I was pretty jazzed when I heard Eastern was launching a campaign called “Wake Up the World”. We are living in powerful times; from Ferguson to Iraq, history is being written. The world is plagued by violence and injustice, and in Philly alone we have almost one homicide a day. The deep inequity between rich and poor is unpredented, with less than 100 people now owning the same wealth as half the world (3.5 billion). We have the largest prison buildup in history, over 2 million folks in jail –1 in 3 young black men. We need to be awake so we don’t miss what God is up to.
The words of Jesus are as relevant in our world today as they were 2000 years ago. What we need right now are Christians who are convinced Jesus meant what he said. We need a movement of Christians who are awake and paying attention – who are reading the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other, wrestling with what it means to follow Jesus in today’s world.
When it comes to waking up the world we are going to need more than a slogan or a cliché. We need a revolution. And that is something that even the best marketing department can’t do. The administration can’t do it. You – the students — have to do it. Wake Up the World has to start with you.
In 2015, let’s consider creating a coalition of groups who can work together to pull off some campus-wide events, with the goal of waking up our society to contemporary issues. It would be a Justice Coalition of sorts. Of course, Tony Campolo and I are a little partial to the name “Red Letter Coalition” – if you like the ring of that.
Next, we should brainstorm some things we could do together on campus. Junior Morgan Bailey and senior Derrick Gregory have already initiated conversations with a wide variety of student leaders, campus groups, and administrators. They’ve come up with a great idea – hosting a Wake Up the World Conference in 2015. We could host workshops and conversations to stir up some creative actions around themes such as justice, poverty, suffering, sexual exploitation, racism, violence, etc.
As we think of some of the issues that could be addressed, here are a few to consider:
- “Wake up the World to Violence” – We could bring in RAW Tools, a group of metal-crafters who have taken the prophetic vision of “beating swords into plowshares” literally. They have offered to come to campus and teach blacksmithing and welding, and do a live weapons conversion, creating with you a piece of art made out of guns that could be permanently installed at Eastern. Additionally, we could call attention to the local issues of gun violence in Philadelphia, Chester, and Camden, displaying t-shirts on campus with the names of all the people killed in 2014.
- “Wake Up the World to the Death Penalty” — Philly is a hub for a lot of national death penalty work, with groups like Witness to Innocence, PA Abolitionists, and others. And of course, Eastern alum Bryan Stevenson (who Desmond Tutu called “America’s Mandela”) is working against the death penalty. We could host a conversation on the death penalty and restorative justice on campus. Many life-long activists like Sr. Helen Prejean believe that this is the generation that will abolish the death penalty.
- “Wake Up the World to Immigration” — Philadelphia’s New Sanctuary Movement is now getting national attention as it has created a faith-rooted movement of hospitality challenging immigration laws and deportation. Dozens of Philadelphia congregations joined together in announcing that they will challenge laws by offering hospitality. It would be amazing to have some of the pastors and families come to Eastern to tell their stories, and perhaps do a study of a book like Welcoming the Stranger.
- “Wake up the World to Drones” – just a few miles from Eastern, drone warfare technology is being designed, and Horsham, PA is one of 144 proposed new drone operating sites. There is a coalition of faith leaders concerned about this new form of warfare; Eastern could host a conversation on this cutting-edge justice issue. And we could show a documentary like “Wounds of Waziristan” that interviews victims of drone attacks. So while Liberty University is training drone operators, wouldn’t it be nice to see Eastern raising questions about the suffering so many have felt from drone attacks?
Hopefully these ideas get the pot bubbling a little bit. But while we continue to brainstorm, let’s start moving from ideas to action. Tony and I will start meeting with students who are interested in ideas like these, and we want to hear your ideas as well. If you like this concept of a Red Letter Coalition, we’ll start to make it happen. If you like this idea of a Wake Up the World Conference, tell us how you want to help out.
Finally, we can’t wake up the world until we wake up ourselves. We need to start at home. I think of Allison Cox‘s tremendous work to organize Housekeeping Appreciation Day and how over two hundred of you jumped on board. And this issue is still unfolding as a new contractor has come on campus, so stay alert, and gently raise questions about how Eastern is embodying the message we proclaim. Keep your eyes open for ways you can be more awake on campus. Gandhi was wise in saying that we need to “be the change we want to see in the world.” So as we consider all these ideas of ways we can wake up the world, let’s keep making sure we are awake – not just to what’s happening in Iraq or Nigeria, but also in Norristown or Kensington… and even right here on campus. The Lord is at work among us.
Let’s pray we have eyes to see and ears to hear what God wants to do among us.
If you are interested in being a part of this Wake Up the World student movement, shoot me an email: email@example.com