Soul Force: Seven Pivots toward Courage, Community, and Change
Reesheda Graham-Washington and Shawn Casselberry
Reviewed by Jacqueline Block
What is the subject?
Soul Force encourages us to live courageously and compassionately for personal, communal, and societal transformation.
The book focuses around seven “pivots” – shifts or turning points that open up new opportunities and lead to a more “actionable faith,” a faith that can bring greater freedom to serve others.
Who is the author?
The co-authors are grassroots community leaders working for non-profits in the USA.
Why this book?
The term Soul Force is derived from a Hindi word which correlates to “a philosophy of non-violent resistance” (12). This phrase is used often by Mennonite peacemakers, who MBs define as those “who actively intervene in situations of conflict in order to establish peace” (Confession of Faith, Article 13 Commentary, pg 145).
Comment on the book’s perspective in light of the MB Confession of Faith
For Christian readers, the book recognizes that “The Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). Soul force is not something we create but tap into; it becomes evident when the human will becomes aligned with the Spirit of God, allowing the believer to “go beyond a mere belief in Jesus to an embodied practice of Christ-like love.”
This statement clearly fits within an MB evangelical-Anabaptist framework, as written in our Confession of Faith: “Jesus teaches that disciples are to love God and neighbour by telling the good news and by doing acts of love and compassion” (Article 17).
Although Soul Force comes from an inner life, “it doesn’t stop until it manifests externally.” Change takes time, this book gave me hope that the Spirit is moving me in a good direction.
What is so helpful about the book is that the clear, practical and honest descriptions of these pivots are joined with stories from real life people who exhibit Soul Force. These lived-out examples come from diverse people whose lives may not resonate, or even fit, with a Christian framework. Yet as stories always do, they remain true to our shared human experience, and so have lessons to offer any community.
The book can appeal to a wide audience as it encourages all readers to utilize Soul Force principles to bring change to their communities and society as a whole. (What exactly is being “tapped into” for non-Christian readers is a good question – but not the focus of the book.) A weakness of the book is the limited contemplation of how one yields to the Spirit within, a posture without which human willfulness may drive our actions for peace.
Integrating ideas into our life with God that also align with thoughts from the business world, secular culture or other human/religious philosophies takes discernment. But that again is the good work of the Spirit working in us and with the Word.
Other relevant information
Each chapter also concludes with summary statements and questions that help to condense information and encourage individuals and groups towards action.
Who should read it?
It will take courage to read this book. The pivots challenge us to face our fears, be willing to give up our securities and self-centredness, and trust God to transform our hurts into hope. But the book also provides hope that change is possible on personal, community, and societal levels.
We can learn to live more generously and lovingly because God has created us to do good works. Our forms may need to change but the substance can remain when and where we are rooted in Christ.
My material wealth and my knowledge that my children were safe and comfortable: these very conditions contributed to my inability to take the risks associated with such transformational, communal, relational activity. (Pivot 1: From Fear to Freedom)
Both living intention and living in tension require sacrifice. It takes time to think through life decisions and to live our lives purposefully. There is a discernment process inherent in living intentionally and in living in tension, so these can be slower and sometimes more arduous ways of living. (Pivot 2: From Barriers to Bridge Builders)
ABCD [asset-based community development] starts from a different place. It begins by asking, “What assets does this community hold?” What makes this community unique and strong, and how can those strengths be extended and multiplied? (Pivot 6: From Charity to Change)