America is at a turning point.
We live in an increasingly polarized culture where both religion and politics appear to be motivated more by power and greed rather than the good of society. The song “Canticle of the Turning” written by Rory Cooney in 1990 could not be more timely. Below is an excerpt that appears in our new book The World is About to Turn: Mending a Nation’s Broken Faith which will be published by Chalice Press in Fall 2020.
“Though I am small, my God, my all, you work great things in me,
And your mercy will last from the depths of the past to the end of the age to be.
Your very name puts the proud to shame, and to those who would for you yearn,
You will show your might, put the strong to flight, for the world is about to turn.
My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,
And the world is about to turn…
From the halls of pow’r to the fortress tow’r, not a stone will be left on stone.
Let the king beware for your justice tears ev’ry tyrant from his throne.
The hungry poor shall weep no more, for the food they earn;
There are tables spread, ev’ry mouth be fed, for the world is about to turn…”
Based on the “Song of Mary,” known as the Magnificat in Matthew, this popular hymn suggests that one day the tables will be turned and God will lift the fortunes of the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed. Both Jewish and Christian scripture promise there will be a day of reckoning for those who use their positions of wealth and power to further their own ambitions at the expense of justice and the common good.
Isaiah warns the religious of his day that their fortunes are about to change. “The Lord said: Because these people draw near with their mouths and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their worship of me is a human commandment learned by rote; so I will again do amazing things with this people, shocking and amazing. The wisdom of their wise shall perish…You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay? Shall the thing made say of its maker, ‘He did not make me’; or the things formed say of the one who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’?” (Isaiah 29:13-16) Here the prophet suggests that people are using God or religion to accomplish their own ends; they have forgotten that they are the ones who serve the Creator and not the other way around.
Likewise, Jesus in the Sermon of the Mount, dares to predict a new reality to be ushered in by the reign of God. The mighty will fall and the lowly will be raised up and blessed. Consider these familiar words of hope:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and third for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3-10)
So is the world about to turn?
We are at a critical tipping point in American life where some wonder if our democracy and culture of decency will survive. Can we restore a nation’s broken faith? Can we somehow find a way forward based on the common values of compassion, justice, truth, mutual respect, and love? My co-author, Paul Ingram, and I believe it is possible and so have provided a guidebook to a new future that we hope will be helpful to people of many faith traditions. Watch for more blogs to come as we begin this important journey together.