Working for peace & justice through nonviolence since 1915.
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Strategic nonviolent movements are one of the most potent forces in the world. They oust dictators, change policy and realize the hopes of communities. For over 100 years FOR has strengthened the movements that reshape society through our work in Black Lives Matter, training in Nonviolent Civil Disobedience, training in Jail Support and Fiscal Sponsorship.
Relationships established through strong communities are the glue of our work. We ground ourselves in relationships of accountability and a spirituality that spans faith traditions. We help build communities that reflect our vision of Beloved Community through our Chapters, Networks & Affiliates, Interreligious Engagement & Understanding, Intentional Communities and Retreats for Movement Leaders & Activists.
We see nonviolence as a way of life, a moral commitment, and a social tool. As a branch of IFOR's international network we work with partners around the world to end militarism in all of its forms, working through the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, United Nations Advocacy, Demilitarizing Communities, Boycott Divestment and Sanctions, Anti-drone Initiatives and #GiveRefugeesRest.
We in the West live in a bipolar world, or, rather, in a world which supports a bi-polar way of looking at things. Something is either “this” or “that.” It is either “right” or “wrong,” “left” or “right,” “good” or evil.” Thinking that way makes us do a lot of things, one of which is to either think too much or too little of ourselves. Neither way is helpful or healthy.
It seems that the way the West thinks truncates our very spirits; it severs our very connection to the world and all that is in the world to strengthen, comfort and enlighten us. Our bi-polar way of thinking strangles our spiritual spinal cord, rendering us unable to move in spite of adversity.
We have in effect submitted to a cultural noose which ever seeks to curtail the movement of people toward harmony and spiritual power. In his book, Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America, author Patrick Phillips gave a description of what being lynched entailed. He writes that the “goal was to drop the prisoner for such a height that as the slipknot tightened and the body reached the end of the rope, forces multiplied enough to fracture the spine.”
The hideous description said that lynching was the most humane form of execution; “if all went according to plan; there would be instant and bloodless death.” But if there were slip-ups. There could be decapitation or strangulation or if the “force generated by the fall was too great, the spine not just be broken but completely severed.”
Forces around us seek to kill our spirits, to “fracture” our spiritual spines and we are susceptible to this kind of experience because we have succumbed to a bi-polar way of looking at the world. We present ourselves, too often, as separated from everyone and from the world that God gave us in which to flourish. We cannot see the beauty of God’s holiness and how we are connected to it because we are consumed with thinking about and seeing the worst parts of life and of life’s experiences.
We don’t live to be executed by life; we live in order to inhale life and all that is in it. Things are not “all” bad or “all good.” Things are just …things … meant for us to see, experience and grow from. If our spiritual spines are broken or severed, we have allowed life to lynch the life out of us, and in the end, we rob ourselves of the completeness that God wants us all to experience while we are yet alive, no matter who we are.
We would do better if we would and could train our spirits to search for the spirit of God, through which we find spiritual harmony and peace. We have been so trained to think in a bi-polar way that thinking with, breathing with God is nearly impossible for all of us.
If we could feel the connectedness of all that God created, our souls would rest. We would understand ourselves as not being bad or good, better or worse, but just …humans…allowed to be a part of the wholeness of creation for a short time. We might think more of the progression of life. We might watch the cycle of life of all that God created and understand that we, too, are in that cycle, and not fret. We might understand that “bad” isn’t bad, but is just life, and that maybe ,”bad” is “good” because from trouble (bad) always comes new life and new strength. (good)
Paradise, that of which we think as being the ultimate good …says Rebecca Solnit in her book Hope in the Dark, is not a place. It is a process, a journey, and it is stagnant. Our bipolar way of thinking, acting and moving makes us believe that we should aspire to…Paradise. But if we “get there,” we stagnate; the still waters of our dead souls become the home for misery-causing mosquitos and their endless supply of eggs, producing only more trouble.
Better that we avoid the ideal of Paradise and latch onto the reality of life, moving, causing us to move so effectively that the ever present noose, which would stop us cold, is left dangling, without a subject, unable to stop us. Better that we inhale our insufficiencies and know that the moving we continue to do will help us find the places where we are spiritually hungry and dry, rather than to sit in a space which will set us up for misery.
Better that we live in the spiritual “in-between,” that place where there is no real certainty but always the promise of there being something more, a place where there is always a comma, than to strive to be in a place where the period has been put at the end of the sentence, removing the possibility of moving, growing, and being.
Amen and amen.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is FOR’s Senior Organizer and Trainer. A former pastor, Dr. Smith is also a communications consultant, musician, and the founder and executive director of Crazy Faith Ministries, a non-profit dedicated to teaching the concept of faith as a spiritual force for social justice. She is the author of five books and a blogger for the Huffington Post. You can follow Dr. Smith on Twitter @cassady2euca .
Living in the Spiritual “In-Between” is one of her Tuesday Meditations.
We focus on building movements and peace networks by acting as a resource hub for activists, organizers and communities. Through our network of chapters and affiliates we connect movements at the grassroots level.
We provide workshops, educational resources, strategic consulting, and speaking engagements for diverse audiences. We run young adult leadership development programs and nonviolent direct action trainings for front line movements.
We're part of a global Fellowship growing a vibrant, creative, international and intergenerational peace and justice movement. More than 70,000 consituents in the US participate in our base-building work. Join us!
For over 100 years FOR members have led the strategic application of nonviolence to political and social change movements worldwide. We honor and count among our number Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King, Thich Nhat Hanh, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Muriel Lester, Sulak Sivaraksa, James Lawson, Jean and Hildegard Goss-Mayr, Andre and Magda Trocme and many more.
FOR recognizes individuals and organizations who make exceptional contributions to peace, justice and reconciliation. We honor unsung grassroots activists with the Local Hero Award, US justice leaders with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award, and international peacemakers with the Pfeffer Peace Award.
Since 1918 FOR has produced publications and a national journal to shape and reflect learning on the power of nonviolent social change. Since 1934 that award-winning journal has appeared under the title Fellowship, now issued twice yearly in summer and winter. FOR's national newsletter, Witness, is produced in spring and fall and provides highlights of campaigns and projects led by grassroots FOR chapters and affiliates.