See, Judge, Act is a primary tool for conducting social analysis. The call for local congregations to understand and participate in the economics of their community is the important work ENEJ hopes people of faith will reckon with. For example when congregations practice charity by responding to particular needs in their communities are there some who will ask “Why?” Why are we needing to feed people? What are the systemic injustices that are causing people to lack adequate resources like food, housing, employment, etc.
Pope Francis’ book Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future uses the tools of social analysis as the framework for his writing. In three chapters: A Time to See; A Time to Choose; A Time to Act, he lays out this dynamic process incorporating the Bible and Tradition to aid the reader into this praxis. In the prologue he defines the choice between keeping our financial systems intact or recovering our human systems. This is clearly written as a challenge to our current economic systems and policies which are creating and fostering poverty as well as bringing destruction to earth’s eco-systems.
“God wants to bring forth the world with us as partners...” Using the passage from Isaiah 1:18-20 he invites us into a conversation with God about whether we are willing to listen or perish by the sword. Are we willing to suspend our perceived world view and SEE? The process he suggests is to go to the margins, to the edges of our existence and ask ourselves what is being asked of us at this time. If you are struck by what you see then you will need to discern and explore how you will choose to act. The process asks us to cultivate dialogue with our community, mutual listening and reflecting in conversation. He argues that when we decide to act we are recovering our sense of belonging, “living the fruit of a shared integrating principle.”
The Pope is challenging the contemporary myth of human self-sufficiency. Through this process he calls us to abandon the self-defeating isolation of individualism. He wants the church to confront the fallacy of individualism as the organizing principle of society and hold up a new organizing principle, one that is biblically centered. We are a people who know we need each other, who have responsibility to others, and to the creation. We are a people called to work for the common good, for all of God’s children. We are invited to reimagine the world and to transform our neighbor’s suffering.
ENEJ is inviting our provincial networks and local Dioceses and congregations to consider reading and discussing this book and the implications for our local ministries. If you are interested please let us know. We are interested in how the tools of social analysis are put to work in your ministries as we seek to address the systemic injustices we see, choose to address and the actions we are taking. In the section on action the Pope is encouraging all of his congregations to participate and partner with local movements and community organizations that are doing this work—something we as Episcopalians should also consider as a constructive way to create economic systems that give access to all the basic needs of “land, lodging and labor.”
Rev. Geoff Curtiss, Chair of the Episcopal Network for Economic Justice