Resistance

In The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance, Dorothee Soelle writes

after some initial hesitation, I decided upon the concept of “resistance” as my focal orientation. Later, perhaps, in a different time, it might be possible to write a book on “mysticism and revolution.” But for those who live in the transition to the third millennium of the common era, however “resistance” seems to be the formulation that is more accurate and closer to reality.

I find this helpful in thinking about the situation that we are in today. In other posts I have lamented about the helplessness I feel in the face of such suffering and conflict in the world. The pain experienced by the world’s people and other sentient beings is staggering. How are we to face this? What in the world can we do.

With this quote, I think Soelle is saying that complete, real, sweeping change is not within our reach right now. For now, it is not about revolution. The structures of domination are too strong, too solid. But, Soelle counsels us not to give up and to continue to resist. She writes

I do not want to be separated from those all over the world, who in seemingly hopeless situations practiced the madness of the No! from a different love of life. What I can do in the context of the rich world is minute and without risk in comparison with the great traditions of Résistance. The issue is not to venerate heroes but together to offer resistance, actively and deliberately in very diverse situations, against becoming habituated to death, something that is one of the spiritual foundations of the culture of the First World.

She calls us to continue to say No! even if it may not bring about the revolution we desire. When she writes about what she does being “without risk” I wonder, however, how much risk our resistance should involve. I have a feeling that my life is too comfortable. Too easy. Blogging or preaching or talking simply isn’t enough in the face of the suffering in the world. We must push ourselves, I must push myself, to take more risks. Marcella Althaus-Reid, a feminist/queer theologian reminds her readers over and over throughout her books that liberation theology (in the Latin American context of the 1970s and 1980s) was amazingly dangerous business. But, yet, priests and peasants and religious women and so many spoke the truth, offered resistance, at great risk to everything precious to them, including their lives. Theologies of liberation – theologies of resistance – must also be risky today. The world is not just because justice is not easy. There is not enough love in this world because love is not easy. If these were unrisky, easy things we would not be in such dire need of them.

Conclusion to myself (and readers)….
We must continue to say No! even if it will not change everything. Resistance is all we can do. And we must do it even if it is not easy. If it hurts. If it is frustrating or unfun. Justice and deep love are not easy, comfortable, risk-free endeavors. And we cannot do it alone – we need community, we need mindfulness, we need to be grounded. And this is where Soelle’s mysticism comes in. But that is for another post.

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3 Responses to Resistance

  1. Clyde Grubbshttp://justworld.typepad.com/perspectives/2006/07/the_gifts_and_g.html says:

    This is important, Elizabeth.

    I remember Dorothee Soelle, and she influenced me in so many ways. Thank you for recalling her in this post.

    I add my own reflections in People So Bold

  2. Charlie Talbert says:

    I know there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with this quote of Adrienne Rich, but here it is if not. I first heard it last April as words for extinguishing the chalice during our Holocaust Remembrance service:

    “My heart is moved by all I cannot save: So much has been destroyed. I have to cast my lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.”

    Words like these help me in moments of discouragement, but overall I’m optimistic about the arc of history bending towards justice. Moral progress may be inevitable, but since its timetable isn’t, each of us has an active role to play in speeding it up.

    This may seem like a simplistic sentiment, especially in comparison to the intellectual quality of the piece by Dorothee Soelle that you quote. Admittedly I don’t understand it entirely (I’m an accountant), but it does seem a little pessimistic. We do need to say No sometimes. Saying Yes can bring change, too.

  3. UU Soul says:

    Thanks for bringing this book to my attention. I’m definitely adding it to my reading list.

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