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Building Coalitions that Last: A Conversation with Reverend Deborah Johnson

March 21, 2022 | By The Pachamama Alliance

Reverend Deborah JohnsonThe following conversation was part of the Resilience and Possibility series. To access the recording, please scroll to the bottom of this post.


 

On February 25, the global Pachamama Alliance community came together for a conversation with social justice activist and Pachamama Alliance Board member Reverend Deborah Johnson on building coalitions that last. 

Throughout the call, Reverend Johnson highlighted the importance of remembering our sacred interconnectedness to each other and took a powerful stand for radical inclusion. She reminded everyone that a sense of oneness must include everyone—including our perceived adversaries—and that staying in action to create a thriving and just world requires deep self-care.  

Sacred Interconnectedness 

At the start of the call, Reverend Johnson reminded everyone that environmental sustainability, spiritual fulfillment, and social justice are one in the same rather than three separate ideas. Pachamama Alliance refers to the intersection of these three domains as interconnectedness, which can also be extended to mean the interconnectedness of all life, including all people. Reverend Johnson shared her thoughts on what interconnectedness means, particularly at this moment in time when so much division and conflict are present. 

Reverend Johnson was clear that interconnectedness means there is oneness with everyone, not just those whom we agree with. As she put it, as long as we make exceptions, we are missing and forgetting this truth. She acknowledged how challenging it can be to recognize our interconnectedness with those who we feel are wrong or doing harm, but she reminded everyone that separating ourselves from those we don’t want to be connected to is just creating more separation. And that the challenge is to not forget our sacred interconnectedness, especially when we see evidence that others have. 

Radical Inclusion and a Vision of Love 

As Reverend Johnson shared her insights on what interconnectedness means, she touched on how to take action while staying committed to love and interconnectedness. She offered that being led by a vision instead of being reactionary—which is often a result of feeling hate and spite—is crucial. She elaborated that this vision must be one of love and radical inclusion, much like the vision of Martin Luther King Jr. She went on, explaining that what Martin Luther King Jr. was advocating for was not retaliation against White folks. Rather, he was fighting for love and community—for a future in which the oppressed and the oppressors would walk hand-in-hand. 

This deep sense of love and community for all is what Reverend Johnson called “radical inclusion.” As she explained, if the vision that’s guiding us isn’t a vision of radical inclusion and love, then we are no different than those who create divisions and demonize others.   

Towards the end of the call, Reverend Johnson drew a connection between radical inclusion and democracy. She likened a democracy to a family, in that much like a family, a democracy only works to the extent that we care for and respect everyone in it. She warned against polarizing around differences and wanting to get rid of those who disagree with us. Instead, she advocated for finding ways to embrace the differences and have healthy discourse about them.

How to Stay Connected to the Vision and the Work 

Reverend Johnson used the analogy of a fire to explain the importance of self-care in staying connected to a vision of love as well as the work of creating a thriving and just world. 

Just like how a fire needs heat, fuel, and oxygen to stay burning, Reverend Johnson believes people also need “heat, fuel, and oxygen” to not burn out. In her analogy, heat is anything that motivates you to continue the work and stay passionate about it. Fuel is any daily practice that replenishes you and provides ongoing sustenance. And oxygen is inspiration that breathes life into the vision that drives you. Reverend Johnson was clear that everyone needs all three in order to do the work of creating a better future, and that doing so is nurturing the self and strengthening your “spiritual immune system.”