Soul Song (Rev. Tom VandeStadt)
In the New Regime
Get in Touch with Your Soul
In the late summer of 1989, folks in Leipzig, East Germany, started gathering around St. Nikolai church at night to sing. What began as a thousand people soon swelled to over three hundred thousand. By November, over half the population of Leipzig was turning out to sing protest songs, inspirational songs, songs that were fun to sing. Their united voices helped knock down the Berlin Wall.
Sometime later, an interviewer asked an officer of the East German secret police, the Stasi, why they didn’t crush these protests as they had so many other acts of defiance and resistance. He replied, “We had no contingency plan for song.”
In the season of Advent, Christians read “The Song of Mary” from Luke’s Gospel. The song begins with one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible: My soul magnifies the Lord. Progressive Christians often skip quickly over this verse so they can get to the ones they really like: the powerful have been toppled from their thrones and the rich have been sent away empty. But the song’s first line isn’t just beautiful, it’s key to everything that follows. Mary’s soul magnifies God, and she expresses her soul by singing.
All human souls desire expression. All human souls seek outlets, openings through which to pour, voices with which to speak. There’s nothing worse for a human soul than to be smothered, stifled or suppressed. To be denied expression, bottled up without an outlet. To go unheard and unseen, ignored and unrealized. Finding this unbearable, human souls never give up seeking an outlet.
Mary’s God-magnifying soul uncorks the bottle and pours freely into the world. Through Mary—her soul, her singing—God erupts into the world. As song. Song of defiance and protest. Song of hope and justice. Song that reverberates through centuries, changing lives and influencing events.
“We had no contingency plan for song,” the Stasi officer said. He was only partly right. The East German regime had no contingency plan for the human soul. No contingency plan for the countless ways human souls magnify God and release God into the world. As song. As visual art. As the written and spoken word. As the will to act and the refusal to act. As noisy protest and sheer silence. Human souls magnify God in countless ways, and in countless ways human souls pour God into the world as felt power. Power that changes lives, influences events, produces real effects. Power that brings down walls.
There was no contingency plan for the human soul. Remember that, sisters and brothers. Take that to heart as the new regime prepares to ascend the throne in the USA. As people who’re rich, powerful and ruthless deregulate themselves and unleash their appetite upon our land. As they send the poor away empty, steal more from Earth and inflict more abuse upon her body. Remember that, sisters and brothers, for we’re not the first people to live under a regime we find abhorrent. Others have. Others do.
Many are asking now, what can I do? Here’s what you can do. Get in touch with your soul. Your God-magnifying soul. Get deeply in touch with the part of you that feels most deeply connected to God or open to God, whoever you believe God to be, however you experience God. Whether or not you even like the words “God” or “soul,” become sensitive to and intimate with the part of you that resonates most deeply and powerfully with the spirit of Life. With the impulse towards compassion. With the urge to liberate, heal and reconcile. With the gut-fire for justice. With the capacity to imagine and envision more humane alternatives, and the ability to collaborate with others to make them real. With the courage to resist and defy people and systems that oppress and do harm.
What can you do? Get in touch with your soul, because your soul knows what to do. Your soul—your deepest, truest, most authentic, most spirit-connected you—knows what to do. And your deepest, truest, most authentic, spirit-connected you longs for expression in this world. So listen to the deepest, truest, most authentic, spirit-connected you. Trust the deepest, truest, most-authentic, spirit-connected you. And be courageous—allow the deepest, truest, most authentic, spirit-connected you to express yourself in the world.
The people now grasping for power in the new regime are hell-bent on making as much money as quickly as possible on fossil fuels. They’ll do all in their power to weaken and eliminate all that restrains them and those who resist them. These people aren’t fooling around. That’s the bad news. Here’s the good news. They have no contingency plan for the human soul.
The regime in which we’re about to live cannot ultimately control or defeat the human soul. The God-magnifying human soul will erupt into the world again and again and again. Here and there and all over. Through you, me and countless others. As kindness, mercy and compassion. As defiant protest. As the demand that something be done or the refusal to do something. As collaboration between individuals and whole communities. As the creation of more just systems, humane forms and sustainable ways. As people lift their voices, put their bodies on the line and make their soul-power felt.
Get in touch with your soul. It’s not hard but it requires time, a vow and practice. A skillful balance of effort and letting go. Silence. Being alone and being with others. Soul-liberating teachers, friends and communities.
Get in touch with your soul. Your soul knows what to do. And Earth depends on it.
Cover image by Dennis Skley.