“We are at risk when we are awake, when we are woke, when we work for racial and social justice, and when we align ourselves with Jesus. We are at risk when we pose a threat to the status quo by disrupting the myth of white supremacy. We are at risk when we challenge the empire, because the empire will strike back…Being awake through a great revolution and racial reckoning bears risk…
If Jesus has woke us up and called us, then Jesus will sustain us and empower us when folks try to kill our commitment, when the naysayers challenge our sincerity or intellect, or even when racial justice work itself becomes exhausting and overwhelming. The dead bones of prophetic justice still contain life-giving power. Where there is death, Jesus breathes life. Where there is risk, Jesus offer holy resolve.”
Chapter 1, The Risk of Being Woke: Sermonic Reflections for Activists by Curtiss Paul DeYoung
The season of Lent offers us the opportunity to take stock of our spiritual lives and practices, and to deepen our connection and commitment to the liberating path of Jesus. Modeled after Jesus’ 40 days of desert dreaming at the beginning of his ministry, Lent invites us to be lovingly accountable to God’s vision of justice and compassion and awakened to the places where that vision is being challenged and suppressed, even as we seek spiritual nourishment for this calling as movement-makers. On this journey toward rising up, Lent reminds us that we are called to “stay woke.”
If Jesus’ time in the desert teaches us anything, perhaps it is that there are risks to this heart-opening, mind-expanding, gut-wrenching, new life-awakening path of liberation. And we need those angels, those messengers and journey companions, who will meet us along the way, bearing comfort and strength. This Lent, Join the Movement is inviting us to turn toward one such journey companion: Curtiss Paul DeYoung’s new book The Risk of Being Woke: Sermonic Reflections for Activists. Rooted in the activism that emerged following George Floyd’s murder, this book offers biblical reflections to “nurture and nudge us as we encounter risks in the midst of the journey” (xvii). It’s three sections call us to action, to community and to root deeply in a relationship with God, offering each of us the opportuity to take stock, deepen our commitment, and find sustenance for the work of racial justice ahead.
We enter this season surrounded by the violence and death of the war in Israel and Palestine. As we remember and are guided by the rising up journey of Jesus through life-denying occupation and violence in his own Palestinian context, we must also recognize that we undertake our Lenten journey in today’s context of the ongoing systemic killing of people in Gaza (over 10,000 children in the first 100 days) and the decades long apartheid conditions in all of Palestine. Our racial justice work this Lent – our loving accountability to God’s vision of justice and compassion – requires that we remain awake to the truth so eloquently put by Fannie Lou Hamer: nobody’s free until everybody’s free. So in this season, we explore the inextricable links between the Movement for Black Lives and Palestinian liberation as a Lent practice of prophetic action, beloved community and spiritual nourishment. We hope you’ll join us on this rising up journey and reconnect and recommit to join the movement toward racial justice!
Rev. Dr. Curtiss Paul DeYoung, a noted racial justice academic, activist, and author, is the Co-CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches. He also served as the Executive Director of Community Renewal Society in Chicago and Professor of Reconciliation Studies at Bethel University in St. Paul MN. DeYoung earned a Doctor of Education from the University of St. Thomas (MN) and a Master of Divinity from Howard University School of Theology (Washington, DC); is an ordained minster in the Church of God (Anderson); and has previously written and edited 12 books.
Read more from Dr. DeYoung: