By: The Join the Movement Toward Racial Justice Team
“Without new visions, we don’t know what to build, only what to knock down. We not only end up confused, rudderless, and cynical, but we forget that making a revolution is not a series of clever maneuvers and tactics, but a process that can and must transform us.” – Robin D.G. Kelley
One of the biggest challenges in the work of abolition revolves around the difficulty so many of us have in imagining a society without policing and prisons. In reality, many of us have relied on alternatives to policing and prisons locally for generations. But the connections between policing and safety, between prisons and justice are so strong, that we often resist the idea that we could exist as a safe and just, secure and accountable society without them. How could we possible appropriately address instances of grievous harm without these systems and structures? And aren’t we being naïve to think we could?
Perhaps this stuck-ness is akin to what John and his disciples were experiencing when he sent his message to Jesus in this gospel passage. We can imagine them shaped by a lifetime of hoping and waiting, planning and preparing, for the Promised One to come. Perhaps they had been disappointed in the past by prophets who proved limited or even deceptive. Perhaps they had grown so used to struggling to make some headway toward justice but then only seeing partial victories and more waiting, that they couldn’t imagine a promised fulfilled. Perhaps they, too, were resisting abolition dreams because they seemed impossible, unrealistic, utopian, unwise.
To these weary and waiting ones, Jesus offers a vision of a new world characterized by restoration and repair. And he shows them how it is already becoming real in their midst. He knows that in these practices of restoration and repair, John and the disciples will recognize the vision of shalom associated with the Promised One. And he trusts that, despite their misgivings, their fears, their weariness, once they recognize the vision, they will lean into this imagination and be empowered to join in this reparatory work.
As we engage in the restorative and reparatory work of abolition, how might we follow Jesus’ example and offer our communities real and concrete visions of a new world? Where do you witness glimpses of this freedom becoming real in our midst and how can you share those with others? How can we grow our imaginations beyond our doubts, weariness and cynicism? Perhaps then we, like John and his disciples, will throw our whole selves behind creating this new world every day.
If the abolition of slavery began
as a vision of hands and feet without shackles,
then we pray for this vision.
If the shutdown of internment camps began
as the imagination of a world without barbed wire,
then we pray for this imagination.
If the new realm of God begins
as a dream of repair and restoration,
then we pray for this dream.
If Love-made-flesh and dwelling among us begins
as our waiting and preparing, our longing and hoping
then we pray, O Come Emmanuel. Amen.
with homage to Martín Espada’s poem, “Imagine the Angels of Bread.”
Artwork: “Repair” by Yohana Junker (discover more at: https://www.yohanajunker.com/)
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