The only thing worse than a book reviewer who hasn’t read the book is one who pretends to have done so. I was kindly asked by Patheos’s Book Club to write this post, though I haven’t read Radical Together. I’m in Haiti so wouldn’t be able to read it in time. I only know the title. So I won’t pretend. Well, at least honesty must be part of good community—of being radical together—right?
I’m in Port-au-Prince right now so figured the easiest way to think about the phrase “Radical Together” is to look back at today.
For my first meeting this morning, I arrived forty-five minutes late. I’d asked someone as a personal favor the night before to come. I apologized much. I respect this man deeply and was embarrassed. He went out of his way to come (on time) and then went above and beyond in graciousness. Apologizing often and sincerely probably has to be part of being together well.
The next meeting was with the president of a Haitian seminary. We’re launching a project together. They already do good work. We in Haiti Partners also have our vision. We’ve found a project that builds both visions—of churches and church leaders working for justice and grace in their communities. Bringing various agendas together for more effective service must be part of being radical together.
Then my colleague and I buzzed around Port-au-Prince on motorcycles. I had a helmet on, since the safety required from being a father overcomes the grossness of pulling on that ripe, sweaty-smelling helmet. I’ve been riding on the back of a motorcycle with Pastor (his nickname) for seven years. I’ve written about him in both my books. Radical togetherness certainly takes time to build trust (and encourages risk but not recklessness).
One of the meetings we went to on the motorcycle was with Architecture for Humanity. They’re generously helping us build a Children’s Academy in Haiti. We then met with Grameen Creative Lab, with whom we’ll be doing social business projects to generate income for our elementary schools to become more sustainable. Realizing we need each other’s talents as we aim for the gritty accomplishment of dreams: radical together.
After that I met with people from Micah Challenge, a coalition of Christian churches and NGOs working for justice. There is often strength in both having a strong individual commitments and responsibility (they haven’t all collapsed into one organization) but collaborating.
Then on the way back up to where I was staying (where my wife and I originally built a simple house in Haiti), I stopped to visit neighbors. I bought a round of juice, Cokes, and beers for the dozen people around the cooler by the side of the dirt road. Then I walked down a steep path to visit with a family I hadn’t been able to sit with on the porch for a number of trips. I talked with a beautiful seven-year-old girl who I’d held in this same spot when she was only three days old. The lives of this family and their neighbors are hard. Very hard. I help them in small ways when we can. When we lived here, they were generous with Shelly and I, for example sending over Sunday meals of fried chicken and plantains to share with us. Radical togetherness means community. Sharing together. Eating. Crying. Helping.
I don’t know how radical this is, being here today. After more than eight years, I’m grateful. It’s complicated. It’s full of selfishness (looking at myself) still. There are no shiny ideals or squeaky principles about this. Neither radical commitment nor radical togetherness, in my stumbling attempts, lead to the Promised Land. Wherever we are (unless the group is really insular), way too much need of all kinds remains, if our eyes are open. But it can still be real. And true. It’s life. It’s trying not to hide from the pain or the injustices—or the joy. Hopefully being shaped by grace and mercy, generosity and forgiveness along the way.
Radical togetherness: I’m sure many people are way, way better at whatever that means than I am. But in the midst of this world, in the midst of a day like today, maybe it’s less about trying to be radical than just trying to stay alive and faithful and loving and human in the midst of all this.
The two books I’ve written are, in a way, about radical commitment and radical togetherness too. So David, sorry about not yet reading either of your books on the similar subjects. Maybe our ideas overlap, maybe not. But at the least it seems we’re in a similar search. And that in itself is part of following after Jesus together, right?