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How we can disrupt the logic of the dominant narrative

'In the era of Trump, it is more important than ever to see as we could not or would not see before — to understand and heed our call to resist,' writes the Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews.

A clergy member holds hands with protesters as they shut down a street in St. Louis on Nov. 23, 2014. Photo by Justin L. Stewart

(RNS) — After the 2014 death of Michael Brown, I had an awakening and began to reimagine what it means to resist, especially as a person of faith.

When you stare down into the belly of a police system that will use pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets, flash grenades, profanity and death threats against clergy and peaceful protesters, you begin to see things you could not – or would not – see before.

Most notably, you see that silence, respectability and dutiful adherence to religion will not protect you from an unjust criminal justice system.

However, we are co-creators with the Creator. We have agency and vocation (or power and a mandate) to cooperate with God in “tikkun olam,” the repair and healing of the world. And so, in the era of Trump, it is more important than ever to see as we could not or would not see before — to understand and heed our call to resist.

We are called to disrupt and confront injustice, to resist and tear down dehumanizing structures so that we can create new systems that honor our God-given dignity.

It is with a desire to answer that call that people of faith are taking to the streets in St. Louis, Charlottesville and Berkeley, fully awakening to injustice not only in our communities but in our own stories. We pray with our feet, recounting our own faith traditions – the stories of Esther, Deborah and Jesus – and leaning in on those who came before us. We are moved by a theology of resistance.

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It’s a theology that requires us to encounter the realities of the world around us, and to be willing to see that which we could not or would not see before, including state-sanctioned violence, poverty wages, food deserts, predatory lending, deportations and detentions.

In encountering the realities of the world and the impulses in ourselves, in relationships, in systems and structures, we can begin to change or disrupt the logic and dominant narrative that perpetuate injustice.

For me, on the streets in Ferguson, hearing the pain in the voices of the young people disrupted my own understanding of the church, forcing me to recognize how the church that I so loved had perpetuated the pain of those alongside whom I marched.

Disruption allows us the space to reimagine the world, to understand our roles as co-creators seeking to heal the world. Reimagining leads us to action, to resistance. It leads us into streets across the country in protest, and into the halls of power to speak the truth.

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After three days together of sharing our stories and our ideas on combating white supremacy, my fellow faith leaders and I found that the key in maintaining a sense of hope and agency is to look above and beyond: to keep mobilizing from the pulpit to the streets, to keep campaigning, to keep working with our leaders and to remain committed to equality.

The role of institutions and people of goodwill is to not just talk about hope, but to be hope and faith in action. For people of faith, in a time such as this, our call to resist injustice and to work so that dignity, abundance and belonging are at the center of how people experience public life has never been more important.

(The Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews is the convener of the Prophetic Resistance Summit in Indianapolis in October, and the director of clergy organizing for PICO National Network, the largest grass-roots faith-based organizing network in the country. The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)