Activists' secret weapon? Drawing from the theological well

Spirited Thinking | Nov. 13, 2012

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Elections may come and go, but apparently social activists endure, according to Emory's Jennifer Ayres in her new book, "Waiting for a Glacier to Move: Practicing Social Witness."

Ayers, an associate professor of religious education in Emory's Candler School of Theology, noticed many activists who are affiliated with a faith tradition continue their work for decades and remain just as committed as they were in their 20s.

She set out to discover why those committed to a cause were so tireless and resilient, even with so few large so-called successes. Ayres discovered that "social witness over time is strengthened by a deep connection to the theological wells that fund our interactions in the public sphere."

One person she interviewed said "worship is absolutely essential" to his work in social activism, in that he was able to "continually rediscover the meaning of what it is we are doing."

Ayres agrees. "Our social witness can only be strengthened by a continued return to the practice of theological reflection," she says, "so that we're thinking about the meaning of our action, even when we're not politically successful."

Listen to Ayres discuss the book and hear an excerpt, part of Emory Report's Book|Report series.