistic. At the same time, a lot of little stuff, like we normally do, is also effective. When we need to all show up we do. But incrementally is also a way to work justice.
  • [Check out “generating justice…” in our proverbs]

We sometimes try to come up with one-liners to help us remember what we discovered. Here are a few that arose during our time together:

  • We need the Holy Spirit to act justly.
  • Cling to what is good as your center, your anchor.
  • When we create space for healing we loosen the oppressor’s grip.
  • Use power to lift others up.
  • The way we do justice might be more effective than accomplishing a goal.
  • There are levels of justice, but restorative justice is the goal. We’ll need empathy to go there.
  • Justice and mercy kiss. Love and compassion are bedrock for justice.
  • Develop empathy, not aggression.

Our times together are not meant to come up with the last word. But no doubt there are some first and last words in what we hear. How about adding some discernment of your own?



Running the Bases: Revised

We need to know how we know things. This became clear again, lately, as some of my friends needed to make big decisions. They did not have as many resources for discernment as they wished they had! A couple of times we got out the old baseball diamond chart and tried to “run the bases” a few times to figure something out.


The chart offers a way to simplify the process of making decisions — discerning what we need to know. At its most basic level of interpretation the chart is about coming to understand what we consciously know, at this point, about what God is saying to us, and how we might sort that out.

The creation – We start as creatures in God’s creation, with instincts about what is good and bad, safe and dangerous, beautiful and ugly, etc. Some people might call what we do at this base an appreciation of “natural law.” We can know a lot about what God is trying to say by sitting on the beach looking at the ocean. One can read deep things about God by sitting with a leaf for a while.

Note: People or institutions that never get off home plate aren’t in the game much; they tend to think being a creature, interpreting “reality” from their own vantage point is all there is!

The Bible —  The revelation recorded in the Bible is like first base, our elementary, basic teaching about what God says and how to do the word. It is the basis of our tribe’s “lore” — our understanding about life, our tradition, history and ritual. It is the tried and true compendium from the spiritual ancestors validated by the present-day confirmation of the Spirit. Our practical, historical, and accountable understanding of God starts here. The Bible is mother’s milk to spiritual babes; and everyone comes to God as a child.

Note: People or institutions that live on first base might be a bit infantile.

The Body – The Church is like second base; it includes first base and started at home. In the church we have an ongoing dialogue that continues to process the word we have received and to incorporate further revelation. By speaking the truth in love our critical thinking is engaged. We discern-things-through with one another. In this way the body of Christ allows us to grow into more “teenage” thinking. We need a place where we can dare to be someone while still in a secure environment.

Note: People or institutions that stay on second base can end up designed for endless argument, just like teens seem to be.

The Spirit – A deepening person-to-person relationship with God is like getting to third base. We have to consider how God is directly speaking to us. We need to develop confidence that our thoughts and feelings coincide with God’s character and actions. We need to relate to God. We have experiences like Paul meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus, or Matthew hearing Jesus call him to follow, or the woman at the well hearing her deepest secrets and needs touched. We long for a daily sense of discernment and direction– a sense that we know and appreciate God for who God is.

Note: People or institutions who camp on third base can be so subjective that their conclusions can ultimately be more about themselves than God.

After “running” we get back to home with a deeper understanding of our place in creation and our mission in the re-creation. Chances are, we will be running the bases again to sort out some new thought or circumstance. We hunger to keep moving with God and keep receiving from God all the gifts of knowledge, wisdom and vision we are given through every “base.”

Obviously, what I’ve said so far is a somewhat superficial idea about the complexity of thinking. It is mainly on a rational level. Lately I have thought I should be considering how to run the bases like an organism that is more than a brain. We listen and learn with our emotions and our new spiritual instincts as well as our minds. So “running the bases” should reflect how we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

The creation – I need to consider how I work as the creature I am. I am a peculiar creation with a way about me that is natural for me. I should honor that and live out of my new self with confidence.

The Bible – Reading the Bible is not just about understanding concepts. The Bible leads us to the basic disciplines of meditation and prayer. I need a collection of disciplines that help my inner being conform to the revelation I read or am taught, so I am saturated with the truth and love that is revealed. I am doing the word, not just hearing it. I am responding to God’s word to me, obeying, developing not just collecting thoughts.

The Body – My place in the body is elemental to my knowledge of God. Here I receive spiritual direction from caring people who know me. Here I test out my gifts and prove my value. From here I launch into mission. In the process of building, I am built. There is no ultimate knowledge outside God’s family.

The Spirit – I have an entire, spiritual side to me that is being discovered. God may lead me through new impulses, through visions. My dreams may come to have deeper meaning. I may receive words of prophecy, even the ability to heal. My daily experience of life has changed, so that everything has meaning. I can learn from every moment, every person, every discourse.

I put out this very basic thinking to encourage anyone who is listening to run the bases a few times today at various levels. Almost any subject can benefit from some Spirit-to-spirit mentalizing: What should I do about my marriage? How should I enter into the meeting at work today? How is God responding to the fear I am feeling? What should I do next?

God bless you as you do some spiritual huffing and puffing around the diamond.

[For a nice treatment of a lot of this, pick up Wilkie and Noreen Au’s The Discerning Heart]