Realign - the “RE” effect for justice and peace

by Mark Beach last modified 19 September 2019 06:10 PM

19 September 2019

A dear friend of mine has written a book titled Re-encounters, views from the field. She is primarily a designer but has now added writing to her repertoire.

Each chapter offers a brief reflection on “Re” words such as rebound, rebuild, re-enter, repress, resurface, repair, relocate, recycle, and so on.  There are 28 “Re” words in all, each with reflections from a variety of individuals, a farmer, teacher, nurse, mechanic, homemaker, hairdresser, librarian and even a sister from the Order of Saint Benedict.

What caught my fascination about this book was how each story reflected stages in life, whether they are stages we go through individually, or how we might contribute to other’s lives in moving them through stages. Thus, the “Re” effect. Rebuilding, retooling, resurfacing, regenerating, renewing, rebirthing.

Early in the book, an auto mechanic talks about the realignment necessary when a vehicle has new tires. He talks of how he completed the realignment of a customer’s car and then watched as the customer clipped the curb exiting from the garage, only to turn around and return immediately for another realignment.

When I think of both communications rights, which I have written about previously, and more broadly about the pilgrimage of justice and peace, the word “realign” has emerged as a potent reminder of the work to be done if justice and peace are to permeate our lives, the church, local communities and national identities.

In 2008 there was hope for a realignment within the political, social and cultural landscape of America when Barak Obama was elected the first African-American president of the U.S.

At the time we were living in Switzerland and while we were able to watch this historic inauguration via the Internet, we knew we would miss the on-the-ground experience. By the time we returned to the U.S. in 2015, we had missed the Obama presidency almost entirely.

We learned quickly that we had missed a lot and the tide had changed dramatically. The realignment of the American heart and soul was falling in disarray. It’s as if Americans had put on new tires and as they drove away from the garage they clipped the curb. The problem is they have not seemed to returned to adjust the alignment, instead, driving on as if nothing happened.

Recently the current U.S. administration said the Bahamians who suffered through Hurricane Dorian, the most powerful Atlantic storm on record, are not welcome on American shores because there are “bad people” amongst them. So, we continue driving down the road with a strong pull on our tires to one side and then the other.

In the realignment that should result from a pilgrimage of justice and peace, perhaps it is more than the tires needing replacement, but the lower and upper control arms, the tie rods, steering rack, front struts and perhaps even the engine.

And, perhaps, the driver, as well. One who won’t clip the curb so soon after realignment and then not care.

Every time I have my car inspected I ask for rotating of the tires and the mechanics add a bit of realignment into the mix. When I drive home, I feel the difference.

My 16-old-son can now drive. He drives differently than I do and sometimes knows the rules of the road better than I do. But, it is his turn. I hand to him a vehicle with alignment completed. As he encounters the potholes, curbs, sudden turns, he will learn the importance of realignment. But he is in control. Not me.

The faces and voices of the long disenfranchised in American society and around the world remain diminished and in some cases criminalized after a period of blossoming, particularly here in the U.S.

If a pilgrimage of justice and peace offers no less than a temporary realignment then what comes next? The pilgrimage does not end, nor does the need to “realign”, to balance, to adjust for change and make a space for justice and peace to lead the way.

So too, is the pursuit of communications rights for all. The voices of the indigenous amidst the inferno of the Amazon call out for the fires to end, for their voices to be heard. The serious task to “realign” remains elusive.

The “RE” effect for justice and peace cannot be the “re” in “return" to what was. Instead the realign is to; rebound, rebuild, reconnect, reconsider, recount, recover, recycle, redirect, refresh, regroup, renew, repair, replace, replant, restore, rethink.

Listen to voices from the field.


The impressions, hopes and ideas expressed in this blog are the contributions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policies of the World Council of Churches.

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