No Religion without a Power Analysis.
-- No Political Action without Spirit.
"Are you a faith-based organization?"
Yes and no. The answer is No in the sense that we as a group adhere to and are accountable to a single creed. But the answer is Yes when we think about our faith in the power of relentless nonviolent resistance to change the world. Faith in the capacity of love to heal oppression. Faith in a future that we have not yet experienced; Faith in the ability of everyone to participate in creating justice, even our adversaries.
"How does Soulforce incorporate Spirit?"
Spirit, belief, soul, hope, the divine, religious devotion. These are all things that are very alive within members' experiences of Soulforce. Not least because many of our members, staff, board, and partners have a personal practice around faith including Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, and beyond.
Many also find that our style of activism is work of the soul because of our nonviolent practice and the interpersonal, authentic, and principle-driven nature of our work.
And just as many people hold no personal spiritual or religious practice but are fed by Soulforce's process of community healing and collaboration.
The majority of our members, regardless of personal belief or practice, recognize the importance of reckoning with weaponized religion in order to achieve greater justice.
In all that we address - gender, sexuality, race, class and more - the body is a recurring theme. Many of these oppressions live out their devastation on the body. Therefore, our liberation must corporeal.
We hold generational trauma and spiritual violence in embodied ways. At Soulforce, believing that personal healing and community transformation are essential, we think singing and dancing and art and reclamation of the spirit is foundation to our work for liberation.
And for many, gender and sex and the body are spiritual experiences. To live into a world that liberates the body is naturally a spiritual or religious endeavor for people who express themselves in this language.
"Are you against religion?"
Never. We hold space for people of all traditions or those without them. Soulforce is in love with the idea that all beliefs and ways of knowing become conduits for justice in the world.
And with that passion, we must necessarily engage deeply religious, or at least politically creedal, spaces where we do sacred translational work of the world we want to live in, how we understand theology, and the framework of our opposition.
At our heart, we are an organization that recognizes the power of religion to shape culture, politics, finances, and social well-being, particularly for marginalized people. We are ever-open to the possibility of spirit running through our activism and calling forth the deep and complex parts of ourselves to this work.
The name Soulforce is the English translation of the word Satygraha, meaning life-force or truth-force, and we chose this name intentionally to signify both the long history of nonviolence that we join and pay deference to as well as to remind ourselves of what is really at stake.
"Do You Have a Particular Theology?"
As mentioned, Soulforce is a diverse bunch. Regardless of where or whether you are on a faith journey, you will find good company and shared experiences among board, staff, and members.
As an organization, we are not scripturally bound, We do have, however, some very strong opinions about theology and clear hope for how religion manifests as practices and policies within families, institutions, and governments.
First, we only have time for theology that unequivocally embraces the celebration of and justice for all sexes, orientations, and gender identities and expressions where consent, authenticity, and personal dignity are affirmed.
Any theology that tries to erase any part of the beautiful rainbow of our humanity is not based in justice, and we won't condone it.
Second, we believe that all theology should start at the margins where compassion and love are most needed. Much like our practice of nonviolence, we define our principles by being solidarity with those most affected by oppression...which may, in fact, include us.
We often engage with people and religious leaders whose intolerant ideologies cause them to do acrobatics of theology to soften the impact of the oppression they perpetuate. Perhaps there is a gnawing of conscience when the real consequences of their theology is in front of them. Theology and justice are inseparable, and it shouldn't require acrobatics to marry the two.
A theology struggles to find a justification for justice and kindness is no kind of divinity we can get behind. We start at love, compassion, and dignity and build from there.
Third, we witness theology warped to serve the aims of capitalism, white supremacy, environmental damage, and patriarchy every day. These systems of violence are wrapped in theological language and embedded in the warp and woof of churches.
This has been happening for so long, it's hard to say whether that's just one more form of religion we have in this country. The point is, theology that serves oppression is not kind of theology we can get behind.
"But Do You Only Do Christian Work?"
We work in religious spaces in two ways.
The first is very local, intimate, and interpersonal level of seeking healing, wholeness, and reconciliation among people. Soulforce provides skills, scriptural education, models of activism, and a heart for that kind of personal and community transformation for anyone and everyone regardless of personal belief.
That reconciliatory work is the stuff of human emotions, relationships, and creating common cause for justice that transcends doctrine. We are down for that work in any space or faith context where people would like to collaborate, though we are bound by the skills, knowledge and agency we have among staff and volunteers at any given time.
In conscious consideration of attending to the areas and needs that get less attention or resources from a mainstream movement, we are focusing on building up partnerships and providing resources mostly to communities of color.
The other religious space we work in is the result of a power analysis and is more political on the surface. What we mean by "power analysis" is we have to do a smart, equitable calculation of who holds the most power and access to do the most harm in this country with the tools of weaponized religion. The answer to that math is the Christian Right Wing or Christian fundamentalists.
The work in this second realm is where we engage organizations, foundations, mega-churches, educational institutions, pastors who are larger than life, and religious movements with global aims. While it is more institutional, it is still the interpersonal, heart-to-heart work of Soulforce nonviolence.
That's actually the secret sauce of what we do. We examine, research, and move through the institutions and political establishments that uptake religion as a tool and a weapon, but our style of activism still brings it down to the very personal, emotional, and spiritual place where there is human accountability.