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Engaged Swedenborgianism

Social Justice Committee

By Dru Johnson

To be a human being today, a person must be charity embodied (Emanuel Swedenborg, Charity §93).

Charity is to be found in the internal person and the sign of it in the external (Emanuel Swedenborg, Charity §178).

I had never encountered the phrase “engaged spirituality” until I took my first class at seminary, co-taught by Rev. Dr. Jim Lawrence (our now denominational President) and Rev. “Mz. Ann” Jefferson. I can say that for multiple reasons this class changed my life. For one, meeting Dr. Lawrence was a vital step on the road to becoming a Swedenborgian, and another was meeting the marvelous Mz. Ann. Both of them live out their faith in so very inspiring, thoughtful, and empowering ways. A third reason was our textbook, Engaged Spirituality: Ten Lives of Contemplation and Action by Janet Parachin. I heartily recommend this slender book with its inspiring short biographies and summaries of practices and thinking from ten giants of being and doing spiritual being and doing. 

One of those giants was Thich Nhat Hanh (1926–2022)—whose name means “one action” in Vietnamese—the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, peace practitioner and teacher, nominated by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize. He coined the terms “engaged spirituality” and “engaged Buddhism.” I would like to propose a new spirituality—one of “engaged Swedenborgianism.” As Rev. Dr. Lawrence put it “…Swedenborg’s legendary engaged spirituality of usefulness certainly applies toward facilitating goodness in this larger degree of our neighbor, and that means social justice work.

Read the full issue of the January/February 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.”