ISBN ### My Legs Are Praying

ISBN 978-0-8070-7726-9

Eboo Patel has a long history of volunteering with the Catholic Worker movement. He writes that his experiences with the Catholic Worker communes scattered across the country significantly shaped his world view and desire to start the Interfaith Youth Council. On the other hand, he also offers this criticism in Acts of Faith: "Why was so much done in remedying social evils instead of avoiding them in the first place? Where were the saints to try to change the social order, not just to minister to the slaves but to do away with slavery?" I constantly teach this model of social change to the students I work with: "It's great that you're serving sandwiches at the soup kitchen. We need that, but you should also be asking why we have shelters in the first place. What will you do about the answer to that question?"

As I read Eboo's thoughts I was reminded of one of my favorite allegories, a popular yarn spun throughout the activist community. To paraphrase: A community living near the river notices a body floating down the stream. They are concerned and jump in the river to save this man. They get him out of the stream and rush him to the hospital. A couple days pass and another body floats by the community. Again, they are concerned and retrieve the body from the water and rush her to the hospital. The very next day, two bodies float past and they also take them to the hospital. Everyone then gathers for a community meeting. It is decided that they need to build a hospital closer to the river to meet the need of the growing number of bodies floating down the stream. In the following days the number of bodies floating past their community grows and grows and the hospital is very busy trying to take care of these people. A few weeks pass and a village elder returns to the community from a long journey. She asks about the new hospital and the mysterious bodies. After the community relays the story of the past few weeks, the village elder pauses before calmly replying, "Why has no one gone up the stream to see where the bodies are coming from?"

That specific philosophy of systemic social justice, in combination with my faith, motivates me to action. My political/social actions are ironically many times marginalized by my faith community. I'll admit that one reason I enjoyed reading Acts of Faith was because it validates my actions and reinvigorates my commitment. Patel writes, "The tradition you were born into is your home, but as Gandhi once wrote, it should be a home with the window open so that the winds of other traditions can blow through and bring their unique oxygen." Through my open windows blows Dorothy Day, well-known for her role in the Catholic Worker movement. She wrote in her diary: "I pray that God will give me a chance to pray to Him the way I like to pray to him. If I pray by making soup and serving soup, I feel I'm praying by doing." And Abraham Joshua Herschel, a Rabbi who worked closely with Martin Luther King, Jr. on the cause of equality and civil rights, said while marching with King in Selma, "I felt like my legs were praying."

I pray by doing. My legs are praying. This is, to me, the heart of religion. It is by no means exclusive to religion or religious people (far from it actually), but in speaking of my own personal faith, this concept of belief-put-into-action is key. The key. Jesus As Radical Hippie Restoring Justice To The Social Order is neither a new concept nor an unfamiliar archetype. (Godspell, anyone? We have the Baby Boomers to thank for that musical interpretation of the life and times).

Jesus' brother James writes, "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction..." (James 1:27, KJV). He continues, "What doth it profit though a man say he have faith and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, 'Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled...' notwithstanding ye gave them not those things which are needful to the body: What doth it profit? Even so faith, if it have not works, is dead, being alone..." (James 2:14-17, KJV). In other words, you can talk a powerful talk but if you don't back it up with a powerful walk...what does it profit? What does it matter? Nothing.

Patel writes, "What is a community but a group of people who have some claim over you, and what is a tradition but a set of stories and principles and rules handed down over hundreds or thousands of years that each new generation has to wrestle with." A tradition that I have to wrestle with? The fact that modern LDS culture (culture = individual members) seemingly ignores our doctrinal call to a political brand of social justice. There is little doubt that humanitarian service plays a huge role in the organization of the LDS church, but I often wonder if members assume "All is well in Zion" and simply retrieve bodies from the river as they float by.

An Afternoon with Grandma

ISBN ### Doctrine vs. Culture