My heart is moved by all I cannot save: so much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those who age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.
U.U. feminist theologian, Sharon D. Welch describes “risk” as responsible action taken within the limits of bounded power. In its finer moments, religion has served us well in navigating our personal ethic in the face of insurmountable power. The Buddha rebelled against the caste system in accepting untouchables into his order, Jesus ministered to social outcasts and hung out with some questionable characters, and the Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him), upended the ruling class with his religious community. Each of these prophets lived with an ethic of risk, not necessarily for the sake of social justice, but because they were unshakable in their persistence to live life according to their personal ethics. They each lived and taught an ethic of risk in the face of fierce and violent powers.
Sharon D. Welch invites us, religious liberals, to operate from an “ethic of risk.” As Welch describes it an “ethic of risk” involves “naming the resources that evoke persistent defiance and resistance in the face of repeated defeat.” We have within our movement, our American civil rights past, and communities of resistance in the US resources that evoke persistent defiance in the face of hopeless situations.
Risk is an action taken without regard to our feelings of hope or hopelessness. It is defiance that is responsible to others and rooted in the words and deeds of prophetic persons. It is done in community and with “casting our lot” with those who live accordingly.
Let us name these resources together as we contemplate “risk.” Let us find communities of resistance to partner with in our faithful work. Let us take a risk in this month of March.