All the world's religious and spiritual traditions acknowledge that people sometimes stray from the path of justice, kindness, and mercy. It's called sinning, missing the mark, succumbing to addictions and compulsions, or being under the influence of delusions, confusions, greed, anger, hatred, and other negative emotions.
For individuals, this can lead to personal pain and suffering. When governments exhibit these tendencies, whole communities become their victims, peace is prevented, and the earth is trashed.
How, then, do we respond when we see governments and organizations pursuing policies and committing acts that seriously harm people and the planet? Throughout history, the religions have offered an option: Resist!
The following quotes, prayers, readings, practices, and websites have been chosen to support you on the path of resistance. We welcome more suggestions from your own experiences.
"The biblical prophets were not hesitant to challenge the rulers of their day. That task generally found them in the desert (the usual location for the biblical prophets), rather than in the corridors of power, where the king's false 'court prophets' resided — the advisors who just told him what he wanted to hear. It's always safer for your soul to be arrested for protest outside the White House than to be invited in for breakfast. Having experienced both, I find the former perhaps less comfortable but much less dangerous. A little quote from Dorothy Day hangs on the wall of my study: 'Most of our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system.' Perhaps not very poetic, but the sentiment is a crucial reminder to anyone seeking social change."
- Jim Wallis in Faith Works
"Developing an ongoing commitment to justice, service, or tzedakah also can give us a sense of ourselves as powerful agents, able to change the world around us. Many of us look around at the problems in the world and feel ready to throw up our hands in defeat. But committing ourselves to ongoing justice work, together with a community of like-minded individuals, can restore hope in the possibility of change and in our own abilities to bring about this change."
- Jill Jacobs in Where Justice Dwells
"Any act of rebellion, any physical defiance of those who make war, of those who perpetrate corporate greed and are responsible for state crimes, anything that seeks to draw the good to the good, nourishes our souls and holds out the possibility that we can touch and transform the souls of others."
— Chris Hedges in Occupy Spirituality
"To offer a proposition: the state of resistance as a state of life itself. Since like it or not, this is the shape of things. We will not again know sweet normalcy in our lifetime. . . . Everything begins with that no, spoken with the heart's full energies, a suffering and prophetic word, a word issuing from the nature and direction of things. No. A time to tear and pull down and root out. A time for burning out the accumulated debris of history, the dark noisome corners of our shrines, a universal spring-cleaning. . . .
"The Bible has many powerful images to bring reality to our shocked attention once more. Exodus, metanoia, conversion, a new way for man. The mysterious, stormy, jealous, destructive, heartbreaking Other keeps propping the rotten fabric of human invention and arrangement. He will not indefinitely allow man the sweet slavery into which he sinks like a flaccid complaisant lover. No, every slavery is an invitation to another exodus; every exodus is guided by a dark promise."
— Daniel Berrigan in The Dark Night of Resistance
"What Howard Thurman and Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. teach us is that it is possible and necessary to steer anger into useful protest and authentic change."
— Matthew Fox in Occupy Spirituality
"If we try to fix a troubled world while we ourselves are filled with anger and confusion, we are of little value. Our ultimate contribution is who we are. We do not cover the truth of who we are with good intentions or the fight for causes. First we sit down on the [meditation] cushion and face ourselves. When we are ready, we can bring true ease of heart wherever we go."
— Brenda Shoshanna in Jewish Dharma
"As far as possible, we ought to live as we believe we should live in a liberated world, in the form of our own existence, with all the unavoidable contradictions and conflicts that result from this. . . . Such endeavor is by necessity condemned to fail and to meet opposition, yet there is no option but to work through this opposition to the bitter end. The most important form that this will take today is resistance."
— Theodor W. Adorno in The Silent Cry by Dorothee Soelle
Lois McAfee on Prayer as the Strength to Resist
"I am increasingly convinced that we will fully grasp the meaning of peacemaking only when we recognize not only that prayer is a form of resistance, but also that resistance is a form of prayer," wrote Henri J. M. Nouwen. In this excerpt from the book Resistance, Lois McAfee explains why both prayer and reflection are needed by those involved in active resistance to injustices.
A Prayer for Strength by Joyce Rupp
Addressed to God as Rock and Refuge, Stronghold of Souls, Unshakeable One, Provider of Purpose, Firm Foundation, Enduring Love, this prayer by Joyce Rupp covers a wide range of needs familiar to those involved in resistance: patience, hope, forgiveness, trust, and courage.
A Prayer for the Courage to Resist by Alison L. Boden
"We are in the world of empire but wish to be not of it." So, this prayer continues, we ask for the courage to resist "inner voices of fear and of selfishness that make us hoard what privilege we have." We also pray for the faith to "speak truth to power, be ministers of reconciliation, and builders of your beloved community."
A Prayer to Break Open Our Hearts by Mary Lou Kownacki
This prayer by Mary Lou Kownacki envisions that when our hearts are broken open, anger will pour through cleansing us of complacency, courage will pour through flooding out fear, and zeal will pour through filling us with passion to "break down the walls of injustice and build a land flowing with milk and honey." Frances Sheridan Goulart adds two suggestions for how to use the prayer in your spiritual practice.
Brian McLaren on Jesus as a Mentor of Resistance
In this excerpt from Everything Must Change, progressive Christian McLaren offers three metaphors which will be useful to those on the path of resistance. He calls for a divine peace insurgency to address the global security crisis, God's unterror movement to confront the global equity crisis, and a new global love economy to confront the global prosperity crisis.
Arundhati Roy on the Politics of Resistance
Indian activist Roy calls upon writers, poets, artists, and others to tell the stories that will help us understand what is really happening to people in the world today. "Cynics say that real life is a choice between the failed revolution and the shabby deal . . . But even they should know that there's no limit to just how shabby that shabby deal can be." We need a new kind of politics to deal with it because "the only thing worth globalizing is dissent."
Corrine McLaughlin on New World Values
The path of resistance is not just about what we oppose; it requires that we have a vision of what we support. In this excerpt from her book The Practical Visionary, McLaughlin identifies some of the values on which a "New World" could be based. They include spirit, community, whole systems thinking, multiculturalism, diversity, compassion, and accountability.
Ken Jones on Dealing with Enmity
One of the dangers facing any resistance movement is enmity, feelings of ill will, bitterness, resentment, and animosity toward those we are trying to get to change. Whether there be grounds for it or not, it doesn't help the cause. Buddhist teacher Jones reminds us of the warning in the Dhammapada: "Hate is not conquered by hate; hate is conquered by love." This excerpt suggests ways to deal with enmity, starting by looking within.
Pray with Your Actions by Jane Vennard
Find some activities this week that contribute to justice and peace. By turning your intention and attention to God, you can make any activity a prayer. We all have many opportunities to pray with our hands, feet, and voices.
Find Something to Do in the World by Megan McKenna
Catholic peace and justice advocate McKenna offers a litany of things you can do as individuals, families, and communities. Some of our favorites: Resist despair. If you feel like you can't do anything, stand there, pray and resist with your soul force. Live with invincible gentleness.
Help Planetary Evolution by Corinne McLaughlin and Gordon Davidson
The resistance movement against the dominant paradigm is built on positive endeavors. Here's a list of 15 ways you can help effect change. Some of our favorites: Ask new questions. Adopt a leader who is carrying the seeds of a vision for the new world – whether local, national, or international. Promote a left-right synthesis on issues.
See Every Act as Significant by Joseph Telushkin
One good act will tip the balance toward good in our own life and in the entire world. Conversely, one bad deed will tip the balance toward evil, said the Jewish sage Maimonides. Every act is of great significance. This is a truth to keep in mind as you traverse the path of resistance.
Be Like the Mountain by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, practicing equanimity — remaining even-tempered and centered in the midst of distressing events — is a valuable practice for resisters. You can feel deeply about something without being knocked off your center by it. And you will find through experience that addressing problems from a place of calm is more effective. Maintaining equanimity also enables you to remain open to possibilities, including God's grace.
Nourish Positive Emotions by Thich Nhat Hanh
Anyone who regularly faces up to the suffering in the world and seeks concrete ways to alleviate it, anyone who wants to stay on the path of resistance, needs to practice self-care. We are not invincible; we need companions on the path, and we need to offer ourselves and them opportunities to experience calm, joy, equanimity, openness, and happiness. This breath practice by the renowned peacemaker and resister Thich Nhat Hanh will help you create true peace.
With more than 43 million members worldwide, Avaaz empowers people from all walks of life to take action on pressing global, regional and national issues, from corruption and poverty to conflict and climate change. Their model of Internet organizing allows thousands of individual efforts, however small, to be rapidly combined into a powerful collective force. Visit the site to read about their latest campaigns and to sign petitions.
Visit this site to download "A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda." Former congressional staffers reveal the best practices for making Congress listen. You can also use the site to locate local groups (or register your own) that have agreed to resist Trump's agenda, focus on local, defensive congressional advocacy, and embrace progressive values.
Many of the issues that those on the path of resistance are working on directly affect the state of the planet. This website puts you in touch with those who are working on climate change – campaigns, projects, and actions led from the bottom-up by people in 188 countries.
Many religious groups are active on the path of resistance. Here are a few of them: Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Faithful America, Groundswell, The Network of Spiritual Progressives, Sojourners.