Commitments Large and Small

Thorn Coyle has a new essay on her blog titled “Theologies of Justice” where she discusses some of the Catholics she’s worked with and their deep commitment to social justice. She references Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated 30 years ago in El Salvador, as well as priests and nuns who have gone to jail in this country for protesting nuclear weapons.

Many of the comments on Thorn’s blog emphasize that Paganism doesn’t need martyrs – a position I’m inclined to agree with. A few martyrs can inspire a movement – a lot of martyrs can literally kill it. But the real question isn’t about martyrdom.

The real question is what inspires us to deep, sacrificial commitment?

The Catholics Thorn mentions didn’t wake up one morning and decide “I think stopping nuclear weapons is so important I have to do whatever it takes to end them, even if that means going to jail.” That level of commitment started years before, and it started small. It grew with practice, and caused the practitioners to order their lives in such a way that extreme action became a real possibility.

A few years, a few injuries and more than a few pounds ago, I used to run – I ran a marathon in 1999 and another in 2003. You don’t wake up one morning and decide to run a marathon. You train for it. Depending on your beginning level of fitness, you may train for a full year for one race. Running 26 miles is a challenge even for elite athletes, but if you train both hard and smart, almost anyone can do it.

At least with a marathon you’ve got a fixed date to plan for. Spiritual challenges tend to pop up with little advance notice. If you haven’t trained, if you haven’t practiced, you won’t be ready to respond as you’d like to respond.

What small steps are you taking now? Spiritual practice? Community involvement? Mindful living? Devotion to our goddesses, gods, and ancestors? Devotion to the Earth and to the whole Universe?

There is a need to articulate the theologies Thorn mentions, theologies that will inspire us to deep commitments. But the deep commitments will never be made if we don’t first make ordinary commitments right here right now.

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