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Engaged Swedenborgianism and Healing from Societal Racism

Social Justice Committee

By Dru Johnson

“They who do not explore the evils of their thought and will, cannot do the work of repentance” (Emanuel Swedenborg, The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine §12).

“The record is there for all to read. It resounds all over the world. It might as well be written in the sky. One wishes that Americans, white Americans, would read, for their own sakes, this record and stop defending themselves against it. Only then will they be enabled to change their lives. The fact that they have not yet been able to do this—to face their history to change their lives—hideously menaces this country. Indeed, it menaces the entire world” (James Baldwin, The White Man’s Guilt 1965).

Since the June 2020 vicious murder of George Floyd, there are many U.S. polls showing that Baldwin’s wish is coming to pass, at long last.  In fact many polls show that the U.S. has clarified its collective mind on its own racism.  An April 2023 NBC News poll showed that 59% of people in the U.S. “think America is racist.”  And does it even need to be said anymore that changing individual minds is important, but not enough? People really seem to be finally recognizing this fact.  In the same poll a full 70% agreed that “Our country needs to do more to increase social justice.”  Since our denomination is overwhelmingly European-American, progressive, and coaxed by Swedenborg to engage in the difficult work of self-examination, I believe we have a sacred opportunity to lead the way among European-Americans towards increasing social justice in the U.S. Self-examination is never easy, but if we actually start practicing what we preach, embarking on our own anti-racism journeys, we are in a collective position to have a positive impact far greater than our small numbers would suggest.  Swedenborg’s perspective on how humans can go through the inner processes of first repentance, then reformation and finally regeneration is a message that applies not just to individuals, but to institutions and societies as well, and a message our society needs right now to get to where we need to get—a place of reconciliation.  If you would like to join in with this vital work, Swedenborgians In Action Against Racism (SAAR) has resources to help, including an excellent periodic newsletter.  Please go to the website to connect with us.  

Read the full issue of the June 2023 Messenger

Meet Dru Johnson

Dru Johnson (they/them) is a graduate of Pacific School of Religion and The Center for Swedenborgian Studies in Berkeley, California. Dru was especially excited to hear his mentor, Rev. Dr. Jim Lawrence, use the phrase “Engaged Swedenborgianism.”