OUR VISION + MISSION
The Center for Justice + Renewal is a call to social action and spiritual vigor. Our mission is to create a more equitable and inclusive world by nurturing skillful justice advocacy and the depth to act on it.
At the Center for Justice + Renewal, we help justice advocates sharpen their understanding of the social realities that maintain injustice while also stimulating the soul’s enormous capacity to resist and transform those realities.
Every day it seems we are waking up to another mass shooting, report of racialized police brutality, or rape apologist. And as we grow in our awareness of social inequality, we begin to see it everywhere: in our places of work, neighborhoods, schools, congregations, and beyond. These realities can be scary, perplexing and intimidating, but as Jenifer Lewis teaches us, "These are not dark times, these are awakening times."
During this extraordinarily difficult era, we can awaken to a courageous practice of justice that is sustained by love and not fear, a oneness that affirms the particularity of individual experiences as well as the common humanity of us all, a razor-sharp sociological imagination that illuminates how social identity and social location propel or impede our movement in the world, and an ecumenical spirituality that humbly drinks from the many rivers that lead to the Divine.
“These are not dark times, these are awakening times.”
– Jenifer Lewis
“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic.”
– Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
When I woke around 3:30 a.m. on November 8, 2017, and learned of the U.S. presidential election results, my first thought went to the incarcerated students in my Martin Luther King and Malcom X class, which meets in a maximum-security state prison. Casualties of our (in)Justice Department, many of the students are young black men serving life sentences. My heart broke at the realization that their already hopeless situation had become even more hopeless, and in the midst of my lament, I was already planning for action. I knew I couldn’t stand by and watch the global injustice of a Trump presidency; I knew I had to keep fighting for justice, even in the face of body-slamming pain and despair. But I also sensed a strong conviction that how I fight is of grave importance.
For so many years, my fight for justice was powered by a potent but ultimately poisonous combination of fear, self-righteousness, angst, and youthful idealism. By my early 30s, I had endured the crash-and-burn cycle a few times, clogged my spiritual arteries with resentment, and made a practice of shaming people into doing the “right” thing. This was not a sustainable pathway to justice. And it also wasn’t godly, life-giving, liberating, or effective.
For the past 10 years, I’ve been on a journey toward becoming what Christian reconciliation theologian Curtiss DeYoung calls a mystic-activist. This is a way of digging deep into spirituality as we do the difficult work of justice. Mystic-activism is about recognizing that spirituality and social justice are two sides of the same coin–and that in order to practice one holistically, we must integrate it with the other. However, as I have interacted with spiritual communities and organizations (of various religions), I have encountered a dearth of resources on integrating spirituality with systemic and social justice. To many, spirituality is an individualistic process that focuses on inner transformation only.
We at the Center for Justice + Renewal have found that we are more skillful in the outer work of justice when we are doing the inner work that we need to do in order to fight from a place of love and not fear, and to have the courage and selflessness to speak truth to power no matter the cost. We are on a beautiful journey toward a deeper integration and we hope you will join us!
Dr. Christena Cleveland, Founder + Director of the Center for Justice + Renewal