Today’s conference started with a good dose of gratitude. After a fitful sleep in a hostel with paper-thin walls and a half-hour detour on my walk to the conference (I confused 7th Avenue and 7th Street), I graciously caught the second half of Lynne Twist‘s “Generating Generosity to Heal the World,” which addressed the scarcity mindset of contemporary consumerist culture and how adopting a mindset of sufficiency is its antidote. By the end of the session, during which I shared a personal gratitude list with my seatmate, any momentary stress I’d felt from the morning had passed.
Lynne addressed the three toxic myths of scarcity thinking, which apply not only to financial resources, but time, energy, love, and, ultimately, self-worth:
- There isn’t enough. There isn’t enough food to go around. There isn’t enough money in my bank account. There isn’t enough time in the day. I’m not enough; I can’t get everything done, or spend enough time with my family, or do enough to justify my existence.
- More is better. More food in my portions. More money in my bank account. More stuff in my house. More gadgets. More work. More busyness. More friends. More sex. More consumption. More credit. More debt.
- That’s just the way it is. Capitalism is here to stay. We live in a money-based economy. It’s normal to hold onto things, save them for later, put them in boxes that gather dust. I have to work at this job I hate to make the money I need to support the family I’m too exhausted and unfulfilled to be present with.
She went on to speak of a new paradigm of sufficiency thinking, which is different than the abundance thinking that has become popular in self-help movements in recent years. She drew on ideas from Buckminster Fuller, one of her teachers, and asserted that:
Sufficiency is being met by the Universe. Sufficiency is the exquisite distinction of “enough” — not abundance [which is excess].
She closed with a poem by a Sufi teacher (whose name I didn’t catch), which ended,
“I got nothing I wanted, and everything I needed.”
You can watch Lynne’s related TEDx talk here.
Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews spoke about what he called “prophetic imagination” in his talk, “Imagination + Organizing = Healing.” His thesis: “Organizing that is fueled by a hope-filled imagination is essential in building a movement for racial and economic justice and healing.” He used Walter Brueggemann’s definition of imagine: “To utter, entertain, describe, and construe a world other than the one that is manifest in front of us.” Prophetic imagination — the ability to envision a different future — is essential if we are to break the dominant narrative that power rests outside of the self and community, that there must always be an other, and that we must be in conflict with that other because of the scarcity mindset Lynne described.
In the afternoon, Rev. Dr. Miguel De La Torre, of whom I’m becoming quite the fan boy (for his fabulous bow ties as much as his badass theology – and yes, those words can and should go together) shared how he came to decolonize his understanding of Jesus in a talk called “The Political Jesus: Reading the Bible with an Accent.” He described himself as a young man who, after being racially profiled by a police officer, thought to himself, “I’m glad the police are doing their jobs”:
My mind was so colonized… that I saw my body through other people’s eyes.
…To decolonize my mind, I have to let go of the Jesus of the colonizers.
To do this, he began to read about Jesús, instead of Jesus. In his words,
To read about Jesús becomes an act of political rebellion… because Jesús himself was a colonized man [under Rome].
He went on to quote 20 New Testament versus that show Jesús as a man who was born homeless and in poverty; became an undocumented immigrant in Egypt, where he was surely taunted and othered for his accent and ethnic difference; was called to minister to the marginalized because he dwelled among them; and was not afraid to stand up to power and neo-liberalism, to reinterpret Scripture, or to admit when he was wrong and change his point of view. I’ll be unpacking this set of ideas for a while, so I’ll table this talk for further discussion.
Finally, Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis of Middle Collegiate Church and Anurag Gupta, founder of BE MORE, presented “Healing the Divide: Acting for Racial Justice and Equality.” Anurag did an amazing job of explaining the difference between racism and unconscious bias, and argued (convincingly) that what we tend to identify as the former in today’s world is usually, in fact, the latter. He explained the Racial Empathy Gap (REG) and how it “explains disparities in everything.” I can’t possibly reduce his synopsis of the 300-year-old concept of race (and yes, it is only that old) to a blurb in a blog, but suffice to say, I had a paradigm shift. I also intend to research this further, so stay tuned for further thoughts and reflections. In the meantime, do yourself a favor and watch this video on the need to be intentional about creating multicultural, multiracial spaces in worship and beyond:
Thank you and goodnight! I’m very excited to be sleeping on a quiet couch tonight instead of that noisy hostel…